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BOOK REVIEW: BAD BABY NAMES

The Book: Bad Baby Names

The Authors: Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback

Publication Info: Published March, 2008, by Ancestry Publishing, Provo, Utah

Author’s Track Record: Both authors work for Ancestry Publishing, the publisher of this book. No previous book credits are indicated.

What You Get:

What's the story with "bad baby names"? There are several websites devoted to the topic, including one set up by the authors of this book. But why the fascination with "bad"? It's not as if bad movies, bad books, or bad sports teams get celebrated like bad baby names, so what is it about "bad names" that makes it, presumably, a sexy topic? Take a look at the forum, www.bigbadbabynames.net, probably the biggest (or possibly baddest) of the bad baby names sites. The forum stats reveal that the most number of people ever online at the forum at one time was 738, on June 25, 2007. Clearly, bad baby names are a big thing.

Given the potential market, it's no surpise that books are appearing on the topic. 'Bad Baby Names', by Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback, is just one of two books published this week with the phrase 'bad baby names' in the title! Sherrod and Rayback have both done work in the field of genealogy, and that's where the vast majority of the names is this book come from. They are names gathered from Federal census documents, dating back to 1790.

The authors have taken a large batch of odd, unusual, and weird names, and lumped them all under the umbrella "bad baby names." Here are some of my favorites from their list (note, they present the names with their surnames, because more often than not, it is the combination of names that makes them funny): Butcher Baker; Church Bell; Gamble Moore; Pickle Parker; Candy Cane; Chicken Lamb; Ima Payn; Dark White; Magenta Rose, well, you get the picture. What's most striking about this collection of strange names is that for every name, there was at least one, if not two, adults 'behind the name.' As the authors ask at one point -- what were they thinking?

'Bad Baby Names' is a direct descendant of John Train's 1977 classic, 'Remarkable Names of Real People', but lacking the elegance and restraint of that earlier work.This is really a humor book -- it's puffed up considerably with cartoon illustrations, disgruntled baby photos, and unrelated nuggets of information, such as the fact that in 1900, 46% of Americans owned a home, whereas in 2000, 66% did so. (Huh?). It's a book to browse through and laugh at. Are the names really bad? I suppose. And in a strange way, they are also quite sad.


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