Since about half of us still file our taxes using paper forms, we're keeping a whole group of IRS staffers employed. I'm talking about the folks who must take those handwritten or, if they're lucky, typed forms and enter them into the agency's computer system for processing.
I suspect that this is not one of the top five jobs in the world. It's got to be a bit tedious, typing in names and mostly numbers hour after hour, day after day.
The stress level also is probably pretty high, knowing that one errant keystroke could cause some taxpayer a fair bit of trouble. Let's see, what difference will dividend income of $30,000 vs. $3,000 make to your IRS bill? About $4,050 more due Uncle Sam.
But there is some small diversion for these typists: Checking out the diversity of names listed for filers and their dependents. I don't mean the variety of interesting appellations that come from the many cultural backgrounds of U.S. taxpayers.
I'm talking about the names people are now giving their kids. And judging by this New York Times story, on-the-job reading by Form 1040 transcribers has gotten a lot more interesting of late.
Apparently, the new hot name for girls is Nevaeh, pronounced nah-VAY-uh. The newspaper says Nevaeh has made the fastest climb of all names since the Social Security Administration began keeping such records.
Oh yeah. Nevaeh is Heaven spelled backward.
And to think I laughed at Ak-Sar-Ben that summer I spent in Omaha.
How do you pronounce Suoitneterp?
A long, strange name journey: Unusual names aren't anything new. Almost every family, including mine, has at least one.
Although I never met her (or if I did, I was so young I don't remember), I grew up hearing about one of my grandfather's sisters-in-law named Merkie. No, there was no great scandal associated with my great-aunt Merkie. The name just stuck in my head.
To be fair, Merkie wasn't her legal name. She officially was America, which transmuted into the more informal version. Nicknames, parents. Always keep that in mind when deciding what to name your kids.
And to give her folks a break, they had 13 kids, so maybe they felt like they were populating the whole country by the time they had to come up with a moniker for baby girl America.
Today, however, it seems that people name their kids for a lot of self-important reasons. In case young Dick or Jane -- I mean, young Banjo (Rachel Griffiths' son) or Amandine (John Malkovich's daughter) -- don't quite live up to sky-high parental expectations, their unusual names will at least always set them apart.
We also tend to follow celebrity trends (click here for a U.S. list or here for one compiled by a British site). So don't be surprised to see lots of Phinnaeuses and Hazels (Julia's twins) or Sean Prestons (Britney's boy) or Apples (Gwyneth's daughter) over the next few years. Well, maybe not Apples.
Keep it simple: OK, maybe I'm not the one to be commenting on names, given that mine is so basic. But I like it, so much so that I hung onto it after marriage.
My father-in-law, bless his heart, initially was dismayed, seeing my decision as, at best, some feminist political statement. It sort of was. I attended college in the '70s and was a charter Ms. magazine subscriber. At worst, he viewed it as a lack of respect for his and my husband's surname. Now, however, he's thrilled that no one can connect me with his family!
I also like its simplicity. Kay. Bell. An editor at my first post-college newspaper job noted that it would make a good byline. I disagreed with him on many things, but he was right about that.
Of course, sometimes simple is confusing. People, especially back east, always wanted to add an "e" to both my names. And one of our neighbors in Florida was as mystified about different last names for married couples as my father-in-law. Eileen never quite grasped that Bell was my last name.
When she stopped by with a crumb cake to welcome us to the neighborhood, my husband introduced himself and then "my wife, Kay Bell." Eileen, apparently thinking my accent was more Southern syrup than Texas drawl, assumed I was the very proper Mrs. Kaye Belle Hubbyname and every time I would see her, along our block or at the local grocery store, I was greeted with a loud, "Hello, Kaye Belle." It never was worth the trouble to try to rectify her misperception.
Family ties: I'm also a bit biased because instead of having a fanciful name my parents worked too hard to create, my name has a family connection. No, there's no Grandmother Kay (mine were Vera and Myrtle) or Aunt Kay. I do, however, have a cousin Kathryn.
She's just a few months older than I, and soon after she was born, my grandmother Vera informed my mother that if she delivered a girl, the child would be called Kay so that her granddaughters would be Kathy and Kay.
My mother knew that regardless of what was on my birth certificate, Vera would summon me as Kay. So Mum and Dad worked around Mam-ma's mandate. Thanks, cuz!
But the best name handed out in my family belonged not to a person
but a toy. As a child, one of my aunts, who shall remain nameless, got a new doll, an expensive
treat that she cherished. She immediately named her Fragilly.
Hmmm, thought her parents and sisters, that's an interesting name. A derivation of Gillian or Frances perhaps? But we have no relatives with either of those names. Neither could they identify any friends with names that might be even remotely transformed into Fragilly. So finally they asked my aunt just how she came up with the doll's name.
"It was on the box," she said, pointing to the "FRAGILE" stamp.
The reasoning was that of a child, but to me, Fragilly and its derivation make more sense than most of the names today's parents are bestowing upon their kids.
Names through the ages: Want to know what your name means? Check out
this Parenthood.com search engine. Conversely, if you're looking for a name that
represents a special trait, you can enter that and, in most cases,
it'll give you some name options.
For a more global name search, try BabyNamesWorld.com.
As far as name trends, the Baby Name Wizard over at iVillage will produce a graphical display of the popularity (from the 1880s through 2004) of the name you enter.
Want to get more specific? Check out the Social Security Administration's interactive list of popular baby names.
You can browse the most popular name by any year after 1879 or by decade, search for a name in a specific year, plug in your name to see just where it shows up in the data base or even get a state-by-state name breakdown.
The site gave me one more reason to like my name. Kay is not in the top 1,000 names for any year. C'est unique!
Today's Tax Tip: Whether your child is Will or Wilhelmina, he or she will bring you not only joy (and challenges!), but also some tax breaks. Check out this story for some of the more popular tax joys of parenthood.