Category: baby name Jennifer
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Since the Social Security Administration began tallying the popularity of baby names, there have been —believe it or not—only ten girls’ names that managed to hit the top spot on the list. Some stayed on for decades—predating the SSA stats– while others only held the title for a couple of years. Here are those ten most popular girls, in chronological order—four of them reaching Number 1 since the Millennium.
In 1970, the novel Love Story captured America‘s imagination with the tale of a wealthy Harvard jock who meets a girl from the other side of the tracks. It was soon followed by a movie of the same name — a tear-jerker that became the top box-office draw of the year. The American Film Institute has named Love Story one of the ten most romantic movies of all time, but its biggest legacy may be solidifying Jennifer‘s status as the top girl’s name of the 1970s and early-’80s.
The heroine of the book and movie (played by Ali McGraw) was named Jennifer “Jenny” Cavalleri. And in addition to being a wisecracking beauty, she had terminal leukemia. (I’m not spoiling anything here. The very first line of the movie is: “What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?”) .
Apparently America‘s response to watching a tragic girl fall in love and die was, “Hey, cool name.” Jennifer supplanted Lisa as the most popular name in the United States in 1970 and didn’t relinquish its grip until 1985.
Jennifer was the Number 1 girls’ name in the U.S. from 1970 until 1984, given during that time to nearly a million little girls. Today, that legion of little Jennifers have grown up to be moms — and executives, artists, athletes, and movie stars. Here, 14 signs that you might be one of the Jennifers now ruling the world.
2. You don’t even turn around when someone calls your name unless they add your last name. Or call you Klutzy Jen.
3. You call yourself JSat. Hey, if it works for JLo and JLaw….
A quick Google search will render more than 11 million results for the name Jennifer Kim, while White Pages will say there are more than 600 of us in the United States. Personally, I think there are more.
There is a Jennifer Kim who is a journalist and writer (not me) and another Jennifer Kim who is an actress (also not me). One of my best friends from childhood is also, coincidentally, named Jennifer Kim. We never really ran into problems, except for that one minor grade swap in 9th grade geometry, but really, who remembers such trivial things?
During high school, I knew four Jennifer Kims, not including myself. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of plain old Jennifers I knew. Not surprising considering Jennifer was the most popular girl’s name from 1970 to 1984.
At UCLA, I realized that I could reinvent myself–or someone else could. One day, my college sweetheart called me ‘Jen,’ and suddenly, the whole world followed. At last, I became the unique special butterfly: Jen Kim. Until that is, I met a dozen other Jens and a handful of Jen Kims who were all similarly trying to shed their common names for cooler nicknames.
Yes, there are baby names that have had longer runs at the top of the popularity list. Mary and John, certainly, and, more recently, Michael, who ruled for 44 years, yet none of them came to be seen as an epidemic or to signify a whole generation in the way that Jennifer did, though she was Number 1 for a mere fifteen years.
But in that time, between 1970 and 1984, there were 859,112 little Jennifers born in the US—enough for online Jennifer identity-loss support groups to spring up as they matured, enough for future parents to bemoan “I don’t want my child to be one of five named Jennifer in her class,” and enough for us to call our first book Beyond Jennifer and Jason. Jennifer became a one-girl baby names trend.
But why Jennifer? A once obscure Cornish form of the old Welsh Gwenhwyfar, aka Guinevere, a name that was hardly heard here before 1938—except for an appearance in a 1905 Shaw play– and which didn’t enter the Top 100 till 1956.