The Loh Down On Science

Is naming children after their parents a regional tradition?

George Bush 1 and George Bush 2 . . . But only one Laura Bush?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet psychologist Ryan Brown of the University of Oklahoma.

He was curious about patronyms and matronyms—names for children that honor fathers and mothers. 

He wondered:  Are juniors more popular in certain places? 

To find out, he examined Social Security Administration data across three generations.  He tallied how often names repeated. 

Next volunteers completed a survey about their general life beliefs.  Also whether they’d name a child after relatives.  

Result?  Patronyms are most popular in the South and West.  Other regions? Not so much.  Matronyms, meanwhile, hardly registered.  Girls, apparently, score original names.

Brown says patronym popularity overlays regions steeped in so-called cultures of honor."  —Places where defending reputation, family legacy, and even national reputation, is important.

Passing down male names likely instills these values in the next generation.

As for Thurston Howell the third, he protected Gilligan’s Island!  Or at least looked great on a yacht.  It’s something.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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