Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Name Game

After covering 10 states and 2300 miles in a little over two weeks, it's taking me some time to get back into a routine. The fact that the Sox did not play well last week is another contributing factor to my lack of posting as well. But I'm trying to get back to normal...

So instead of lamenting the state of the AL East, I'm going to share something that I've been pondering of late.

One of my must-reads in the daily paper (after the sports section!) is the obituary column. I not only read the one in my local paper, but I usually read those in the Providence Journal and the New York Times as well. It's not that I'm morbid, but I find these little slices of someone else's life fascinating to read. You see a young person (the term "young" keeps advancing depending on my age) and wonder, what happened? You read of a person who died at a ripe old age and think, good for you. It's interesting to see what's emphasized - their military career, if they're of a certain age; their jobs; their families; their religious affiliation, which is always included locally; and even their hobbies. Our local paper rarely puts the cause of death, so that can also lead to some speculation.

But something that I've really noticed of late are the names themselves. There seems to be a whole generation of first names that are expiring as well. Today, there was a Nellie, a Hector, and an Alberta. You rarely hear of a baby today named Alberta. I think of my grandmother, Harriet - another rarity. Even Barbara is fading. And you can probably list countless others. George. Wilhelmina. Rita. Howard. Shirley. Martha. Pearl. Eleanor.

I realize that baby names are in constant flux. 100 years from now, some future blogger may be lamenting the lack of Britneys, Mileys, and Jakes. (Although I doubt there will be anger over the lack of Apples, Pilot Inspektors, or Fifi Trixibelles) Certainly, first names are a reflection of their era - whether pop culture influences or historic figures. So future anthropologists can also use these obits as a research tool. And names cycle through. Before too long we'll see some Ruths, Willards, Marians, and Hermans.

But in the meantime, it's with a certain wistfulness that I look at those names each morning.

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