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The Bad Baby Names Phenomenon

The internet has spawned many phenomena that didn't exist just a few short years ago. It's hard to believe, but there was a time when we all got along, somehow, without the help of things that today seem indispensable: email; instant messaging; photo sharing; 24 hour weather reports for anywhere on the planet; circles of 'friends' wider than North America; and forums or chat rooms for every topic under the sun.

Of all the forum topics that have sprouted in the last few years, one of the more curious ones is the fascination with bashing 'bad baby names'. There are suprisingly large groups of people who spend considerable amounts of time tracking down, observing, reporting on, and generally 'trashing,' what they consider to be 'bad baby names.'

First, a few numbers: the biggest website dedicated to the cause of ferretting out substandard baby names appears to be a forum called Big Bad Baby Names. If you look at their public statistics, you'll see they are approaching 1.8 million total posts on their site -- that's right, 1.8 million! That is one busy forum -- on their busiest day ever, June 25, 2007, they had 738 users online at the same time!

Now granted, not every post, or every thread, on that forum has been devoted to making fun of other peoples' baby names. But a good number of them have done so.

Big Bad Baby Names is not the only site where you can express your opinions about the legions of kids with names like Mackenzee, or Jak, or Emalee, or whatever. There are a number of smaller sites as well, such as the Bad Baby Names Blog. And the Bad Baby Names phenomenon has now spread to books, with the publication of not one, but two, Bad Baby Names books in March, 2008 alone, including Bad Baby Names by Michael Sherrod, Matthew Rayback, and Joey Gates, and Seriously Bad Baby Names, by Chris Okum.

And the media is paying attention. The Sherrod book has bagged a ton of media attention, including most impressively, a Worst Bad Baby Names Contest on a blog by the Science Writer for the New York Times. Certainly, pre-internet, one or two books on this topic appeared over the years -- John Train's Remarkable Names of Real People, published in 1977, is a classic of the genre. But nothing from the previous century gave a clue as to the depth of feeling that many people apparently harbored about other peoples' weird name choices. It's as if thousands of people were just waiting for the internet to arrive, so they could release their pent-up feelings about parents who get it wrong.

But why are people so fascinated with bad baby names, and in some cases, getting pretty worked up about it? Are names something that we, as a society, all have a proprietary interest in? We don't seem to revel, as a community, in exposing other peoples' bad decorating choices, or poor taste in dress (celebrities excepted). Why do we care so much about other peoples' baby name choices?

We don't pretend to know where this phenomenon comes from. Whatever the reason, there has never been a better time for you if you are a stickler for traditional baby names. If you find that names like Ambyre, Jaylinn, Makenzee, Jordynn, Maricatherine, and Jaymes make you nostalgic for the days of Tom, Mary, and Donald, you are not alone!

If you think your blood pressure can take it, here are a few more 'bad baby names', taken from Bad Baby Names by Sherrod, Rayback, and Gates. The surnames are included, because often, it's the combination that is so funny. Butcher Baker; Church Bell; Gamble Moore; Pickle Parker; Candy Cane; Chicken Lamb; Ima Payn; Dark White; Magenta Rose, Beetle Bates, Space Buck, and Leo Lion.

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