Thursday, November 01, 2007

A rose by any other name...

Those ubiquitous stickers on the back windshields of family SUVs with an outline of a sports figure and a name: they scream "Mama of a Baseball/Football/Soccer, etc. Player on Board."

I had to pass the SUV and get a good look at that mama this morning, because I wanted a firm picture of what kind of woman names her child Anakin. (However, this mama was either a grandmama or she'd been living a seriously rough life.)

Some of the baby name sites that offer meanings and origins of names take the name Anakin seriously and attribute it to George Lucas, yadda yadda. The site I linked to above says it means "warrior." Whatever. Other say "no results," as it should be. I tried checking to see what it might mean to name a baby Chewbacca. Surprisingly, no results.

As I clicked along from link to link, I arrived at the Social Security Administration's baby name site, a site in some ways more interesting than others because it has the weight of a really good set of statistics behind it. (Anakin does not make SSA's top 1000; that's as far as SSA's statistics run.)

I gave up the search for Anakin and had fun playing with the SSA's site for a while.

Clicking on "Popular Names by Birth Year" and limiting myself mostly to the top 20, I see that the year Marine Son was born, his name was #1. I knew this well before today, but at the time of his birth, I only knew a few people by that name and thought it was quite unusual and lovely. Ha!

The year Tall Son was born, his name was ranked #16. There goes Bitty being all cutting edge again.

The year Not As Far Away Daughter was born, her name was #5. (Both the year of TS's birth and D's, all three of my children's names made the top 20 list.)

The year of my birth indeed reads like my high school yearbook. Whatever happened to Barbara, Brenda, and Cynthia anyway? And why don't people name their daughters Linda any more? Yet I was a bit surprised to see that the year I was born, my own non-Bitty name was #10. I don't know many people by that name, but those I do are all indeed around my age (give or take 10 years). Apparently we were really hot for a short while. However, had I been named Mary, I'd have been #1. (Between Marine Son's and Tall Son's births, Mary dropped out of the top 20 after a very, very long run at the top.) Interestingly, the year my mother was born, in the early 30's, Mary was number 1 and my mother's name, like mine during my birth year, was #10.

The year Grammie was born, in the early nineteen teens, Mary was still flying high at #1, not imagining a day when she'd be bumped from that honor. Grammie didn't make the top 20 list (she made the top 100), but her name was in the top 20 for some years when her own mother was a child.

My children have been more successful at thumbing their noses at trends. None of my four (count 'em, 4!) grandsons made the top 20 lists for the years of their births, although Grandson #1's name is currently in the top 20, and Baby A, born recently, may be at the beginning of a trend, since Indian Princess reported that several babies in the nursery received the same name that he did.

Most of my current students are 18 or 19, and sure enough -- I've griped about this before -- the top three girls' names in both 1989 and 1990 and in the same order both years were Jessica, Ashley, and Brittany. In fact, looking at the top 20 lists for both girls and boys for those years is pretty much like looking inside my gradebook.

I will probably retire in 2022 or 2023, unless they make me do it earlier. That last year, the young men in the classroom, who are now in the sandbox with my daughter's youngest son, will sport names very similar to those I see now. But when it comes to girls, I can expect to face a classroom sparse on Brittanys and instead, except for an abundance of Madisons, full of girls who sound like they should be Grammie's classmates: Emily, Emma, Abigail, Olivia, Isabella, Hannah, Ava, Grace, and Chloe.

And not an Anakin in sight.

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