Tuesday Jul 03, 2007

Java baby name wizard

Speaking of baby names, the babyname wizard website is a clever use of Java and an interesting way to explore the popularity of baby names over the years. And the Nymbler tool helps select a name, when given other names as inspirations.

21st century baby names i18n, g10n, google unique...?

I've often complained about Sun's confusing and Silicon-Valley centric product marketing names. Most other tech companies aren't any better. But naming a technical product is much easier than naming a child. After all, if you name your GNOME-based open source desktop "Java Desktop System", it isn't going to be beat up on the playground... at least not too often.

A friend recently wrote about a coworker who named her baby Messiah. This is actually fairly tame when you consider some of the odd names coming out of the U.S. where apparently anything goes (e.g. Moon Unit, Dweezel, Moxie Crimefighter, Pilot Inspekter, Mustang Sally?... ;-) Contrast this with Germany where all baby names must clearly identify gender and be approved by the Standesamt which carefully considers whether the name is weird or confusing. My great-great Grandmother from Pollnow, Pomerania was named August, which doesn't sound obviously female to me. Many names from American literature would probably fail the Standesamt standard; (Scout, Atticus, Harper, Huckleberry, Langhorne...) Based on popular media coverage, I wonder how many of our children's generation will remember that Paris is also the name of a Greek man and a French city?

Unusual names aren't just a recent fad. For example, in the 1600s an English baby boy was named If-Jesus-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned which is probably just weird enough to zap this blog from "naughty bit" filters of most public library web kiosks in Utah. It would be inconvenient to have a name that is a profanity in another language or one that triggers SPAM filters because it is used in popular email fraud schemes.

Then there is the issue of names which don't translate well in this increasingly globalized world. Some names are unfortunate homonyms in other languages, others can't be pronounced or spelled at all outside of the home country. A few years ago, the citizens of my home town thought they had a wonderful Indian name for the zoo's new tiger. The translation dictionary they used said the word meant love, but it actually meant something closer to prostitute love or lust. A fairly common Irish-American name, Colleen, is almost never used in Ireland because in Irish it simply means girl, which sounds like the kind of name Tarzan would come up with for his baby.

When a resume or CV comes across a corporate office desk, the name is usually prominently displayed in bold-faced type at the very top. A person's name often reveals or suggests their gender, race, ethnicity and religion (e.g. Mohammad, Elijah, Messiah...) This obviously should have no bearing on the person's qualifications for the position, but the opportunity for name-based prejudice certainly exists. [Read More]

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