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March 06, 2012


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Isn't Emily a dactyl?

@rootlesscosmo: You're absolutely right, of course. I've fixed it. Thanks!

It's interesting: I recently saw one of the latest VZW spots featuring Susie, and while I thought the commercial was well done (although to be honest, had you asked me at the top of your article what company sponsored it, I'd have been flummoxed), something didn't feel quite right to me. I am pretty sure you nailed my discomfiture.

I'm of an age to remember when Susie (and Suzy and Susan and Sue) were popular names. I now have two granddaughters, whose names are Alison and Virginia (named for her paternal great-grandmother). I visit them often enough to be familiar with the elder's friends' names—and I've never heard of a Susan.

Another interesting phenomenon is that most kids these days use their full names -- I can count on one hand the number of kids I know (particularly boys) who use a shortened form. Kids are now Thomas, William, James, Matthew, and Stephen (never Tommy, Billy [although we do know quite a few Wills], Jimmy, Matt, or Steve). On the flip side, there are loads of kids whose given names are in fact shortened forms, like Jack, Max, and Jake.

I won't defend the name choice strongly, but I think it does have some characteristics that I bet/I am guessing they were looking for:

Unambiguously female. I'd be willing to bet that they were actually looking for a name that _wasn't_ androgynous and that clearly said "girl" (not just female, see also next point).

Diminuitive. Many contemporary names don't lend themselves to the dimuitive of either size or affection. (How do you do that to the name "Lennon"?) One of the themes of the ad is that the cute little girl is creating an empire. (PS Ask me how many times I've heard someone say "Mikey likes it!!")

_Not_ rare. I think they wanted a name that said "girl" not just for the demographic of the girl in the ad, but of everyone who sees the ad, from teenage entrepreneur to, dunno, CEO. Whatever its drawbacks, "Susie" is a name that everyone, but everyone, recognizes and that's, if nothing else, an inoffensive choice.

I agree that it's a name from a previous generation (we had many Susans in my primary-school cohort in the 60s, along with Debbies). Maybe they could have worked harder to find a name that's more contemporary -- I like "Emma," having one of those in the house. But if they were indeed factoring in the criteria above (and what do I know? I'm in software, for heaven's sake), I can see where they came up with "Susie."

@Mike: Your well-articulated points are what I was getting at when I said the name is "normative."

Interesting thing about diminutives: they are very much out of fashion with higher-income American families. Hang out at a (hyper-safe, amply cushioned) playground in an affluent neighborhood and you'll encounter many Williams, Nicholases, Charlottes, and Elizabeths, but few Billys, Nicks, Lotties, and Lizzies. (See http://www.babynamewizard.com/archives/2004/11/the-new-formality -- and there are other articles about how this phenomenon is class-related).

So the deliberate choice of an unambiguously female diminutive is not only nostalgic but also class-conscious.

But it's worth noting, as @babynamewizard pointed out in a tweet, that more girls are now named Sawyer than Susan.

No playgrounds for me, except virtual. I just now looked at the Facebook Friends list for our 13-year-old. Here's a sampling:

Becca. (Note: her mother calls her "Becky" but NO ONE else does.)

Good call by Ms Wattenberg, I think. To this day, I generally refer to that other anachronism, the Nuclear Family, as "Joe and Susan Sixpack and their 2.3 kids."

I'm reminded of this xkcd cartoon from last year:

Punchline: Every year, American culture embarks on a massive project to carefully recreate the christmases of baby boomers' childhoods.

Since you're interested in "name anachronisms", I created a scale that can be used to rate how "out of place" a name is in a given setting:

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