all of the selves we Have ever been
My mind needs something new to chew on.
I am weary of the political apocalypse, and I am running out of baked goods. I turn to life’s other big questions.
For starters, what causes a name to come into or go out of style?
At what stage does the child-version of a name give way to the grown-up version, Tommy to Tom, Billy to Bill?
Why do some names seem so right for a youth but so wrong for an adult?
And why do some names seem so old and so wrong for a youngster? Bertha seems just fine for a grandmother, but somehow out-of-place on a toddler. And Herbert?
How do some names become classics like Mary or John while others become a perpetual punchline?
When I was growing up the name Barney was reserved for bumbling sidekicks like Barney Fife, the deputy sheriff of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show, or Barney Rubble on The Flintstones. Years later, the name Barney was made child-friendly by a beloved purple dinosaur, but still the name did not seem to catch on with parents.
Inquiring minds occupy themselves with research instead of cake, and so I turn to the tree of knowledge and find that Barney can be a shortened form of Bernard, Barnett, Barnim, Barnabas, Barnaby. Mm-hmm.
Despite the lack of familiarity, there is honor in the meanings of some of these names. Barnim comes from the Slavic and means “defender.” The name Barney was once popular in Poland and means “son of comfort,” and in Hebrew, “son of consolation.” Somehow the name Barney has been done an injustice by the media.
It turns out that Barney was once a popular name in the United States in the years 1880 through 1914 when it suffered a plunge in the ratings. And that was before TV. I was surprised to learn that Barney has been a hip name in London since 2012, but I then again, I don’t travel much.
On a website, Behind the Name, 60% of those surveyed thought that Barney was a bad name; 75% thought it was a comedic one. From a list of 28 real and famous people named Barney, I recognized one name, but on the list of fictional characters named Barney, I recognized all of them including the aforementioned Barney Fife, Barney Rubble, and Barney the Dinosaur. Add to that list Barney Miller, Barney Stinson, and Barney Bear.
If you love the name Barney, I say go for it. You might be the one to change the course of history. When I was growing up, the only other Lilli I knew was my Aunt Lillie for whom I was named. My mother gave my name an unusual spelling which has been a lifelong headache, but the name Lilli is back with many spellings.
If you know the reason(s) some names come into and go out of style, drop me a line.
Right now, I am at work on the next big question:
Why do people save twisty-ties?
1/25/2021 11:24:50 pm
I once wrote a column on names and doing research found that there are acceptable and unacceptable names. Mary, John, Anne, etc. are acceptable but Barney probably would make the cut. What blew my mind is that teachers tend to call on "acceptably named" kids more often than the others. Go figure.
1/28/2021 12:35:09 pm
Thanks for that insight. I do recall reading one of the Freakenomics books years ago that discussed naming children. I believe the chosen name said something more about the parents background than the child's future! Interesting to think about all of the factors that influence how we are treated and who we become! I found the Freakenomics podcast: https://freakonomics.com/podcast/how-much-does-your-name-matter-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/
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