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The Buck Stops Here

Posted on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 10:41 am

A friend of mine once said you agonize over the name of your first child because you want the perfect fit.
When the second child comes along, she said, you come up with a name pretty quickly and move on.
“When the third one comes, you don’t even name them,” she said. “But then you have to, so you come up with something, anything,” she concluded.
I sometimes wonder if some of the off-the-wall first names I see occurred because it was a third child.
But then I realize its a sociological change that happens over the decades. That’s something the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) validates with information gleaned from Social Security card applications from the past 100 years.
First names go in cycles and are apparently based on the popularity of the times.
As the third in line, I was named David in 1951, which was fifth in popularity that year and proves once again I’m not so unique.
The top five were James, Robert, John and Michael, which explains why a good number of my classmates had one of those monikers.
In 2013, the top five boys’ names in order were Noah, Liam, Jacob, Mason and William.
That’s a quantum shift, but there were lots of Christophers and Matthews born from the mid-1970s to 2005.
Jacob was the top boys’ name from 1999 to 2012, which is no surprise to anyone.
SSA tells us that Michael was the most popular boys’ name from 1954-1998, supplanted only in 1960 by David, a somewhat ego-inflating fact for me.
William was in the top five for 36 years from 1914 through 1960 and then went off the list until 2009. From 2009 through 2013 William has returned to the top five, so you will note, these names are cyclical.
I followed my sisters, Deborah and Melissa.
Girls’ names ending in the letter “a” were big when they were born in the late 1930s and early 1940s. SSA says Barbara, Patricia and Linda were in the top five girl names back then.
The same thing is happening now.
In 2013, the five most popular girl names in order were, Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella and Ava. Those five have been the top five in different order since 2007.
For girls, the top names from 1970-1995 were Jennifer and Jessica, with Ashley as the only difference in 1991.
From 1962 through 1969, a girl was most likely to be named Lisa. It was Mary or Linda from 1914 through 1961.
My male friends’ names were pretty bland growing up, Mike, Steve, John, Jim and Chris, which I think caused the nicknames we’ve called each other for years, distinguishing one Joe from the other as it were.
We call each other Cat Man, Lumpy, Busch, Happy, Honk-Honk, Starfish, Kahoona, Filthy Phil, Guvna (short for governor) and Soak for a list of reasons too lengthy or vile to get into here.
So maybe the names we’re seeing today are parents wishing to protect their kids from a hated nickname. How does one skew Isabella, for instance?
None of this analysis explains why some celebrities inflict names on their children.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand how celebrities could name their child Moon Unit, Free or Audio, but it happened.
Maybe all celebrity children are born third. That seems to be the only answer.