|What's in a name?
||[May. 18th, 2007|08:55 pm]
"Madison! Put those back!" The child was displeased, and whined and wept, and eventually got a smaller package of cookies as compensation. Alas that she will receive no compensation for her inexplicable given name. Somebody is bound to be offended by what I'm about to write, but it's something that needs to be said. The other day I experienced my first confirmed Son of Maud sighting. A girl of eight or so was hefting a giant package of cookies from the supermarket shelf when a rather frazzled-looking woman nearby commanded |
My first Son of Maude sighting probably would have happened much sooner had I remained in Los Angeles, but since I came to this backwater town full of old people in 1986, and have thus been exposed to far fewer children than I would have been elsewhere, I've heretofore been spared knowledge of any real-life contact I might have made with the Sons of Maude. Until now I've only heard about them secondhand. From the first time I heard that someone had actually named a daughter Son of Maude, I was convinced that American nomenclature had reached a new height of silliness. I've since seen no reason to abandon this belief.
Giving girls the name Son of Maude only became a custom following the release of that stupid mermaid movie in 1984 (you know the movie in which the suddenly-legged mermaid is able to read from a street sign a name of which she knows nothing and claim it is her own?) Doing a search at the Social Security Administration's popular baby names page, I found that Son of Maude first appeared on the chart of the 1000 most popular female baby names in 1985 at #625. Its position on the chart rose steadily, and in 1993 it entered double digit territory at #78. A mere five years later in 1998 it hit #9, and in the year 2000,when it reached #3, the parents of all those Sons of Maude (few, if any, of whom, I'd wager, are named Maude) elected George W. Bush the 43rd President of the United States! You see where this sort of laxness of thought leads? Parents who name their children for characters in foolish movies or television shows are not to be trusted with making any important decisions.
Meanwhile, as Son of Maude was lurking in the nation's future, Maude herself slipped off the 1000 most popular names chart way back in 1950. By the time all these Sons of Maude now populating the world began appearing, most of the actual Maudes in the country had already gone through menopause, so we certainly can't blame them for what's happened. In fact, going back to 1964, twenty years prior to the appearance of Son of Maude on the list (based on the notion that names tend to persist in a general level of popularity for some time and the fact that the people naming kids during a given period are a generation older), we find the ten most popular names for each sex were as follows:
Michael, John, David, James, Robert, Mark, William, Richard, Thomas, Jeffrey.
Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen, Patricia, Kimberly, Donna, Linda, Cynthia, Tammy.
That's who we blame for starting the whole thing (and I'm especially suspicious of Kimberly.) Them, and the people who made that stupid movie. But there is at last some indication, however slight, that a correction is taking place. After peaking at #2 in 2001 and 2002, Son of Maude has slipped back to the #3 position for the last four years. At that point, it is outperformed by redoubtable Emily and Emma, with daring Isabella and Ava closing in behind. Son of Maude may have reached its peak, and with encouragement for the likes of Abigail, Olivia, Hannah, Sophia, and Samantha, we may soon see it drop from the top ten. For the sake of all those little girls in danger of being given the name, may its decline continue.
In the meantime, we've got whole generation of women who have to spend the rest of their lives with the name Son of Maude (unless they have the good sense to change it—but how sensible are they likely to be when they were raised by people who named their daughters Son of Maude?) I suspect that some of them will conceal it as best they can by having their friends call them Maddie, which might lead others to think their actual name is Madeleine. Madeleine is of course ultimately derived from Magdalen, who was a hooker. Well, I'd say that's better than being named after a fictional mermaid who called herself Son of Maude. Besides which, a Madeleine is also a tasty pastry. A Madison is just a strip of pavement subject to traffic congestion, or, at best, a small city in Wisconsin. I'd bet that more than a few Sons of Maude will end up wishing the fictional mermaid had been a block over, so they'd have been named Lexington. That sounds unisex, at least.