Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Life in the Pedestrian Lane: A rose by any other name…

Nowadays, the trend seems to be no trend. Name the baby whatever hits you at the moment.

I was reading the Social Security article on most popular baby names for 2022. They put one out each year after they have compiled the data for the previous year. I wrote about baby names several years ago, (2010, I think) when Isabella was the most popular name for girls and Jacob for the boys. Isabella this year is in sixth place and Jacob isn’t in the top 10.

This year’s top girls’ name is Olivia and boys’ is Liam. Interestingly, in Alaska, the favorite boys’ name was Oliver. Aurora for the girls. Apparently the most popular girls’ names for a couple of years have all ended with ‘A’. Naming has undergone a change in the last several years. Where we used to depend on family names, thus lots of Marys, Johns, Margarets and Richards in the older generations, the trend changed to popular icons and we named the kids after movie stars, characters in books or TV. Nowadays, the trend seems to be no trend. Name the baby whatever hits you at the moment.

This became very apparent to me this spring when our very large extended family welcomed two new baby boys: Ace and Riggins. They are my great-grand nephews. They joined five brothers/cousins and my niece has a corner on boys like I did on girls the generation before. (I have seven granddaughters, as I have mentioned many times). Visiting with friends reveals the same trend. One friend recently added a Maverick in her family and he has relatives Bash and Rowdy.

Our boys have pretty normal names. They are named for their grandfathers but go by their middle names, which are a little less common than most but still mainstream. They were born at the end of the boomers, so we were still naming kids pretty traditionally. My ancestors relied on Robert, William, Thomas, Henry and John a lot. For the women it was Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Martha and Margaret. Of course, confusion reigned when everyone in the family for several generations was named the same, so nick names were popular. Henry became Hank, or John changed to Jack. Mary and Polly were interchanged as well as Sarah and Sally. Not many “Mad Dogs” or “Little Reds” appear in the records, although I’m sure lots of our ancestors had nicknames not used in polite society.

Hubby wanted to name our daughter Shenandoah (he had seen a movie just before she was born that had that theme song) but I convinced him she would never forgive him. We compromised and named her Shannon. Unusual for the time, but it gained in popularity over the years. It was most popular in the ’80s and ’90s, but has declined some since then.

I was named for first cousins. My mom and my dad each had a first cousin named Virginia, so I got the honor, being their firstborn. I looked on the SSA website and in the 1920s, when the cousins would have been born, “Virginia” was ranked seventh to ninth in popularity during that decade. This year it is 540th. The ranking went to three digits in the ’60s, although I didn’t have any classmates named Virginia and remember only two during my school years, both older.

I do genealogy and going back in both families, I didn’t find any Virginias so had to assume that for whatever reason it was simply popular in the ’20s. Like today, I’m sure people went with the flow and selected what was popular at the time.

The SSA website is a fun place to visit if you are interested in names and statistics. You’ll find it at names/. You can manipulate the data any way you want to find what was popular when or most popular by state. All kinds of interesting trivia. Also Google “popular baby names” and you will find a treasure trove of sites talking about trends, traditions and lists of names.

Children used to be named for the saints or with biblical names. Today’s choices seem to come from which singer or movie star is most famous at the time or even where the parents think the child may have been conceived, hence, “Phoenix” or “Meadow.” I even know a couple of guys named “Ford.”

Prediction for 2023 for the most unusual names include Amadeus, Andromeda, Lazarus, Wolfgang, Myfanwy. But no one has outdone Frank Zappa (remember him?) yet. There are only one Moon Unit and Dweezil.

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