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Just Joseph

February 5th, 2004 · 2 Comments

Lisa Williams a while ago wrote about the name they chose for their second son, born last month. From On naming a kid Joe

Now it turns out that Joe is more uncommon than I thought. With so many parents choosing celtic-inspired names like Aidan for boys, or names like Hunter, names like Michael or Joseph are becoming virtually extinct among members of my social class. The proof? When Evan called our pediatrician’s office to register Joe as a new patient, the receptionist said, “Did you say Joseph? You mean just regular Joseph, right? I haven’t seen a child named Joseph in ten years!

Maybe we’re just ahead of the curve.

Via Ryan’s Lair today I enjoyed The History of Naming with its colorful graphs of popular male names through the centuries. I’d love to see the female graphs also. I remembered Lisa’s post and thought she might enjoy it too.

For Ted and me, naming our babies was a process, special to each pregnancy. The latter two girls have names that came from what was happening in our lives at the time. Abigail was a name Ted and I agreed we liked years ago, while we were still dating, scribbled to each other in an exchange of paper letters the summer we were apart. I think Ted was reading about Abigail in the Bible, and wrote me about it, beginning our dialogue (lest I seem to convey that we were explicitly discussing progeny!) All of our girls (and the boys names we’ve never yet used) come from Biblical Hebrew. Yet each story of each child’s arrival in our lives is different. We selected their first names and their middle names carefully, seeking spiritual significance and intention, beauty and blessing.

I imagine for female names that the graphs would become more diverse. I sense there is more individuality with female names than with male. Creative spellings seem to be common. All of our girls will probably be spelling their names letter by letter out loud to others for most of their lives – unlike me who was an easy “Julie”, so common that the first initial of my maiden name got appendaged onto that final “e”. There was always more than one Julie in my class. Even now there are three Julies in my neighborhood of 70 homes.

But Michaela is a name that is often spelled many ways, sometimes with a “k” or “kala”. For Elisabeth, we chose the “s” spelling, since it was a little more unique for such a common name, in an attempt to avoid “Liz”, and I also liked the idea of naming her after Elisabeth Elliot. I fear though that she will spend her life battling the “z” version. Abigail’s name is fairly standard, even increasing in popularity since she was born, yet I’ve noticed already that people sometimes have trouble spelling it – often “Abigal” or “Abigale”. Or else they call her “Abby” and she corrects them. The downside to originality, as even these names reveal, results in misspellings and mispronounciations. But I think too that teachers and instructors don’t bat an eye any more at names which look like conglomerates of consonants, unique creations they’ve never seen. As Laputan Logic described, it will be interesting to see what happens in the future to names, whether there will be any common or standard ones, which ones will become dinosaurs, going extinct.

Joe, now there’s a name that should be easy to spell and say, extinct though it may be becoming! From reading Lisa’s blog I know it has a lot of significance too.

I think what parents want most in a name is for it to convey a sense of how special and wonderful that child is, how loved and cherished, something that goes beyond what letters and words can convey anyway.

Here’s to a little baby boy, his brother, and my three girls, and all kids, whether named trendy or traditional – may each you know you are unique!

Tags: family

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 wink // Feb 6, 2004 at 12:31 am

    All the info you ever wanted to know about name frequency in the US can be found over at the Social Security Website:


    Have fun!

  • 2 Lisa Williams // Feb 6, 2004 at 7:34 pm

    I was about to send you a link to the same page Wink was. One of the cool things about it is that you can track the popularity of names in the US over time, dating back to the 20’s.

    Re: individuality and girls’ names — this may be related to the fact that womens’ names go in and out of fashion faster than mens’ names. A scan of the “top 100” names by decade for boys and girls since the 20s will show that the top 10 names for boys hasn’t changed much while the girls’ name list has changed radically.