Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Million Madisons and a Jillion Jaydens

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Perhaps one of the most important responsibilities that parents have is naming their children – placing monikers on these tiny new arrivals that will identify and help to define them as unique individuals for decades to come.    Sometimes the parents pay homage to themselves or their parents by passing along proper names that have served the family well in the past – while hoping like hell that the honored off-spring don’t grow up to sully the prized appellations.  Other times they give their children new names, ones that they hope will be unique enough to raise them above their more commonly named peers as they navigate their paths through life.

Special names make special people.

Unfortunately for these little special people, the uncommon quickly becomes as common as fleas in a kennel as more and more parents choose the same distinctive names.  Currently most screaming little girls in airports and other public places seem to be named Madison, and most out-of-control little boys are often identified by their yelling parents as Jayden.   That’s just the way it is.   I’ve flown with dozens of them.  

The Social Security Administration maintains a list of the most popular baby names for the preceding year on its website (    Last year’s most common names for baby boys were (from first to tenth):  Jacob, Mason, Ethan, Noah, William, Liam, Jayden, Michael, Alexander, and Aiden.  Little girls were most apt to be named (again, from first to tenth):  Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Ava, Emily, Abigail, Mia, Madison, and Elizabeth.

Some of those arise with popular culture (Jacob and Isabella from the “Twilight” movies, for instance), while others seem to bubble up into favor throughout history.  My children had great-grandparents named Sophia and Alexander.   Elizabeth and Michael also seem to have held up well over the centuries.

Those names, the ones listed by the Social Security Administration, are pulled from applications for social security cards and represent names actually given to infants.   Another website called Nameberry tallies names that are researched by prospective parents.  Curiously, they list thirty names (male, female, and gender-neutral) that have been researched more than any others so far in 2013 – with none of the thirty matching any on the Social Security’s list of names that are actually attached to infants.

The Nameberry top ten for girls are:  Imogen, Charlotte, Harper, Eleanor, Amelia, Evelyn, Isla, Violet, Penelope, and Cora.  The boys include:  Asher, Finn, Declan, Atticus, James, Oliver, Henry, Emmett, Owen, and Django.  The top unisex names are:  Rowan, Quinn, Kai, Sawyer, Avery, Charlie, North, Elliot, Finley, and Emerson.

(I personally think Django could be unisex, but I didn't get a vote.)

The rush for the ever-elusive original names will also continue as parents strive to insure that their children will be special – at least in name – and those special names will go on to impact lives and culture into the distant future.

Some might argue, of course, that selecting a name is really all about the parent and not the child at all.  Naming babies throws our markers into the future – and says much more about those choosing the names than it does those who are shackled with the legal labels.

But who am I to judge and point fingers.  I’m just a guy named Rocky – now isn’t that special!

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