“What’s in a name?” (William Shakespeare)
The course of the research
First of all, we studied the history of the problem and the factors which influence the choice of names. But we are not going to touch upon these points in this very article because there is a lot of materials on the theme in the Internet and other sources of information. In our opinion, the course of our research is much more interesting to be covered here.
Certainly, we could use the rating of the first English names published in the Internet or newspapers. But we considered it to be so easy and not original. So, our purpose was to analyze the first names of our contemporaries living in English-speaking countries, especially as we have a lot of pen friends among them.
In order to carry out the survey we wrote our letters to some teachers and our pen friends living in the USA, England and Canada. We asked them to send us the lists of their students’ first names. We are so grateful to the foreign teachers for their quick replies and their readiness to help. Thus we received 18 first names lists from 6 foreign schools and got 466 first names all in all.
Then we made up three tables of the names frequency for each separate country (England, the USA and Canada) and the general one for all the countries. We were very surprised to find a great amount of unusual names along with traditional ones, familiar to us.
We have only one partner in England whose name is Mrs. Smith. But she sent us so many lists with the first students’ names from her school that it appeared to be possible to continue our survey and to speak not only about the USA but the native country of the English language too.
Having read the summary and the conclusion of our research Mrs. Smith sent us her comment which is of great value for us: “... I really enjoyed reading the conclusions. One issue which is important I suppose is that you have info from one school in England - we are in a fairly well off area, with a very small ethnic range. If you had info from schools in London or Birmingham you would have lots of Polish names, Indian, Pakistani etc. Also if you had contacts with a school that was a 'church 'school there would be very traditional names - all with a biblical origin…”
We should say that the greatest diversity of first names is a feature of the US. We found the explanation of this fact in the letter from Mrs. Jerez, the World Geography teacher in the USA. “…In the United States we have people from all ethnicities and nationalities. Our names reflect these different backgrounds. Many parents like to invent names with unusual spellings, as well…My own boys' names are Blake, Austin and Jordan. Blake was my mother's maiden name before she was married, so I used her last name for my son's first name…”
Here are some examples of first names from the table of the names frequency. All of them are very unusual from our point of view.
Asia, Dakota, London (a girl), Roosevelt
Rebekah instead of Rebecca
Zachary, Zachery, Zackary and Zackery
Eric, Erick, Ericken, Erik
Stacey (UK), Stacie (US), Stacy (Can.)
The other American teacher Mrs. Landrum told us in detail about the differences between the names of white Americans and African Americans. “…I will have to explain, though, that in the United States, there are very different names for white students and African-American students, so you will need to include that in your project. For example, a very common name for African-American girls is Shaniqua, but it would not be used for a white girl. Also, African-American names are often spelled in different ways. African-American names often have letter сombina-tions that are not pronounced phonetically, because the mother who creates the name is notskilled in phonetics. Many African-American mothers create names for their children, and are very proud of this…”
Here are some more examples of first names which don’t seem to be traditional for English-speaking countries: Shonterra, Naquesha, Latifah, Tiquan, Tiquen, Shaniquia, Tre’Shaun, Kiajah, Jalen, Cearra, Parrish.
Sometimes it was rather difficult for us to decide if the name is for a male or female student. And the American teacher Mrs. Griffin helped us a lot with this problem adding “m” or “f” marks after each name of her students. She also told us a very interesting story which is one more example how some parents give names to their newborns: “…A year ago, our third grandchild was born...and he was named William James. About that same time, the woman who comes from time to time to help me clean the house also had a grandson born. So, we were sharing information...but when I asked her (she is African American), what her grandson's name was, she said that it was such a "mess of a name" that she refused to use it and was calling him "baby". She said it was a "crime" when a child has a name that nobody can pronounce, recognize or spell and she refused to have any part of that. Now, a year later, I still do not know that child's name as she refuses to use it…”