The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 9, 2013

Mike Pound: Some baby names are asking for trouble

By Mike Pound

— Last week, I wrote a column about some baby names that are banned in New Zealand.

Apparently, the government of New Zealand takes the whole baby naming business seriously and wants to make sure young New Zealanders are not stuck with a name that will haunt them for years.

But this is America, where it’s hands-off baby names. It’s part of our fiber ... wait, that’s Bran Flakes. The right to name our babies anything we want to is part of our heritage. It’s why Washington crossed the Delaware. Well, actually he crossed the Delaware mainly to get to the other side, but I’m sure if someone had asked Washington if he would also cross the Delaware so Americans could name their babies whatever they wanted, he would have said, “Sure, what the heck.”

I mention this because The Associated Press is reporting that the Social Security Administration’s annual list of popular baby names has just been released. Unfortunately, because of the sequester, the Social Security Administration is running a little bit behind, so the list is actually for 1894.

Ha. I joke. The list is for the year 2012 and, according to the folks who track baby names, the most popular boy’s name is ... drum roll please ... Barack.

Again I joke. No, the most popular boy’s name for 2012 is — for the 14th year in a row — Jacob. I don’t know many Jacobs. I guess I just run in a Jacob-less crowd.

The AP asked Jennifer Moss, the author of a book about baby names, why Jacob is such a popular name.

“It’s easy to pronounce, and it’s easy to spell,” she said. “It’s a solid, manly name.”

That’s right. In this country, we name our babies based on how easy it is to spell their name. Makes you wonder why “A” never caught on as a baby name.

On the female side, Sophia was the top name for the second year in a row. The AP didn’t offer up an opinion as to why Sophia is so popular, but it did mention something I find surprising: The name Mary, which in 1880 was the most popular name in the country, has now fallen to No. 123 on the list.

I grew up in a large Catholic family, and — at least in the Catholic circles in which I ran — Mary was a popular name. Just about every Catholic family I knew had a child with Mary somewhere in her name. Usually, Mary was part one of a two-part name, such as Mary Elizabeth or Mary Catherine or Mary Mary.

Well, to be honest we didn’t get a lot of Mary Marys.

The AP reported that some of the fastest growing names for males are Major, King and Messiah. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to give your kids names that carry high expectations with them. If you’re a kid and your name is Messiah, I’m thinking a little bit more is going to be expected of you at your sixth-grade science fair.

I’m just saying.

Carolyn W. Colvin, the acting Social Security commissioner, told the AP that she thinks many people are picking the name Major to honor members of the U.S. military, which sort of makes me wonder why General isn’t a more popular name.

According to the AP, the name Jase has shown a spike in popularity, and that is because there is a character on the TV show “Duck Dynasty” who is named Jase.

I’ve seen bits of “Duck Dynasty,” and I have to tell you I’ve yet to see someone on the show who I would want to name my child after.

Laura Wattenberg, who also has written a book about baby names, said many parents today are looking for unique names.

“Parents are really focused on choosing a distinctive name that will make their child stand out,” she said.

I can see that. But I’m thinking they would be better off choosing a name that will keep their child from getting beaten up.

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