Monday, October 16, 2006


Am snivelling with Man-Flu, which can only be a partial excuse for being, once again, last to the feast. Here I am, puffing and chewing and huffing over Leavitt's Freakonomics. I have precisely nothing original to add to the general hooplah, other than "Yes, IntarWebs, I too found it an enjoyable and interesting read". (Be unafraid, gentle reader, that slamming sound you just heard was the presses being stopped and the front page being held.) I particularly like the chapter on baby names, the observations thereon (Jewish/Old Testament monickers get popular with gentile baby-namers, but never the other way round) and the predictions for the future. Observation, Theory, Testable Prediction, that's science, homes!

I can't remember who linked to it (my apologies, IntarWebs), but out-check this Baby Name Graphinator (that may not be the proper term, possibly). It visualises, no, wait, surely we're doing the visualising. It, uh, represents the relative and absolute popularity of American baby names. I particularly like how, as you type successive letters of a name, it shows all the names that stilly apply. Pitifully simple and straightforward to those whose mind works that way, but mine doesn't, and I coo and ooh at it as if it were a kitten in a wellington boot.

There's piles of fun to be had tracing names as they wax and wane, but the oddest case of all is "Adolph". It's enormously popular in the 1880's, still a biggun' up until a precipitous drop around 1910 (and isn't it great to be actually looking at a plunging graph line that does actually literally look like a craggy precipice?). The rate of decrease stays pretty steady right through up to the 1930's but then stays stable throughout the 1940's and 50's before dwindling in the 60's to die out in the early 70's. EHHH?

I'm struggling to picture an expectant couple, or one newly blessed with issue, in the late 40's or 50's, possibly returned from fighting in Europe, saying to each other "Honey, you remember how back before the war we weren't going to call our children Adolph? Well, I've been thinking..."

No comments: