Knowing virtually nothing about linguistics or etymology, we nonetheless claim the authority, by virtue of fact that we are writing this article and you are reading it, to wax philosophical on the origin of naming.
When humanoid primates first crawled out of the primordial muck and realized that they could make differentiated grunting noises, probably the first thing they did was to assign different grunts to different objects. Ergo naming.
Biologists will tell us (we assume – it’s not like we actually take science classes) that the concept of individuality is almost singularly human. Bees don’t think of themselves as distinct from the hive, but humans grow up watching Barney, who tells us that we’re special and that there’s no one exactly like us. At the core of this sense of uniqueness lies the name; the fact that we are each given a separate moniker denotes an identity distinct from that of collective humanity.
Although it’s true that every human is spatially and genetically distinct from all others (we will ignore the question of conjoined twins for the moment), the fact that there are 7 billion of us and the fact that most of us aren’t all that creative means that the overwhelming majority of us will not have a unique name, or anything close to it.
Now we get to the point of the article: narcissism. We, the authors of this article, each grew up the only Kailee/Cailey that we knew, and so from early childhood, we each formed a concept of individuality slightly different from all those Jennifers/Jessicas/Matts/Johns that we knew. We were special; people would say, “oh, what a pretty name!” and we would smile because it made us feel prettier. Many of our friends didn’t even know our last names. We were just Kailee/Cailey. Like Cher. Or Madonna. Or Jesus.
Our name is Gaelic; it’s actually the name of an Irish dance. People go to Ceilis (not phonetic but it’s still the same name) and dance a set step dance – it’s a little bit like being named Fox Trot Erickson, or Square Dance Hall. In our childish naïveté, we believed that being named after a dance made us innately more graceful than other people.
Rumors of other Kailees/Caileys/Kayleighs (you get the idea) out there eventually shattered this idea of Self. When Kailee was seven years old, her mother’s second cousin named her baby Ceili. Kailee was livid. “That’s my name, how dare she! My own second-cousin-once-removed!”
When Cailey was seventeen, she encountered an 8th grade Hollywood brat named Caleigh, who, at the age of thirteen had bleached blonde hair and a seventeen-year old boyfriend. While Cailey’s latest claim to fame is this article, Caleigh was recently featured on the soundtrack for “Ice Princess” singing a song that would make Ashlee Simpson cringe. Cailey’s pride in her name plummeted.
Flash forward to Princeton 2004. When we first met, we probably would have been predisposed to hate each other had we not shared a mutual friend, who assured each of us that the other was awesome (yes, this is self-indulgent… but you’re still reading it). We quickly agreed that there were far too many Kailees/Caileys/etc. out there and that the Name needed to be reserved for a select few.
A global search on thefacebook.com revealed 26 Kailees, 16 Caileys, 147 Kaylees and 161 Kayleighs attending the various institutions on that site. Most of these looked like Britney Spears wannabees straight out of, shall we say, a “mobile-home living community.” Was our name a teen pregnancy name? Were we conceived on prom night, too? Further searches revealed that the name has gone up in popularity from #585 in the 1980s (right behind Rhiannon) to #54 in 2003.
The evidence was conclusive. There were way too many people with our name out there, and there were apparently more and more every day. What could we do? A few Google searches and several beers later, we found that that the name Monica, for example, took a sharp nosedive from #45 in the 1980s to #743 by the year 2000. Eureka! To sabotage our name, all one of us had to do was… become an intern… for George W. Bush… and…
We both threw up in our mouths, just a little.
Plan B: We should write a song about a prostitute named Kailee/Cailey. I bet no one wanted to name their daughter Roxanne after 1978, right? Wrong. The name jumped from #319 in the 1970s to #276 in the 1980s. Wow. Did people not listen to the lyrics? Or did they think that “walk the streets for money, you don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right” referred to a nice little girl in a red dress who picked up coins from the sidewalk?
We were out of ideas.
C: Wouldn’t it be better if we just had computers randomly generating synthesized baby names?
K: Everyone could have a different name, a different assortment of random syllables.
C: It would be like license plates.
K: And then some names would be like vanity plates. The rich people would snatch up all the good names like Winston and Lacy, and the poor people would be stuck with “ba-boo-oh-boo-ka” or “poo” or “cla-mi-dee-yah.”
C: Sweet, all we need to do is implement a totalitarian state.
(We sat in silence for a moment.)
K: Umm… where do we go from here with this article?
C: I think it’s really awesome so far. I think everyone will want to be our friends.
K: We’re drunk.
Ummm… since we don’t really have any practical way to implement a totalitarian state, there’s really nothing else we can do. We’ll just have to get used to the idea that our name could be the next Emma.
To close, here’s a list of actual baby girls names registered in the state of Utah (most are from Mormon families – this is what happens when sex-ed is not taught in schools. Note that there is some poor girl out there with the name VulvaMae).
Abcde, Allora LaLovi, Alpha Mae, Algie, Amulet, Apathy, Arizonia, B’andra, Barbie-De, BeDae, Berva Dawn, Bet’C, Bimberly, Birdean, Birdeen, Birdene, Blessing Ream, Blonda, Blondeen, Bobbette, Bridges, Brinderella, Brittknee, Brunette, Cachet, Cajun Rayne, Caldonia, Camera, Casualeen, Casualine, Celestial Dawn, Celestial Glory, Celestial Starr, Charilla, Chat, CheriLuv, Chime, Chinchilla Zest, Chlomania, Christmas Holiday, Chrystallyn, Cimemthymia, Cleota, Cleoma, Cleora, Cola, Confederate America, Corvette, Crayon, Cressent, Cuba, Cumorah Hill, Curtina, D’Dee, DaLinda LaDale, DaNiece, Danlonaga, D’Ann, Dann’yell, Daquari, Darlin’, Darlyn, D’Asia, D’Bessoudo, Dee-Lee, DeFonda Virtue, Delecta, Delite, Denverly Dawn, Desdedididawn
Destany, Dew-Etta, Dianarea, Dickalyn, Disney, Dodge, Donlon, Donnagay, D’orall, Downy, Doyleen, Dreama, Drexel, DuWhitVandeeOn, Dwightel, E’all, Edys, Eighta, El Fawn, Elsha Cachet, Elzada, Eulaween, Ever, Falycid, Fawn Dear, Fawn-Dew, Fawntelle, Ferol, Feroniquia, Ferriland, Fionnuala, Finita, Flavilla, Forever, Fronda, Gaylawn, Gaynelle, Gayno, Gazelle, Genesis, Genia, Glee, Godlove, Govinda, Granite, Hallah Lujah, Heaven Lee, Hereditary, HiDee, Imagine, Iola Violate, Jacketta, Jarna Nazhalena, Jazzeri, Jennyfivetina, Jentill, Jentrie, Jentry, Jeopardee, Jillet, Jilt, JonQuill, Jontay, Joyous Noel, Judziah Datz, JuGene, Justa Cowgirl, K-8, Ka, Kaltighanna, Kandle
Kaprice, Kare, Karmel, Karolyle, Katunga, Kaysional Tempest, Kiffany, Kimbur, Kjerstine, K’lar, K-Lee, Klover, Kris Miss, Kris Stena, Kyeria Nate, La, LaBerle, Labina, LaDeeDee, LaDonnaJosephrania, LaDreama, LaDuska, Laker, Laalaa, LaNondus,, LaPhyllis, Latrina, LaVeDrienne, LaWanna, Lexington, Lexus, Liberty Lulu, Lindi-lee-lu, LLean Shanalyn, M’lu, M’Recia, MaddLynAlain, Madrid, Magpie, Manila, Mar,
Marvel, Mayloni, Me, Merrily, MindiJo, Miracles Precious One, Mistrie, Mormon Beauty, Mormon Miracles, Mothers, MurtleAnnie, Nafeteria, Narcissa, Netella
Nolita, Oakley, Olene, Omega, Oralia, Ova, Oveda, Paisley, Panda, Paradise Sunrise, Parkarette, Patches, Pawnece America, Perpegillion, Phakelikaydenicia, Pluma, Pork Chop, Porsche, Precious Blessing, Ptarmi, Qedrin, Queenola, Quince, Qylci, RaCall, RGene, Rhodendra, Rhyan K’Ci, Rhyma, Rolayne, Sachet, Sancie D’Wan, Saunsceneyouray, SeaBreaze, Season, Sevenly, Shadey-Lynn, Shambertine Crille, Sharonica, ShayDee, Shazzanna, Sheramy, Shina, Sh’Nell, ShruDeLi, Shrudilee, ShruDiLee, Shyyaan, Sin’D, Sleeza, Snowma, Southern Justice, Speedy Esther, Spijker, Sri Lana, Starbuck, Strawberry, Storm, StormiAnn, Stormy Shepherd, Sunni Dawn, Syringa, TaffiLyn, Tally, Tangi, Tazmine, Tempalia, Teton, Thankful Flood, Tiarra, Tram, Trauma Anne, Treasure Ann, Truelove, T-vive, Twyla Dawn, Txanton, Utahna, Uthania, Vadna-Janmarie, Valva, Vanal, Velia Leta, Velva, Velvaleen, Vember, Venetia, Versicola, Vindalu, Virgilene, Viva, Viva Marie, VulvaMae, Vvhs, Vyedka, Vyquetoriya Walkasheaqua, Wandrella, Wardria, WaThene, Wavie,Whisper, Winda, Winsome, Wreatha, Wyndennelle, Wyoma, Xi, Xko, Xlyn, Xtrin, Xymoya, X Y Zella, Yanira, Young Elizabeth, Young’n Zakiya, Zee, Zestpoole, Zhalore, Zon’tl, Zoola, Zoreatha, Zzkora.