It doesn't talk about perceptions but if you're interested in name statistics, this one is in English and has all the first names that are in the population register (pretty much everyone born since the beginning of 20th century, if I remember correctly). There are lists of the most popular names and you can search for names (which is less useful, if you don't know Finnish names already but here are the statistics for Aarre for example). I really like that site, I find it interesting to see the naming trends, though as they also include middle names it doesn't really show what first names are popular. At the moment old-fashioned names are in, but not really romantic, old-fashioned names but the sort of short practical names that were popular in maybe 1920s (which means Urho, "brave", Jalo, "noble", Helmi, "pearl", Onni, "happiness" and names that don't mean anything in particular like Unto, Vilho, Eino). Nature names have been popular too, like super trendy Lumi (snow), Aamu (morning), Lilja (lily), Valo (light) and I've met one Tuisku (snow storm).
Awesome! Thank you, that's really cool. Another question, for Ereine but also anyone--so if you say the name Aamu means "morning," does that mean, it's the Finnish way to say "morning," like "Nice morning, isn't it?" would contain the word "aamu"? Or do you mean that if you looked the name Aamu up in a name book, it would tell you it derives from an Old Finnish word meaning "morning"?
Here in the US we have both kinds of names. For example, Lily is a very popular name, and that's the actual name of the flower. My mom grows a lily in her garden (well, more than one, lilies). Susannah, which sadly is no longer very popular although I think it's a beautiful name, is Hebrew and means "lily" (though I don't know what twists and turns it has taken linguistically over the centuries). You would never know Susannah meant "lily" unless you looked it up, though--well, as far as I know, unless someone who speaks Hebrew tells me differently.
I think the vast majority of names used in the US have non-obvious meanings, although some "literal" names have become extremely popular/common--on the top 100 for girls from 2011 I see Lily, Grace, Brooklyn, Savannah, Genesis, Serenity, Autumn, Faith, Jasmine, Violet, Aria, Trinity, London, and Piper, all of which are words one might use in an ordinary sentence, or well-known place names. Plus there's names that in some ways are obvious but in other ways are divorced from their meaning--I doubt many people who name their child Taylor, for example, are trying to celebrate a particularly talented seamstress they knew once.
I think it's a mixed bag with people in the US knowing or being interested in what their names mean. For some parents the definition is really important, or at least a notable factor in the decision; for others, they're interested in specific names because of their popularity, pleasing sound, family connection, etc. and they don't think, "Rufus means 'redhead' but we're all blonds. Is that weird?"
My point is that I'm curious about how it is in other cultures--if names are mostly non-obvious in meaning or literal, how strongly the meaning factors into the choice, etc.. I find that kind of thing really interesting.
ETA: I love Behind the Name!
I didn't realize they'd started putting in popularity graphs, too... There goes my afternoon!