Monday, December 17, 2012

The Office fogies

I'm into the fifth season of The Office. As a cog in the machine, its lampooning of the corporate world hits home and the hot-cold mix of blatant-subtle presentation really does it for me. My onomastic obsession has been activated since the beginning, though. The show is set in contemporary Scranton, PA but if one considers the characters' names in a vacuum, he'd be excused for guessing it debuted in 1987. Using BabyNamingWizard, an approximate expected age for each of the show's major characters based on when their given names peaked in popularity:

Age 128
Age 33 (plausible)
Age 41 (plausible)
Age unknown (...)
Age 49
Age 53
Age 61
Age 42 (nailed it)
Age 52
Age 71
Age 40
Age 52
Age 29 (overcompensation!)
Age 49 (plausible)
Age 51
Age 78
Age 119
Age 30 (nailed it)
Age 101
Age 59
Age 43 (nailed it)

Prior to this, I haven't watched a sitcom since The Simpsons, so maybe the giving of established (that is, old ones that everyone is familiar with) names is standard practice because it makes them easier for viewers to remember?


Noah172 said...

Based on my names' peak popularity, I was born yesterday.

Anonymous said...

The absurdly old age for "Oscar Martinez" is not so strange considering that the character is Hispanic. It's one of those names that has remained popular among Hispanics even while its use elsewhere has largely died out.


Audacious Epigone said...


My 8 month old nephew shares your name, heh.


Good point. Per usual, ethnicity makes 'standardized' measurements difficult.

Saint Louis said...

Maybe Scranton is just a bit behind the times. Also, just because a name peaked in a certain year doesn't mean it wasn't still popular (just not as popular) later. E.g. James (Jim) peaked 71 years ago, but in 1982 (assuming Jim is about 30) it was still #6.

Audacious Epigone said...

Saint Louis,

In addition to being older, the names are also all common, especially at the peaks of their popularity but more contemporaneously as well. Is that standard practice for most series, or are distinctive (and presumably more memorable) names the norm?

Noah172 said...

Is that standard practice for most series, or are distinctive (and presumably more memorable) names the norm?

This is not a scientific survey, but an off-the-top-my-head sample of hit programs of which I have seen at least a few episodes, with total number of main characters (by my count) and unusual names:

Cheers: 10/4 (Woody, Frasier, Lilith, Clifford)

Frasier: 5/3 (Frasier, Niles, Roz)

Simpsons: 10?/4 (Homer, Bart, Ned, Apu)

Friends: 6/3 (Phoebe, Chandler, Ross)

ER: about 20 (about 8 in any given season)/ 2 (both immigrants, and not original cast members)


Anonymous said...

Note that the actors playing Angela, Phyllis, Creed, and Oscar have the same first names as their characters. So by definition their names are exactly right for their ages!

Audacious Epigone said...


Haha, thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

fyi, i always thought lilith from cheers was quite a babe. dat booty.

Anonymous said...

My name is Adam