Monday, May 30, 2005


The excitement and publicity over the stellar performance of Danica Patrick in the Indianapolis 500 calls attention to her unusual and attractive first name. In shows how far we have come from the boring names from earlier times. There were then many choices parents could make, but they were all John, Mary, Robert, Ruth, James, or Elizabeth.

Later, in the '60s, parents became more adventurous. Along came Melissa, Kevin, Karen, Tyler,Kim, and an endless string of Jennifers. The movies fostered new names. bringing us Troy, Mia, Kirk, Shane, and lots of Michelles. As traditions waned.the naming options expanded to include names such as Scott, Nicole, Kristin, Brad, Robyn, Lindsay, and Travis.

Into the mix came unisex names, which could apply to a boy or girl and which plague teachers all over the country. Most of these seem to be apparently male names given to girls, perhaps reflecting some form of feminism. Some of the more popular ones are Cody, Ashley, Cory, Sean, Tracy, and Adrian.

We have now reached the pinnacle, with names in a free and wonderful stage. The range is infinite and the choices imaginative. Some of the names may have a history, but to the average Joe they are new and often strange. Think Chamique, Tamika, Jamal, Latasha, Yolanda, and Terrell.

Many of these new names come from African Americans, often in the vanguard of culture change. Others landed on our shores with sports figures from other nations. The names have seemed foreign to us but soon we may be naming our kids Martina, Natase, Elena, or Peja. And who wouldn't consider naming a daughter after that French WUSA soccer star, Marionette Pichon?

The evolution of American names runs blessedly counter to the homogenization of our culture. Forget the Gap, Target, WalMart, and Starbucks ond marvel at an encounter with a name as beautiful as Chantelle.