Monday, 23 June, 2008

By way of the movies

Freakonomics has an interesting piece on research into baby names in California. In a nutshell, the research finds poor, under-educated, black single mothers 'act black' while naming their new children, which may be indicative of the way they'll bring up their babies.

It also says names travel down classes, that is, a name becomes popular among the rich before it becomes popular among the poor, by which time the rich decide that it's become 'down-market' and abandon it, unless they want to project a 'regular guy' image.

It'd be interesting to find out the role of popular culture, especially movies and tv shows, in the names' transition. Do names that become popular among the rich also become popular among screen characters, via whom they reach the poor? Or does the janitor pick up names from the bosses' doors?  

(Do screenwriters name characters after their friends or their friends' children? If it is the former, one should expect a reallife-to-screen shift to take a few decades; if it is the latter, the gap should be far shorter.)

A big question is why can't we get such interesting research and books in India? Is it because we are too busy making a living? But interesting research provides a good living? Or are we plain stupid? Or made stupid by our rote-and-rot education system?

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