Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Is there a Tom, Dick, or Harry in the house? if the house is a spaceship or an arcology?

Elsewhere--under friendslock, so I can't link it--I have been talking to some people about names. And it got me thinking:

If I was writing a story set in 2040, and the story was about a brother named John and a sister named Mary, I would make some very specific assumptions. I would be looking for cues that either the story was set in a neo-traditionalist society of some sort--or at least one that flirted aesthetically with neo-traditionalism--or else that John and Mary were immigrants from an immigrant group that had not come to English-speaking countries much before. (I have to confess that I would also be more attuned to clues that the author was born before about 1965 and was not very good at spotting social change.)

But why is that? So John and Mary are not a particularly common name pair for siblings born in 2009, or in 1979, which is more relevant to stories set in 2009. So what? If the story is set in 1940, John and Mary are totally normal names for an English-speaking sibling pair. 1840, same deal. 1740, same deal. 1640, same deal. 1540, same deal....

So why is my gut so sure that the recent pattern is more relevant than the longer-term one? And is this just me? What, if anything, would you assume about a 2040 or 2140 story featuring Mary and her brother John?
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