Publication: SUBURBAN CHICAGO
Publication date: 04/01/2002
By: Kim Smith
Jenny Anderson knows what it is like to be in a world full of Jennys.
Now pregnant with her third and last baby, Anderson wants to give her
baby a more unique, an unusual name like Gianna Lola.
Problem is, her conservative husband disagrees. He prefers a more biblical
name such as Sarah.
The Plainfield couple are not alone.
Playing the name game, can be more than a challenge even in the happiest
"I named our oldest son Wylie," Anderson said.
"So I let my husband name our second son.
He picked Jacob.
Now, Jacob is in a preschool class of 18 students, three of them are also
With seven months to go, Anderson has yet to go purchase a baby book.
The couple could also turn to the Internet for help.
There are now numerous Web sites dedicated to aid in the search. One will
even customize your search for a $14.95 fee.
Jennifer Moss, one of the founders of babynames.com, said she was doing
research during her pregnancy in 1996 when she came up with the idea to
post a computer base of names on the Internet.
Now, the company boasts filling 1,200 orders for special name searches.
"We base our selections on a form that can be found on the Internet,"
"We look at things at what names sound good with the last names."
The Web site gets nearly 500,000 hits a month.
Moss said probably 50,000 hits come from expectant moms and dads.
She suspects a lot of teens dreaming of getting married and having children
also browse the Web.
"Most of the time it is women who want individual names," Moss
"Men tend to be more conservative and worry more that a child with
an unusual name could be teased later in life."
Moss said biblical names, such as Michael, Jacob and Joshua, seem never
to go out of style.
Climbing the name popularity charts now are flowery names such as Meadow.
Moss thinks this could be in part due to the popularity of the hit HBO
show The Sopranos.
Meadow is the name of head mobster man Tony Soprano's daughter, who is
played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler.
"Another trend now is to make last names into first names,"
"We have a lot of Taylors, Tylers and Madisons."
Names not gender-specific, such as Jordan and Sydney, are also trendy.
Gone are the days of Debbies, Susies, Jennys, Johns and Jacks.
Those names were popular in the '70s but have fallen from the top spots.
"John was big in the JFK era," Moss said.
"Today, names like Donald seem to be on the way out."
The media does influence trends in names with promises of more Brittanys
and Russells on the way.
"The media can have a negative influence as well," said Moss.
"You don't see a lot of Barts since The Simpsons.
The name Monica really dropped after the Lewinsky story broke."
One trend that Moss disagrees with, is taking normal names and spelling
them differently such as Emily, Emilee or Emylee.
"This means your child will have to spell out his or her names forever,"
"It can put a lot of pressure on that will never go away."
Head to the Web
People hooked on names also can find solace on the Internet.
Norah Burch, an anthropologist and an administrator at Harvard University
in Boston, has her own Internet version at namenerds.com.
"My real name is Amy, and I got real tired of how many other Amys
there were," Burch said.
"I started fantasizing about changing my name when I was 7."
During the Jimmy Carter years, many people named girls after his famous
"I put up the Web site in hopes that moms would notice what names
are popular and not do this to their kids," Burch said.
"I chose Norah because less heads turn when someone is shouting at
me from down the hallways."
Books, according to Burch, do not always have the meanings of names correct.
"I don't think many people pick names by their meanings," Burch
"I think they pick them because of the way they sound."
Burch studies information from the Social Security administration to follow
"NyQuil is probably one of the most unusual names for a boy that
I ever heard of," Burch said.
"I also know of a boy named Tenor and his brother is named Seven."
The name Seven more than likely came from an episode of Seinfeld when
Jerry's sidekick George Costanza came up with the unusual name for a baby.
"Who would want to be known as a joke," Burch said.
Another trend is naming kids after cars.
"There are a lot of Chevrolets and Infinities starting," Burch
Maryanna Korwitts, a Naperville resident and author of Name Power 101,
said more time should be given when naming a child.
She believes that names should be chosen to match personalities and not
because of the way they sound.
"In ancient cultures, children were not named right away," Korwitts
"Names influence the personality.
I like to compare it to putting the icing on the cake.
You have what is inside, but the name is the finishing touch."
Names should be used as they are given.
For example, if a child's name is Michael, it should stay Michael, not
become Mike or Mickey or Mikey, she says.
The name Michael, one of the most popular since the 1950s, gets thumbs
up from Korwitts.
She uses a mathematical system to study the structure of names to determine
the personality patterns and influences the name will produce.
She combines her background in psychology into her studies.
Almost everything about the name Michael is positive, she said.
Michaels usually exhibit strength, confidence, leadership, competence,
objectivity and the love of learning.
The few negative characteristics of Michael include a tendency to be controlling,
prone to worry and, because they are such towers of strength, difficulty
asking for help.
A lot of Michaels eventually get shortened to Mike, which changes things
"When that happens, you get a lot of extra emotion, difficulty with
focus and it can encourage hyperactivity," Korwitts said.
Korwitts operates a Web site that offers free mini-profiles of first names.
She combines her knowledge with her psychic abilities and offers phone
readings at a cost of up to $250 an hour or shorter readings of $5 per
For an appointment call (800) 750-6649. Her Web address is namepower101.com.
The top 10 popular names in order for Illinois in 2000, according to the
Illinois Department of Health.
It should be noted that this was the first year in more than three decades
that Michael was not the first choice.
For boys: Jacob, Michael, Matthew, Daniel, Nicholas, Joseph, Joshua, Anthony,
Andrew and Ryan.
For girls: Emily, Hannah, Jessica, Alexis, Samantha, Grace, Elizabeth,
Ashley, Madison and Sarah.
In 1990, the most popular choices were:
For boys: Michael, Matthew, Christopher, Daniel, Joshua, Nicholas, David,
Joseph, Ryan and Andrew.
For girls: Jessica, Ashley, Brittany, Amanda, Samantha, Stephanie, Sarah,
Elizabeth, Jennifer and Lauren.
In 1980, the most popular choices were:
For boys: Michael, Jason, Christopher, Matthew, David, James, Robert,
Daniel, John and Joseph.
For girls: Jennifer, Amanda, Melissa, Sarah, Jessica, Nicole, Elizabeth,
Michelle, Amy and Tiffany.
Note: There are many variations of the way names are spelled.
This chart uses the most common spellings.
Other charts posted on Web sites will vary.