Naming names

Dr Eric Crampton
Insights Newsletter
8 June, 2018

In a classic Simpsons episode, Homer teaches a night course on having a successful marriage. Egged on by students wanting ever more details of their private life, Homer errs on the side of pleasing the students but irritating Marge – who kicks him out of the house.

A couple of weeks ago, I told you one of the econo-parenting secrets of the Crampton household: sealed-bid tendering for the kids’ chores.

Response to the column, including strangers stopping to tell me they’re implementing my little scheme, has suggested I might provide more of these.

In this week’s episode, a bit of help for those soon to be having kids.

Picking the right name is important. You need to choose a name that is right for the child. A name that can improve the child’s chances in life rather than prove a hindrance. And a name on which both parents can agree.

It’s not an easy problem to solve. Everybody manages to find some name, but many choices are obviously poor.

Here’s how we solved it.

America’s Social Security Administration lists the top-1000 baby names for each year since 1879. Take all the top names from 1880 through 1930. Strike out any names that are too anachronistic. Then strike out any names that made the top 100 in any year since 1970.

You should have about a hundred great names with historic relevance that excludes anything currently too trendy.

We didn’t know about the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs’ name list that goes back to 1954 – use that too.

Then, take turns vetoing your ten least favourite names. Keep doing that until you have a list of 20 rather decent names.

Bring those names into the delivery room.

On meeting your child, narrow things down with a Borda Count. If you have 20 names, give 19 points to your favourite name, 18 points to your second favourite, and so on – and have your partner do the same. Add up the points awarded to each name and keep the top 5. Then choose the one that fits best. With both our kids, it was obvious and easy.

And even if your partner behaves strategically along the way to ensure your daughter winds up with the name of her childhood teddy bear, the name will still be excellent.

As I, unlike Homer, know where my long-run interests lie, this week’s episode ends here. Stay tuned. 

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