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Unstrooping names

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Baptiste Coulmont writes:

Following your recent blog post on stroopy names, I do not resist the temptation to send you a recent article on first name changes in France. The point of the article is simple: people who change their first names often explicitly speak about national identity changes in their request for a new forename, but a very brief statistical exploration of the names themselves show that they add something else: they often take a “younger” name. Do they wish to unstroop their names ?

You might also be interested in recent changes in androgynous names in France. They are increasing in number (more and more androgynous names, but they are very rare names) and the pool of people bearing an androgynous name is itself androgynous — meaning that 50% of the people with such a name are male (or female). On the contrary, at the beginning of the 20th century, androgynous names were “names given mainly to boys but also to girls.”

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In the U.S., the name Sophie is associated with little girls and deceased great-grandmothers, but in France the name Sophie retained its popularity over the decades was popular in the intervening decades. Is there a Baby Name Voyager for France that could show the trend?

P.S. In comments, Baptiste Coulmont sends along this link:

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It’s a French version of the baby name voyager. The graphics aren’t so impressive but it still basically works.


  1. zbicyclist says:

    Ah, Great Aunt Sophie. I remember her as a gigantic woman with two gigantic daughters in their forties. My mother removed the less well engineered chairs from the living room when they visited and we kids were stationed mostly on the sofa to avoid possible furniture disasters.

    When I did a bit of name research in the 1970s (Cleve Evans was a grad school friend ), Sophie was the name I thought would never, ever come back. How wrong I was.

  2. Baptiste says:

    You have this “French baby name voyager” (1950-2010)

  3. Steve Sailer says:

    According to a brilliant book review by Christopher Caldwell in the new Weekly Standard, the French had a lot restricting baby names to a traditional list, mostly saints, until 1993. You can see that in the French baby name voyager where the peaks of traditional names are immensely higher in the past than today. I tried a few dozen names and only Mohammed was at all common in France in 2010.

  4. lylebot says:

    How about “re-strooping” a name? Our daughter has a name that is pretty uncommon in the US; it reached the height of its popularity in the 1910s (rank 82) and has recently started to uptick a bit again (rank 228 in 2012, up from 394 in 2005). I won’t say what it is, but my wife’s 90-year-old grandmother insists on shortening it to “Jenny”. Of course, my wife’s grandmother probably had lots of friends with grandchildren called “Jenny”; to her it just sounds like a cute baby name. To me it is just a reminder that like half the girls I went to school with were named Jennifer.

    (Jennifer is my favorite example of a name that, a few decades from now, is going to sound as old-fashioned as Agnes does to us today.)

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