(May 15, 2014) Hear the audio version
Perhaps you’ve heard that the San Francisco Giants have three players on the team this year named Brandon. Their lockers are next to each other’s. They’ve turned some nifty Brandon-to-Brandon-to-Brandon double plays. Dodger Stadium celebrity P.A. announcer Justin Bateman even referred to the Giants’ shortstop as “Another Brandon.”
I know what it’s like to have a common name: Deborah was one of the top-ten baby girl names every year of the 1950’s. There were five Debbies in my second-grade class. Twenty-five percent of that class was a Debbie/Debby … including the boys! There was another Debbie Duncan in my high school. She didn’t show up for detention, and my geometry teacher blamed me. I’ve memorized my medical record number, as there are four Deborah Duncans registered at my HMO. My brother David Duncan’s name is even more common.
According to the Social Security Administration, Deborah dropped out of the top 100 names right after I graduated from college. It’s now #797. William, my husband’s classic, non-decade-, or even century-specific name, is still going strong at #5.
Also common now among baby boys: names ending with the letter “n”—not just Brandon, but Aiden, Ethan, Jalen, Jayden, Mason, Morgan, etcetera. Thirty-six percent of 2012 newborn boys’ names ended in “n.” I see a New Yorker cartoon caption about that in the future, a variation of the one a while ago with a class picture of Michael, Jennifer, Michael, Michael, Jennifer, Jennifer … and so forth. (Michael was the #1 boy’s name 1961-1998, Jennifer for girls, 1970-1984.)
Coming up with a name for your baby is fun, but also challenging. Daunting. I fretted over it three times. Unless you’re Gwyneth Paltrow and can get away with calling your child Apple, you’re probably going to want a name that won’t encourage teasing. It should also be a name substitute teachers can pronounce, but that isn’t so trendy there will be five of them at their trigonometry table. My daughter Molly could tell you that.
With a Perspective, I am Debbie Duncan.