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A Matter of Taste

How Names, Fashion and Culture Change


Stanley Lieberson (View Bio)
Hardcover: Yale University Press, 2000.

A Matter of Taste

Why should Sarah or Michael be popular names? Why are Gladys and Herbert not as popular as they once were? Why is the La- prefix (as in Latoya or Lakeisha) popular for the names of black girls? First names provide a marvelous opportunity to study issues of taste, with ramifications for other questions of taste and fashion and for broad matters of social and cultural change. Stanley Lieberson examines the rise and fall and rise in the popularity of particular first names to ask what causes tastes to change and why new tastes take the form they do. He has written a fascinating and important study.

"One of the most eminent sociologists currently active — and former president of the ASA — has written a book lambasting common sociological practice.... There are certain books in cultural sociology that accumulate so much evidence and subject it to such painstaking scrutiny that one cannot help but be convinced by them; the thesis is not so much argued as established.... Lieberson has produced another of these rarities.... Books like A MATTER OF TASTE set the benchmark for sociological practice and remind us of how often we fall short." — American Journal of Sociology

"Lieberson has written a subtle and technically sophisticated analysis of changes in taste by examining the cultural patterns influencing the first names given to children in the past two centuries...[A] carefully reasoned study." — Library Journal

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