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Archive for the 'The Kid’s Name' category

Rapper Name?

October 24, 2007 7:59 pm

For some reason I keep calling Jace “Sweet P.” these days. And no, that isn’t an abbreviation for sweet pea like the flower or sweetie pie. I think it came from “my sweet little piglet”. Sounds like it is his future rapper name to me.

The name: Jace

July 6, 2007 5:05 pm

When novelists write books, it’s not unusual for them to create the entire text before they figure out what the title should be. Because they want to build the plot and texture of the story on its own, without being constrained by the handful of words on the front cover that define and hint at the contents of the pages.

Not so with names. We have the responsibility of picking out a name for our kid — a title for somebody else’s book — before we’ve even met the main character, much less peeked at the plot lines.

So we go with something that is flexible enough to match anything in the range of personalities we expect. Something fun and bold yet easy to say, easy to spell, and which hopefully won’t be the primary topic of future counseling sessions.

We had a handful of names on our short list, all with a similar flavor to them, but some of them were so incredibly common among recent newborns that their popularity seemed like a liability, and we decided to go with something a little more unique. We didn’t actually settle on a name until the day after Jace was born, but we did discuss it and give it a little thought before that time. Here’s a glimpse at some of the research behind the name.

Gathered below for your reading pleasure, we have some information on:

1. The popularity trend
2. Geographic distribution
3. Spelling
4. What real live grown-up Jaces have to say about their name

The popularity trend

We didn’t really want to be influenced too much by the relative popularity of the name we chose, but the trend for Jace is interesting:

Year of birth Rank
2006 187
2005 208
2004 228
2003 249
2002 281
2001 299
2000 310
1999 336
1998 379
1997 406
1996 466
1995 524
1994 568
1993 555
1992 550
1991 559
1990 552
1989 603
1988 626
1987 616
1986 616
1985 665
1984 736
1983 747
1982 850
1981 a
1980 947
a Not in top 1,000 names for indicated year of birth
Note: Rank 1 is the most popular, rank 2 is the next most popular, and so forth. Name data are from Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the United States.

In most of the years prior to 1980, the rank was above 1000.
[From http://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/babyname.cgi]

Geographic Distribution

Though the name Jace barely makes it into the top 200 male names nationwide, it is in the top 100 in a handful of states (the distance between rank 200 and rank 100 tends to be fairly large in terms of the frequency of occurrence). The states identified in the map shown here [for those reading this post in an email, you might need to go to the website to see the image] come from the 2006 data on the Social Security website at http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/.

jacemap

It wasn’t until after I examined this distribution that it occurred to me that there may be a connection to Mormon naming strategies. It has been widely observed that Mormons have a higher than average tendency to choose uncommon names and to invent new ones (consider “Mitt”, for example). The only explanations I’ve ever seen for this phenomenon reference the statistical fact that Mormon families are larger than the national average, and that their surnames tend to come from a small common group (“Smith”, “Young”, etc.).

We wouldn’t be shy about picking up some naming tips from our Mormon friends if we thought it was appropriate. After all, they chose well when naming the guy who turned out to be one of the best quarterbacks of all time (Steve Young). However, it’s not necessary in this case. My investigation shows that, while it isn’t really tied to any particular group, instances of “Jace” correlate more closely with a geographically overlapping set: the western-style names such as Cody, Wyatt and Austin.

Spelling

Jace. Definitely Jace.

If it were a short form of Jason, it seems like you might spell the name “Jase”.

But the part of my intuition that connects spelling to pronunciation tells me that, on its own, Jace/Jase is like face/phase or lace/lase (to use a laser).

In other words, the spelling “Jase” is incorrect and easily mispronounced as “jaze” (though at least it’s probably not as varied in its pronunciation as “vase”, which ends up retaining the French-like “vahz” sound for half one-third of our household :-) ).

Spelling happens to be one area in which popularity does matter, and it seems that the world agrees with us: in 2006, “Jace” was rank 187, with 2,119 males receiving that name. “Jayce” was way down at rank 427, and “Jase” landed at rank 565.

What real live grown-up Jaces have to say

In early June, I sent email to 14 different guys named Jace, and got detailed responses from 10 of them. The recipients included, among others, Jace the history professor; Jace the 18-year old professional race car driver; Jace the programmer; Jace the investigative reporter; Jace the random blogger dude; Jace the attorney; Jace the musician; Jace the other musician. I asked a handful of silly questions about what they think of their name (silly because, well, what the heck are you supposed to say when somebody asks you whether you like your name?). I also asked whether, “as a real-life adult Jace, you have anything to say about your relationship with your name over the years.”

Out of the 10 respondents, one had changed his name to Jace as an adult, and the rest had been Jaces since birth. All respondents thought it was fun and slightly flattering to get the question, and all highly recommended the name.

Among the unexpected revelations was the comment: “My parents got it from the 60′s Saturday morning cartoon show ‘Space Ghost’.” When I read this comment, I realized that I have a vague memory of Space Ghost hanging out with two sidekicks and a little monkey (the show was revived for a year around the time that I was 6 years old). And sure enough, one of them is Jace (this image swiped from http://www.animationmeat.com/modelsheets/spaceghost/spaceghost.html):

space ghost

Right now our little squirmer looks a bit more like Blip the monkey than like Jace the sidekick.

jace/blip

Other comments included:
“I definitely get ‘cool name’ a lot.”
“A close friend of our family just had a baby boy and named him ‘Jace‘ and we were thrilled!”
“In college a fellow asked my permission to name his son jace. that was a few years ago now.”
“Good luck with your new son. The name Jace has served me extremely well!”

There was some acknowledgment from many of the respondents that the rarity of the name could present challenges. For example, one of the responses contained this statement:

Of the people who comment, about 80% say they really like it. The
others are a little confused. The most common points of confusion are:
- wanting to call me “Jason,”
- not knowing how to spell it,
- or mis-pronouncing it as “Jackie.”

But it doesn’t seem like this is too significant as a negative point. In fact, it’s probably best if our son stays away from anybody who would mispronounce “Jace” as “Jackie.”

So there you have it.
And for anybody who doesn’t know us and has just happened across this post on the internet, Jace says that it’s okay if you name your son Jace too. Actually, what he just said was, “squirk! erk,” but I think it’s what he meant.

(C) Steve and Heather Leibman, 2007.