Category: common baby names
By Sarahbeth Caplin
First day of fourth grade: the teacher takes attendance with strict efficiency. Since my last name begins with C, I am the fifth student called. “Sarah Caplin?” I raise my hand. By the time she gets to the end of the list, it is apparent that Sarah is the female name of choice: there are four Sarahs in our class of a dozen students, which Mrs. F thinks is hilarious. She places us all at the same table: Sarah K, Sarah M, Sarah W, and myself. It was not the first time I had to be differentiated by my last initial, and it wouldn’t be the last.
And dammit, I was already tired of it.
My parents told me, “We just liked the name; we had no idea it was so popular.” It never occurred to them that giving me a name from the Bible with timeless appeal (why else do so many women have it?) and no pronunciation problems in the English-speaking world would be such a burden to me. As an adult introvert, I’m okay blending in, but Childhood Me was the opposite. How could I stand out with a classic baby name shared by so many?
Do you wish your own name was more unusual…or more popular?
The general trend of taste in baby names these days is toward the unusual — many of us are looking for names that will help our children stand out in the crowd.
This is borne out by statistics, in the ever-growing number of sheer names in common use and the shrinking number of babies given the top names.
But how does this relate to your feelings about your own name? Do you wish you had a more unusual name yourself, and if so, why?
And if you have an unusual name, how do you feel about that — now, and when you were younger? Are you happy you have an unusual name or do you wish you had one that was more standard-issue?
But what about the names that are common in your little corner of the world? The names you seem to hear all the time in the neighborhood playground, at the pediatrician’s office, in the classroom?
More common than the name is this naming concern heard from parents: “We don’t want her to be one of five in every class.”
We know they don’t need to worry about that: even the name Jennifer, with its impressive peak usage of 4 out of every 100 girls, didn’t achieve such a feat—and today’s #1 name can’t compete at just over 1 girl in 100.
But another issue is this: Does it make sense to avoid names just because they’re common? Sure, if there really were five children with the same name per classroom, but what if there aren’t? It depends on our naming goals, but here are some reasons we might want to use a common name: