Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I was trying to clean up my e-mail a few days ago, when I came across a bunch of e-mails sent by my friends who had just named their children. Now, each generation goes through a different trend of "name choosing". For instance, around the time I was born (will keep both the decade and the year a secret :)), one fad was to name kids after communist leaders. So, many kids were named after Stalin, Lenin, Marx, Che Guevera, and similar leaders. Another was to name kids simple, non-godly names. So, out went the Gopals, the Krishnas, and the Ramachandras, and in came Anils, Sandeeps, and the like. My good friend, (who shall remain unnamed) once told me that in the 70s, there was a movement, not just a fad, amongst Indian Christian families to give their kids Indian names. So, out went the Johns and Michaels, and in came Ajits, Ajays, and the like.

Freakonomics writer Steven Levitt talks about how so many people decide to name their kids using similar "principles". He shows that educational levels are a factor. As are income and upward mobility. (I would go on about this, but you should simply read his book. It is AWESOME.)

A trend I observed in the recent times, particularly amongst my friends, relatives, and distant relatives, is one where they name their kids names starting with the letter "A". Anwesha, Anahita, Anagha, Arya, Ankita, Anandita, Anusha, Apoorva, Ananya, Ayush, to enumerate a few. I wondered, Freako-style, why this was the case?

One answer seems to be that there is a trend, particularly amongst the IT folks, to use Sanskritized names. Maybe, it gives an impression of being in touch with Hindu tradition - imagine, someone asks your kid's name, and you say "Anwesha", you can be sure that the next question will be, "oh, what does that mean?", giving you an opportunity to show off your knowledge of ancient Hindu names. :) Or maybe, just maybe, people tried reading Maneka Gandhi's book of Hindu names from cover to cover, and couldn't get past the letter A! :)

Well, I pitched this idea to a couple of colleagues, and one of them responded: "Maybe the names start with A because they want their kids to become accomplished researchers, and become first authors of every collaborative paper they write!". [Editor's note: If a paper has nearly equal contribution from all its authors, the accepted "policy" is to put author names in ascending order of either their first names or last names.]

So much for working in a research lab! Well, what do you think?

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