My whole life I’ve been cursed with one of those common names you hear everywhere. It seems like I can barely even leave my apartment without hearing someone yell it… “Daisy! Put that down!” or “Daisy! Come here!” or “Daisy! Stop eating that other dog’s poop!”
Okay. FINE. Daisy is actually only a common name amongst canines; in fact according to some totally random dog website that the New York Times once linked to so therefore it’s legit, Daisy is the seventh most popular dog name. They don’t make websites like that for cow or duck names, but I think we can all agree that if they did, “Daisy” would rank even higher on those.
It isn’t always easy being named Daisy. For example, there was the Thanksgiving I decided to skip in favor of a boyfriend I don’t speak to anymore, when my mom’s best friend announced they were getting a Golden Retriever puppy for Christmas. “What should we call her,” the friend asked.
“Daisy,” one of my brothers responded. “Because she’s a little bitch.”
It might have been a funny story except the family actually named the dog Daisy. Thanksgiving was never the same again… constantly being told to “sit down” and “spit that out.” I mean, did they really need to make me pee in the backyard?
As much as I joke about my name though, I’m actually glad that it’s fairly unique when it comes to the human species. This is likely because no one wants to name her daughter after a Disney animal, famous narcissist from literary history, or Hazzard county heroine, but whatever: I’ll take it.
I know when it comes to naming babies, things can get crazy. I just saw a friend on Twitter complain that someone who is due a week or two before she is has the same name in mind that she wants for her son. (I told her just to push hers out first and win already, but I guess that’s not how birthing works, or whatever.)
Most expecting couples I know are fiercely protective of their future baby’s name, not wanting to open it up for criticism, or worse: theft. (Regarding the former, it’s true: if your friends says she is naming her baby Apple, you’re going to give her the raised-eyebrows and ask her if she’s actually not drinking; once that thing pops out though, you just have to say the baby doesn't fall far from the tree and pretend everything is normal.)
But considering how (rightfully) crazy-town parents get about naming their babies, what doesn’t make sense to me is why so many babies end up with the same name.
For example, in elementary school, we had Sarah H., Sara P., Sarah S., Sarah T. and Sarah W. That may not sound like a lot of Sarahs, but my class only had 30 girls! At least the Elisa, Alisa, and Lissa contingency were all a variation of the same name, albeit it one that was a bit confusing for substitute teachers. And don’t even get me started on the Jennifers.
I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for those girls to always have their last initial tacked on to their name, although I guess it’s better than a number a la Bobby #5 in last Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men.” Unfortunately, for a lot of infants out there, they’ll be feeling the same pain come kindergarten when suddenly they realize they’re not the only special princess “Emma” or “Sophia” out there.
That’s right. According to research done by Frank Jacobs for Big Think, those two names are the most popular in 47 out of 50 states. The only exceptions? Florida (Isabella), Idaho (Olivia), and Vermont (Ava). Emma “wins,” being the most popular in 31 states, with Sophia close behind, taking the prize in 16 states, including the U.S.’s three most populous ones, California, Texas, and New York.
The thing that surprises me about this is that I feel like people these days want their children to have unique names that set them apart from the crowd. In Jacobs’ article, he agrees with this point, saying that while names like Mary used to be popular (it was THE most popular from the early 1800s until 1961 when its long run finally ended) because parents wanted their kids to fit in, now parents do tend to want to give their children a name that feels more individual.
I can only speak for myself, but having a name like Daisy definitely had an impact on the personality I developed as I grew older. I was named Daisy by my godmother and, despite the fact that I live in San Francisco, my parents weren’t hippies. I was born in North Carolina, so Daisy is definitely more of a Southern and literary reference. But there’s something about being named after a flower that one can’t escape.
The word daisy comes from an English word that means the “day’s eye” a.k.a. “the sun.” (It’s also a nickname for Margaret, as any “Little Women” fan knows, because the French word for daisy is Marguerite.) Long story short: If you’re named after a flower that grows wild in the fields (because it’s actually a weed) and that girls put in their hair and pluck to see if they’re lucky in love, I mean, of course you’re going to be a bit of independent free-spirit. It’s basically required.
For that reason alone, I’ve always felt a little bad for women named Joy or Hope. Who can live up to that kind of pressure?!!!
Our name will be one of the first things we learn how to say. One of the first things we learn how to spell. We’ll sign it in cursive on the top of tests and doodle it with too many boys’ names who don’t deserve us. People will rhyme it, address envelopes with it, and say it when they really want you to listen. It will be on our diplomas, driver’s licenses, wedding invitations, gravestones. Some people will be able to find it on key chains in souvenir shops all over America. Some will have to “settle” for the pillow on which their grandmother embroidered it before she passed away.
A name means something. And it’s why parents fret so long and hard about what to call their children. Because they want that name to mean something. I’m not even planning on having children and I already have my first daughter’s name picked out. Of course, I can’t tell you, lest you steal it, but trust me: It’s good.
And hey, if you’re a parent who named her daughter Emma or Sophia last year, don’t fret. They’re beautiful names. And that’s why people love them so much. Plus, that’s why nicknames were invented!
Do you have a “popular” name? And would you ever tell someone what you’re going to name your baby before it was born?