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Biblical Baby Names: Why Noah now?

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It seems that just about every few decades since the 1940’s, one Old Testament patriarch name has entered the popularity list’s Top 5, some lingering longer than others.  From the forties through the early eighties it was David,  joined by Joshua in 1983, Daniel for the single year 1985, Jacob ten years later– and holding first place for the past thirteen years– and Ethan (a more minor biblical figure) in 2002.

And now we have Noah, which entered the golden circle last year at Number 5.

Noah fits right into this group—like the earlier Joseph, and David, Jacob and Ethan, it’s a simple, modern-sounding  two-syllable name with a strong first syllable and softer second.  And like Joseph, David, Daniel, Joshua and Jacob, Noah comes with a dramatic narrative that’s well known to most children.

As every Sunday school alumnus knows, Noah was deemed the only righteous man of his time, singled out by God to survive the great flood sent to punish an evil world, and instructed to build an ark to save his family and all species of animals from the flood.

The name Noah has been in the Top 1000 since Social Security records have been kept, but was well used way before, adopted by the Puritans in the seventeenth century.  A noted early bearer was Noah Webster, (he was a Jr.), born in 1758, the influential lexographer and text book pioneer, political writer and prolific author, who wrote the first American dictionary.  But his name didn’t enter the Top 100 until 1995.

Noah was helped on its current rise up the ladder by the celebrity of longtime ER star Noah Wyle, and perhaps even by the hunky character named Noah on All My Children. Current representatives include filmmaker Noah Baumbach  (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg), the father of a son named Rohmer, and Noah Adams, author and NPR senior correspondent.

There’s a larger field when it comes to fictional characters, starting with Dickens’s Oliver Twist character Noah Claypole (not the greatest of role models),  Noah Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, and the influential Noah Calhoun character in the bestselling Nicholas Sparks’ novel The Notebook, played on screen in 2004 by Ryan Gosling.  On the small screen there have been Noahs on several soap operas, and on Heroes, Alias, 90210, and Desperate Housewives; the birth name of Puck Puckerman on Glee is Noah.

Noah has also been a low-keyed starbaby hit over the past few years.  In the Noah parents club are  Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green, Josh Lucas, Chyler Leigh, Alessandra Ambrósio, Chris Daughtry,  Stone Temple Pilot’s Scott Weiland, and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.

And lest you think the ascent of Noah is just an American phenomenon, here are his current high ratings in other countries:

#1 in Belgium

#2 in Denmark

#7 in Australia (NSW)

#9 in Canada and Norway

#11 in Northern Ireland, 26 in Ireland

#15 in France

#18 in England and Wales

A major Hollywood epic called Noah is scheduled for release next year, starring Russell Crowe as the biblical hero and Jennifer Connelly as his wife.  Could it help Noah climb even higher?

Do you like Old Testament names?  Which is your favorite?

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