Thursday, October 24, 2013

Let's Hear It for the Boys (Names)

After last week's animated GIF of girls' baby names through the decades, I asked if anyone was going to create a boys' version.

Well, I didn't have to wait long. Jezebel posted this map showing the most popular boys' names by state from 1960 until 2012.

Amazingly, only three names have held the top spot over that 53-year span: Adam, Michael and Jacob.

Michael had the longest run of the three names. It was No. 1 for an astounding 38 straight years.

Even so, Michael never had the universal acceptance of Jennifer during its heyday. When Michael reigned supreme in the 1960s, lots of states were still favoring David and the entire South seemed to prefer James. Jason had a solid contingent in the '70s, and Christopher was similarly strong in the '80s.

Jacob took over in 1999 and has kept its lead ever since. But the map seems as fractured as ever. Somehow Jacob was the most popular name in the U.S. in 2012 despite only winning four states. Liam and William (which are almost the same name anyway) carried much of the country.

I wonder if we need to examine naming ballots for dangling chads because Jacob's victory seems a little suspicious. (The name Chad, by the way, ranked 588th last year.)

I've wondered before how Jacob could be so popular and yet so invisible to me all these years. (We've encountered very few young Jacobs at parks or schoolyards.) Well, I think I may have my answer. It wasn't the top name in California until 2010 and it's never led in New York or any other mid-Atlantic state.

Elsewhere, Jacob is a potent force. It unseated Jose in Texas after 14 years of domination by the Spanish name. I imagine it was heartening for conservatives there to see the state swing back to the Anglo column. Of course, there's no telling how many people are pronouncing Jacob "Ha-kob."