Call Me Ishmael


So last week the Social Security Administration (SSA) released the list of 2011’s most popular baby names. If for some reason you missed out on the fun, here’s how you can expect attendance will sound in kindergarten five years from now:

Jacob, Sophia, Mason, Isabella, William, Emma, Jayden, Olivia, Noah, Ava, Michael, Emily, Ethan, Abigail, Blue Ivy, Alexander, Madison, Aiden, Mia, Daniel, and Chloe.

I’m not sure what methodology the SSA uses, but it’s clearly flawed. Because everyone knows that one in five boys these days is named Max.

I freakin love baby names because new parents are super-sensitive, and everyone else is hyper-opinionated. It’s a perfect recipe for hurt feelings and resentment. The only thing people enjoy criticizing more than your baby name selection is your wedding.

And rightfully so. Otherwise intelligent people make terrible choices about baby names. Weddings too.

No matter how badly you screw up naming your kid, you cannot do worse than celebrities. In fact, the SSA only tabulates names occurring at least five times. Presumably this is to weed out celebrities and hippies, who keep giving their kids names like Blanket and Pilot Inspektor.

The list of popular baby names was dutifully reported by the popular press. But the only cultural insight I heard was that the popularity of Mason (#2 boy’s name) is due to Kourtney Kardashian’s son, born in December of ’09.

Mason, however, has been trending for years. It did jump 32 spots in two years, but big whoop. The names Maximiliano and Zaiden jumped 173 and 131 spots, respectively, in just one year.

It’s too bad people don’t look beyond the top ten names. Because the SSA’s web site is more fun to browse than a goddam Sharper Image store. Poke around and you’ll turn up some gems. Herewith, a selection of fun facts:

• If you count both spellings Zoe and Zoey as one name (as you should), it replaces Madison as the 8th most popular girl’s name. And it bumps Chloe out of the top ten. Suck it, Chloe.

Tracy dropped out of the top 1,000 names back in ’05, while Brooklyn was the 21st most popular name for girls in 2011. I’m scratching my head, because while I know a bunch of chicks named Tracy, I’ve never met a Brooklyn. Conclusion: I am old. You too, Tracy. (Oh great, now Tracy hates me.)

Myron hasn’t been in the top 1,000 for eleven years. This is hardly surprising, since Myron is a complete dweeb. The name alone is enough to inspire otherwise sweet kids to gang up and give poor Myron a wedgie.

• The name Van has jumped 120 spots in the last five years, to be the 787th most popular boy’s name. I’m shocked it’s even on the list – let alone gaining ground. I haven’t met anyone named Van since the ‘70s.

• In 2011, five boys had their names recorded as Willaim. Ditto for Vincint, Ryin, Micahel and, perhaps my favorite, Duwayne. (If you say it aloud, you can picture some rednecks sounding it out as they fill out the forms.)

• Also in 2011, five girls were recorded as Tresa, Porscha, Jazzleen(?!?), Dafney, and [drumroll] Virgina. Let us join hands and pray that none of the Virginas are growing up in the Boston area.

• In the I-Shit-You-Not category, nine girls were actually given the name Girl in 2011. Twice as many sons were named Boy. Beyond the literal minded idiocy, it clearly never occurred to these parents that their newborns would one day be adults. (Somewhere Boy George is reading and thinking, “I don’t see what the big deal is.”)

• Oh check this one out, mom: in 2011, the SSA received only 20 applications with the name Phyllis. Twenty! (The year you were born that number was 9,179… and that doesn’t include the 18 boys named Phyllis! Poor bastards.)

I could go on forever about names, but I’ll save some for another day. Meanwhile for anyone who’s curious, last year there were 132 boys named Ishmael.

You can find more by visiting the SSA’s section on Popular Baby Names.
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6 Responses to Call Me Ishmael

  1. Miranda May 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Blue Ivy? Are you serious! Or did you just sneak that in there to see if we are paying attention?

    • Daddy Confidential May 22, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

      As she lives in Tanzania, Miranda is enviably naive about certain pop culture references. So no teasing :-J

  2. Amanda May 23, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    LOVE the misspellings. In fact, my MIL misspelled my BIL’s name on his birth certificate. He was Jeffery for YEARS. Not sure if he ever had it officially changed.

    I think my favorite names are the ones like Michael Michaelson, John Johnson, etc.

    My sister saved our 2nd son from a popular name. His name was to be Jacob, but before he could even be conceived, she got a puppy and named him Jake. Now there are a ton of Jacobs in his age group, so I should thank my sister for making us think of another name.

  3. Michele May 23, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    LMAO… And I thought we were crazy for giving Maya a Greek middle name. Makes us look damn close to normal!

    Misspelling your kids name on purpose seems really cruel. One day “Tiphenee” is just going to want to be “Tiffany” (does anyone want that name anymore???) and the kid you named after your pet rock is going to want to crawl under one.

  4. Trout May 23, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    Enjoyed reading your article from a male’s perspective.  I believe many people who name their children one of the top 10 names  do so innocently.  They unconsciously hear the name and so the planted seed of what they think is the best name for their baby begins. Then as you say, Kindergarten starts and  perhaps some of these parents wish they had put a little more effort into naming their baby.


  1. Call Me Ishmael, Part Deux | Daddy Confidential - May 25, 2012

    […] more on baby names, check out the first installment of Call Me Ishmael. Blog this! Digg this post Recommend on Facebook share via Reddit Share with Stumblers Tweet […]

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