Monday, May 25, 2015

Has Brooklyn Lost Its Cool? Not as a Baby Name

There's a lot debate over whether Brooklyn has peaked, with other towns and boroughs (possibly even Manhattan) vying to become the next hipster capital.

But one thing seems certain: The baby name "Brooklyn" is still going strong. It's the most popular geography-themed name in America, going to a total of 6,767 newborns last year.

Brooklyn isn't quite at its 2011 high, when it went to 7,155 babies, but it moved up from 28th in 2013 to 26th place last year.

In fact, it's so popular (ranking above Lily, Hannah, Zoe or Sarah) that no hipster would ever use it.

Earlier this month, I did a piece for Nameberry on geography-themed names. As part of my research, I looked at whether any other New York places ranked in the Social Security Administration's database.

The answer is yes, though none has taken off like Brooklyn. Hudson went to 5,199 boys and 111 girls last year. Almost 130 boys were called Bronx, plus five girls. And nearly 200 boys and 70 girls were christened Harlem.

Seven girls were named Manhattan, but Queens and Staten were nowhere to be found. (Staten Island's alias Shaolin also failed to appear in the rankings.)

It's interesting that New York place names (other than Brooklyn) are mostly given to boys. That's less common for geographic names in general, but I guess New York locations have a toughness to them that people perceive as masculine.

Even the name Jersey has attracted parents in recent years.

Now that's just cruel.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Flavor Aid Finally Gets Its Due

Regular readers of BuboBlog know this is a pet peeve of mine: People who say "drinking the Kool-Aid" when they really mean Flavor Aid.

So I was thrilled to see Vox tackle the issue on Saturday:
...all the sources on the [Jonestown] massacre say the powder was the grape variety of another drink brand, Flavor Aid. Made by Jel-Sert, Flavor Aid appeared in one of the first newspaper reports on the massacre. The claim is repeated in the 1982 book Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People. And surviving witnesses said that Flavor Aid was the drink used, not Kool-Aid. With the evidence so clear, why did the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" emerge? Mental Floss suggests Kool-Aid's role as being a genericized name for all flavored drinks, the popularity of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and other factors made it easier to remember "Kool-Aid" than "Flavor Aid."
I hope this helps educate the world that me saying, "Whoa, that guy really drank the Flavor Aid, amirite?" is not weird (though still insensitive).

Up until now, the main source of information on this topic was the Flavor Aid Wikipedia page, which wasn't maintained with the most rigor.

Kudos to Vox.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Release the Crochet...I Mean, the Kraken

On Friday, Elliot's school held its annual Literary Costume Day, when kids get dressed up as their favorite storybook characters.

The rules:
  • must be a children's book character
  • no masks
  • no pretend or real weapons
Mostly it's an excuse for the girls to get out their princess dresses, but Elliot asked if he could be Zeus.

I've been reading Elliot and Alice stories from "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths" — the same copy I had when I was young — so I guess Zeus counts as a children's book character.

Kelly created the costume by crocheting a beard and turning one of my old T-shirts into a toga. Then she and Elliot made a lightning bolt out of cardboard. This raised a question: Would one of the most fearsome symbols of wrath known to Western Civilization be considered a weapon? (I think the school decided it was OK.)

I also quibbled with the beard. Zeus is immortal, but he has the body of a young man. I accused Kelly of making a Judeo-Christian white beard rather than a Greek god beard. But again, I don't think anyone in Elliot's first-grade class took issue with it.

Elliot has taken to Greek mythology with unexpected zeal. We devoured the D'Aulaires book, and I've overheard him making references to his mystified friends.
"You're bad. I'm throwing you in jail."
"Oh yeah? Well, I'm going to send you to Tartarus!"
The D'Aulaires, a husband and wife team, published the book in 1962. And even though it's written for (relatively) young readers, it doesn't hold back on the more disturbing elements of ancient Greek literature: incest, murder, kidnapping,'s all there.

A recurring theme: Fathers who decide to kill their sons because an oracle tells them their child will overthrow them. Hey, good daddy-son reading!

A typical passage:
His son, Pelops, was his greatest treasure, and, wanting to give the gods his best, Tantalus decided to sacrifice him. He made a stew of him and set the dish before the gods. But the Olympian gods detested human sacrifice. Outraged, they threw Tantalus to the punishing grounds in the underworld and brought Pelops back to life. But one of his shoulder bones was missing, and the gods replaced it with a piece of ivory. They all gave him rich gifts.
The Hercules in D'Aulaires is not the Disney version. He repeatedly goes crazy and kills everyone around him, including his own family.

Why is this appealing to a 6-year-old boy? I guess the material feels intriguingly dangerous.

The stories may be thousands of years old, but they're about as edgy as it gets.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, Frisbee Baseball

Elliot invented a new sport that combines the worst elements of frisbee and baseball.

Still, it's slightly better than snow baseball.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Splashing Puddles in Slow Motion

It's a common conundrum for parents: When your child begins splashing puddles in the wrong shoes (highly porous sneakers), do you stop her...or use it as an opportunity to shoot slow-motion video?

A video posted by Nick Turner (@sf_nick) on

I think we all know what the right answer is.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chasing Bubbles in Slow Motion

I've been told I overuse the slow-motion feature on the iPhone (the person telling me this is Kelly).

But I feel like this video of the kids chasing bubbles turned out quite nicely.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

'Easy Come, Hard Go'

The kids and I were making our way down Main Street when a balloon floated across the sidewalk in front of us.

It must have seemed like a minor miracle to them: The balloon had enough helium to float, but not enough to climb more than about 5 feet above the ground. It was just wandering around Roosevelt Island like a bumblebee.

The chased it down and began fighting over it. Finally, it was agreed that Alice would hold the balloon until we reached the playground. Then Elliot would get a turn with it.

Unfortunately, when we got the playground, Alice let go of the string.

It didn't float into the sky, but it managed to drift up and over enough to settle inside a construction area. The balloon found its new equilibrium within the high walls of the building site — there was no way to get it back.

When Elliot realized he would never get his turn with the balloon, he began bawling. I tried to console him with the old aphorism, "Easy come, easy go."

"No," he wailed. "Easy come, hard go."

Now that I think about it, his version applies to real life a lot more frequently.

Monday, May 11, 2015

We Take Mother's Day Seriously

To say Mother's Day is a pretty big deal in my household is liking saying football is a pretty big deal in Texas. The kids go NUTS.

Alice couldn't sleep on Saturday night because she was so excited about Mother's Day. She and Elliot got up at 6 a.m. the next morning, like it was Christmas, and immediately tried to wake me up too.

There was breakfast in bed, several homemade cards, a Mother's Day play and a picnic. I tried to capture it all in this video...

A video posted by Nick Turner (@sf_nick) on

I think the kids get excited because (a) they love their mom, but also (b) they feel like this is a holiday where they control what happens. And they take that very seriously.

The play was called "Dracula vs. Pirate Princess" (or if you asked Alice, "Pirate Princess vs. Dracula"). It didn't have a mother theme, but the kids were thrilled to do something special for their mom.

Kelly probably would prefer that the children actually listen to her occasionally, rather than putting on a Dracula play. But it was still pretty sweet.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

If Baby Names Were Stocks...

Whenever the Social Security Administration releases new naming data, I check to see if my own kids' names have risen or fallen.

Well, I'm happy to report that all three of our picks continue to climb the charts.

I once wrote a Nameberry piece on how choosing names is like choosing stocks. In that spirit, my three "stocks" have done pretty well. But they probably wouldn't have made me rich enough to retire on. (I should have bet everything I had on Khaleesi.)

Elliot was ranked 356th when we picked it. The name is now 217th.

Alice went from 257th to 97th.

And Lucy climbed from 72nd to 62nd.

Some people don't want their kids' names to get too popular, and I understand that impulse. But you also want to bet on a winner.

It's nice to know that America agrees with my decisions.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

It's Official: Anakin Is a Real Name Now

The Social Security Administration released its annual rankings of baby names on Friday, and naming nerds like me have been combing through the data ever since.

The top boys' name, Noah, was the same as last year — a disappointment for those predicting that Liam would seize the No. 1 spot. Liam would have been the first Irish name to ever lead the rankings (and the first one without Hebrew roots in more than 60 years). But it wasn't to be.

Maybe next year, though. Liam was a close No. 2, with less than 1,000 births separating it from the top position.

On the girls side, Emma crept back into No. 1, unseating Sophia. I wouldn't have predicted this. Frankly, Emma feels pretty shopworn at this point. It was last No. 1 in 2008, and I thought we'd moved on as a nation. It's a lovely name, but Emma doesn't feel as zeitgeisty to me as Olivia or Sophia (currently second and third).

As predicted, Charlotte did enter the top 10. But barely (it was No. 10). I'm sticking with my theory that this is not a top-five name.

As usual, the most interesting data came from the lower end of the charts. Anakin, aka young Darth Vader, cracked the top 1,000 for the first time. It reached No. 957, making it more popular than names such as Howard, Magnus or Foster.

I have to wonder: Why now?

The Star Wars prequels that focused on Anakin's rise came out between 1999 and 2005, and they were kind of bad. Anakin presumably isn't in the new sequels because — three-decade-old spoiler alert here — Darth Vader died in "Return of the Jedi."

But as my wife notes, the generation that would have been impressionable youngsters when the prequels came out are now starting to have children. So maybe Anakin has a certain allure for them.

Elsa's ranking also jumped last year. This was less of a surprise — how could it not? I actually like this name, and I think the nickname Elsie is adorable (no, I don't think the Elsie the Cow association is going to be an issue for children born in 2015). And when it comes to the two sisters from "Frozen," I'd much prefer parents name their baby Elsa than adopt the Ahn-na pronunciation for Anna.

"Game of Thrones" also made its presence felt in the list. Khaleesi, the show's "mother of dragons," continued to climb the charts, debuting in the top 1,000 for the first time. It zoomed all the way to No. 755 and shows no sign of letting up. Consider this: It's now more popular than Ann, Celia, Dana, Gwen, Judith, Magnolia, Renee, Sandra or Wendy. (It also beat out Miley, but I doubt anyone would be upset about that.)

Khaleesi's rise is a bit hard to explain. Though "Game of Thrones" is popular among media elites, it's still a premium-cable show that much of America doesn't watch. (It gets good ratings for cable, but not nearly as much as, say, "Walking Dead.)

I'm trying to imagine the Venn diagram for people who (a) watch "Game of Thrones" and (b) would name their children after a television character. I wouldn't imagine there's a very large amount of overlap there. But apparently I'm wrong.

And in fact, I talked to someone this week who knows a real-life baby Khaleesi.

Imagine what will happen to the name's popularity if the Mother of Dragons ever reaches Westeros.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Sewing It All Together

The latest art installation to set up shop on the southeastern corner of Central Park has a sewing theme.

The work, by Italian artist Tatiana Trouvé, consists of giant spools of thread.

Apparently the threads are supposed to represent the many paths in Central Park.

From the website of the Public Art Fund, which sponsored the work:
Trouvé created three large-scale storage racks that house a total of 212 spools. Each spool is wound with rope equivalent in length to a corresponding pathway and labeled to identify its location in the park. Trouvé’s work is also a reflection on the broader cultural significance of walking. It’s an activity that ranges from personal recreation to political statement, and has inspired poets, musicians, writers, and artists.
As we wean our children from the stroller, walking is an all-too-common issue in our family. But mostly the kids try to make a political statement by NOT doing it.

Maybe this work will inspire them to change their ways.

Monday, May 04, 2015

A Charlotte Observer: Thoughts on the New Royal Name

Photo courtesy of ABC News.
The royal family announced the name of its latest offspring today — Charlotte Elizabeth Diana — sending baby-name nerds into a tizzy.

The fact that we're getting a new royal name so close to this weekend's annual release of the Social Security Administration's 2014 data...well, it's like Christmas and your birthday coming the same week (to be fair, that's no big deal if you're Jesus).

The interesting thing about Charlotte is it's currently more popular in the United States than in Britain. The name was perched on the threshold of the top 10 in 2013 (which until Sunday is the most recent year with data available), ranking 11th. It's 20th in England and 21st in Scotland, according to Nameberry.

I don't doubt it will crack the top 10 when the 2014 list is released. But what then? Will the royal influence push it higher? Are we looking at a Sophia or Isabella?

I would guess no. Charlotte doesn't feel like a name that's going to make it into the top five. Remember my post about how girls' names are getting longer? Parents today prefer three- or four-syllable names, and they favor the Spanish, Greek and Italian variants (think: "-a") — rather than English and French versions of names. Charlotte, a French two-syllabler, fails on both counts.

It's hard to imagine now, but Sophie (French) used to be more common in the U.S. than Sophia (Greek). That's obviously changed. Not only is Sophia currently No. 1, but many Americans perceive Sophie as merely a nickname.

Likewise, Charlotte doesn't quite jibe with broader trends. So while it may continue to rise in the rankings, I see a ceiling to its popularity.