Monday, September 8, 2008

We want to be popular

I’m noticing a trend in the “fluff” section of the newspaper lately – it seems there is a lack of fluffy news so they are printing stories that really say nothing. I remember thinking this yesterday as I perused the Life section but the story was so unmemorable I can’t even recall the topic.

Today’s nothing headline: Think your kid’s No. 1? Check the baby name database to find out

I will say this, the Social Security Administration baby name database is an excellent way to waste an hour or two. It’s interactive, so you can type in a name, which gender to identify it with, and how many years you want to check its rating and up pops a list. Though it only took me 30 minutes to figure out that we are a family of unpopular names.

Take my own; Stacey. When I was born in 1964 it was the 126th most popular name for a baby girl. Its highest rating was a run from ’71-’73 where it maintained at #41 but it has steadily fallen since then and in 2008 it is now 977, barely maintaining its place in the top 1000. The Social Security site only lists names when they appear in the top 1000 and my name didn’t even appear on that list until 1950!

It’s not like my parents were celebrities who gave me a freaky name – like Menudo Petshop – on purpose, so why am I so far down the list? I checked my husband’s name, which has been around longer (it broke the top 1000 in 1910) but has never risen higher than #315 (1989). The year he was born it was number #668.

I HAD to check my children’s names. I took the naming of my children quite seriously. I wanted names that sounded authoritative without sounding stuffy, were unique enough to make them feel special, yet normal enough that we can buy crap with their name on it while on vacation (this didn’t work out for my son, however. We had a difficult time agreeing on a name for him and did the best we could. Not even Vegas has crap imprinted with his name.) I’m not afraid of alliteration but totally HATE hard R rhyming (Parker Werner – blech!). But, somehow, we ended up with two less-than-popular names. My daughter’s name peaked at #41 and was #89 the year we named her and has also steadily declined since then, now resting at #180. My son’s name has never risen above #203 and was #465 the year we named him.

I’m wondering how this collection of totally mediocre names is affecting us as a family. Could we be getting better tables in restaurants? Could our kids be getting better grades in school? Could our inboxes have less spam? Could more popular names make our lives better?

And no wonder Glinda sings “I Want to be Popular” in Wicked. Her name peaked at #726 in 1951 and hasn’t even appeared on the top 1000 list since 1955. I think that story could have had a much happier ending if only she had been named Emily.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always hated my name, especially because my mom insisted on people calling me Cynthia, instead of Cindy. But she almost named me Debbie -- the hottest name of the '50s. Which would have been worse, since I have several BFFs and a sister-in-law named Debbie.
Fun post!