Monday, May 3

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, May 03, 2010 18 comments
It's day two of results from Friday's name game. Here is the second batch of names I looked up for you in one of the books in my name library, The Baby Name Personality Survey by Bruce Lansky and Barry Sinrod (New York: Meadowbrook Press, 1990). The authors surveyed 150,000 people from across the nation and asked their impressions and expectations of image, personality and appearance for 1,400 names.

These are heavily influenced by popular culture, so keep in mind the book is 20 years old.

Here's what the survey said about your requested names:

For Jemi:
Eleanor a form of Helen ["light"]
Eleanor is pictured as a pretty, statuesque woman who is ambitious, hardworking, serious and smart.

For Angela:
Mason (Old French) "stoneworker"
Mason is viewed as a hard-boiled, tight-lipped businessman or professional.

For Piedmont Writer:
Anne "graceful" English form of Hannah
The name Anne brings to mind a plain, middle-class woman who is kind, practical and industrious.

For Sarahjayne:
Libby a short form of Elizabeth ["consecrated"]
People picture Libby as a cute and chubby woman who is warm, friendly, homespun and talkative.

For Amber:
Sorry, Laurel isn't in the book. I've known only three other Laurels in real life: two were college classmates, one was a kid in the church nursery, born in 2006.

David (Hebrew) "beloved"
David is described as a strong, handsome, intelligent man who is friendly, good humored and dependable.

Owen (Welsh) form of John ["God is gracious"]
Owen is pictured as a tall, gray-haired, attractive sophisticate who is either friendly and dependable or phony and snobbish.

Adam (Hebrew) "man of the red earth"
Adam is described as a tall, dark and handsome man who is quiet and smart.

Carol (Latin) "strong, womanly" a form of Charles
Carol is imagined as a friendly, family-oriented extrovert who is lots of fun.

Laine/Lane (Middle English) "from the narrow road"
People have two images of Lane: a large, tall woman who is funny and easygoing or a trendy social climber who is posh and sophisticated.

Do you agree or disagree with any of these popular conceptions of name images? Do you think in the 20 years since the book was published any of the images have changed significantly? How so? Discuss!


  1. What a cool idea. The description for Anne makes me think of the mc, Anne Elliot, from Jane Austen's Persuasion. The description fits her perfectly. I don't know any Annes, so I can't say the description still holds true.

  2. Well, I think for me, I am the epitome of Anne.

    @ Stina -- Well you sort of know me.

  3. Love the "hard-boiled" for Mason. I have a totally different view of Anne. I think Queen Anne: stately, beautiful . . . and I see "Carol" as an introvert. So funny. :)

  4. Very informative and interesting.

  5. I must admit, I have to somewhat agree. Maybe it is because I do enjoy reading the classics. Except for Anne. I think of Anne of Green Gables who tried to fit into the sterotypical "Anne" and failed, thankfully, creating an unforgettable character (for me anyways!)

  6. These bring many images to mind - the people I know, names I am fond of, etc. Have relatives named David and Carol. Hmm, will have to give that some thought! Thanks for doing this; it has been fun:)

  7. This post nearly brought me to tears. Hubby and I were just discussing baby names a few days ago, and decided to name baby #3 Adam.


    Adam: Man

  8. I have to say I still believe the Lord's children's names have a meaning in their life. =) I'm silly that way. I spend a ton of time naming my characters. It's so much fun. Much easier than naming my children!

  9. So cool to read those definitions. For the most part, they make sense, even though I know enough people with those names that don't quite fit!

  10. Interesting, but my perceptions of the names are different. I know it all boils down to personal experiences. For example, Eleanor evokes the image of exotic beauty and mysterious nature. Poe was one of my favorite authors in middle school. So, his Eleanor always comes to my mind.

  11. Interesting! The Adam in my novel is certainly handsome and quiet - but in a rather psycho twisted way.

    Thanks Laurel! (Beautiful name, by the way.)

  12. Stina: I <3 Anne Elliot--Persuasion is such a great story! Yes, she is the practical-to-the-core gal who has to learn to follow her heart.

    Anne: It's funny, but the book's description fits E-less Anns better I think. I'm with the Green Gables MC in thinking the E adds a certain panache--Annes are kind and hardworking, but with flair!

    Janet: I can clearly see how survey respondents think Perry Mason for Mason and Carol Burnett for Carol. How Anne got to be the practical one, I'm not sure. I think one-syllable names often are perceived as "no-frills, no-nonsense" and down-to-earth.

  13. Bish: Thanks! I thought folks would enjoy this little game. :-)

    Lynn: Didn't Green Gables Anne always want to be called "Cordelia"? I got the sense she always chafed against the image that was dominant even then for her name.

    Karen: I think the survey showed how much pop culture shapes society's view of certain names. It's cool that great books contribute to that yesterday and today as well--like how Harry is becoming thought a cool name because of Rowling's series.

    Tamika: Oh, yay! I think of Adam as the quintessential romantic hero. Excellent choice!

    T. Anne: Me too. I think growing up with an unusual name has made me hyper-sensitive to how a name shapes others' perceptions.

  14. Lydia: Well, it is 20-year-old survey data. Perceptions change over time for sure.

    Southpaw: Right. I think this reflect the dominant images in pop culture at the time of the survey. My memory of Poe's muse was her name was a riff on Eleanor--Lenore. But the sound-alikeness would surely bring up the same image for you, definitely.

    Talli: Ooh, I like it when authors play with our expectations that way!
    Thanks for the compliment--it honesly was a tough name to grow up with. Couldn't pronounce it myself till I was 6, and no one knows how to spell it. The mnemonic of "like Laurel and Hardy" just makes me feel silly.

  15. What an interesting post. I have to say the description for Carol is dead on for my Aunt (Carol). So these may hold true.

  16. My second cousin is named Laurel. I didn't know it was so unusual. She's in her 40's. Thanks for all your work looking up names. Our perceptions of names change with generations. Some names become old. I know two Judy's who hate their names. One said it's the Gertrude of the future. It's harder to name characters in historical fiction and not have them sound nerdy.

  17. Christine: It does make you wonder how much other's expectations shape who we become, and name is part of that package.

    Mary: My guess is there was a popular soap opera character named Laurel in the late '60s. I and the college classmate Laurels were all born in '68, though I was named after my father's birthplace in Montana.

    I also think the old become new again quite often. One day, the hip teens will be Edna and George, which Stacy and Jason sit in the nursing home.

  18. Thanks for all the info on my character names! It was so interesting to see how some of them fit: Laine, a little large and Carol, very family oriented -- though not a complete extrovert.

    This was such a fun idea. Thanks again. :)