Another study documenting the chipping away of our common heritage, one name at at time:

Celebrities aren’t the only ones giving their babies unusual names. Compared with decades ago, parents are choosing less common names for kids, which could suggest an emphasis on uniqueness and individualism, according to new research.

Essentially, today’s kids (and later adults) will stand out from classmates. For instance, in the 1950s, the average first-grade class of 30 children would have had at least one boy named James (top name in 1950), while in 2013, six classes will be necessary to find only one Jacob, even though that was the most common boys’ name in 2007.

Refreshingly, and rayther surprisingly, the article goes on to note that the author of the research, San Diego State’s Jean Twenge, thinks this is not necessarily a good thing and may actually promote narcissism.

“The most compelling explanation left is this idea that parents are much more focused on their children standing out,” Twenge told LiveScience. “There’s been this cultural shift toward focusing on the individual, toward standing out and being unique as opposed to fitting in with the group and following the rules.”

The positive side of individualism, Twenge said, is that there is less prejudice and more tolerance for minority groups. But she warns that when individualism is taken too far, the result is narcissism.

“I think it is an indication of our culture becoming more narcissistic,” Twenge said.

Past research has shown that back in the 1950s parents placed a lot of importance on a child being obedient, which has gone way down. “Parenting has become more permissive and more child-focused and [parents] are much more reluctant to be authority figures,” Twenge said.

As for whether these unusually named kids will have personalities to match is not known.

“It remains to be seen whether having a unique name necessarily leads to narcissism later in life,” Twenge said. “If that unique name is part of a parent’s overall philosophy that their child is special and needs to stand out and that fitting in is a bad thing, then that could lead to those personality traits.”

Somebody once recommended to me that the best rule of thumb for choosing children’s names was to stick to popes and saints.  Feeling that this is still a pretty wide net and that a kid named Innocent, Boniface or Mewrog would be just as likely to get beat up on the playground and to resent their moniker later in life as someone named Moon-Unit, Apple or Fuschia, I have always been much more hide-bound even than that.

For boys, I would never go beyond Robert, John, Charles, James or William.  Perhaps Peter or Richard.

For girls, Katherine, Mary, Elizabeth, Anne, Caroline. Maybe Margaret.

(These are just my particular preferences, so certain persons near and dear to me can just put that rock back down and stop hyperventilating.  Your results may vary, of course, and good luck to ye.)

Of names that have withstood the test of time like these, all I can say is that they’ll never be flashy, but then again they’ll never be obsolete, either.  Nor will they give the child a hyper-inflated sense of Self.