My girlfriend and I like to talk about baby names.
Some people think this is strange, since neither of us is planning to have children anytime soon. But I think that baby names are one of the perfect small-talk topics, and not just with the person you love.
- Every day, we see and hear dozens of names, whether they belong to the people around us, people featured in the news, or characters in books and movies.
- Names have deep emotional connections for us. When we meet someone who shares a name with our childhood best friend — or a childhood bully — we often view that person differently as a result.
- Choosing someone’s name is a massive responsibility. Names change the course of our lives; they influence how people perceive us, and how we perceive ourselves. (The introduction of this book explains some of the ways that name selection can go wrong.)
- The average American will eventually choose two names for their own children, while also weighing in on the names of grandchildren and the children of friends.
Names aren’t just interesting to talk about — they have serious practical importance for the lives of our future children. As a discussion topic, it beats the hell out of the weather.
* * * * *
The sad thing about baby names is that too many of them are boring.
My third post for Applied Sentience is up:
Check it out for some thoughts on Srinivasa Ramanujan, David Foster Wallace, Jean-Paul Sartre, and why Quora isn’t living up to its potential (on which more later).
* * * * *
Related: I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you should keep a file for your ideas (however strange or impractical) and get in the habit of writing them down. Habits that help:
- When you have an experience that gives you a strong emotional response (laughter, joy, anger, confusion), think to yourself: “How could people have more/less of this experience in their lives? What would have to be invented or changed?”
- Keep a journal. You’ll remember more experiences like the ones I mentioned above, and you’ll be able to notice very easily when you write phrases like “I wish…” or “If only…”
- Sit down for a formal brainstorming session once in a while. If this doesn’t sound appealing, try it once, for ten minutes. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again, but if you do like it, you might find it becoming a valuable habit.
- Use Workflowy, which is the best tool I’ve found for quickly making lists. Evernote is also good, but not quite as fast.
If you have an idea-generating habit that I didn’t list here, put it in the comment section! I’m always looking for ideas about how to look for ideas.
I haven’t read most of the interviews ever, so the title is hyperbole, based on this series of posts from Gevinson’s Rookie Magazine. But reading this conversation between two teenage girls at the top of their respective games and industries makes me feel better not just about Kids These Days, but also about my own recent past as a Kid, and about the power of journalism to create transcendent moments.
(If you don’t know who these people are: Tavi Gevinson, Lorde. They write their own stuff.)
Some choice excerpts:
TG: I want to start out by saying that what I want to do with this is…I’m in a unique position in interviewing you because we’re the same age–
TG: And I feel like everything I read about you is like grown men writing—
L: Oh my god, that tweet you made where you were like, “She laces her Converse…” I was like, “This is so accurate!” There’s a definite viewpoint of the think piece by an adult writing about kids.
“She giggles, lacing her Chuck Taylors. She may be famous, but she’s still just a kid.” -end of every profile of a well-known young person
— Tavi Gevinson (@tavitulle) November 4, 2013