Name Origins #2

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The name Jennifer first appeared in the SSA’s baby name records in 1916 (in order to be released in the public records, it must have been given to at least 5 babies in a given year). The name steadily rose up into the 1960s when it reached 33,000 babies in 1969. Not a bad number. Then in 1970, a novel called A Love Story was released with a character named Jennifer. A movie by the same name was also released soon after. This helped soar Jennifer up to 63,600 names in 1972 (including actress Jennifer Garner)- almost double from 1969. It maintained popularity until the mid 1980s when it started dropping. But I wondered, where did it come from originally and why was it so popular in the 1960s before A Love Story came out? Well, it’s a Welsh name that has been in use since the 18th century, but started being used in the states after George Bernard Shaw’s play called The Doctor’s Dilemma came out in 1906- the main character was named Jennifer and America started falling in love with it.

The name Mary was the #1 girls name in the US from 1880 to 1947. Then, it was kicked off its throne by Linda. Linda is in the records starting in 1880 (the earliest year in the SSA records) but exploded in the 1940s. One of the most popular names in US history, Linda outranks all names for the most babies in a single year- in 1947, 99,674 Lindas were born! But unlike Jennifer, which remained at its peak popularity for just over a decade, Linda started plummeting just a couple years after 1947. By 1957, 10 years later and during the peak of the baby boom, “only” 44,000 babies were named Linda. By 1977, less than 3000 and in 2013 there were only 435 Lindas. Linda as a name has mostly German roots but in Spanish it means “beautiful.” In 1946, Buddy Clark released a song called “Linda” that he wrote upon a friend’s request who had a six-year-old daughter named Linda. The song was really popular in 1947 and reached #1 on the Billboard Music charts. The song was then sung and released by another singer, Charlie Spivak, in 1947 and that was also a hit. The Linda the song was named after grew up to become Linda McCartney– Paul’s wife!

The boys’ name Jason has Greek roots and Jason was the leader of the Argonauts in Greek mythology. Jason is also in the New Testament of the Bible- these two things help it be a name that’s been around for a while (it’s on the SSA list since the first year in 1880), but it hit its peak in the US in 1977 with 55,000 babies (this included country singer Jason Aldean). At first I thought this could be attributed to the character Jason in the very popular Friday the 13th movies, but it turns out that the first one didn’t come out until 1980. So I did a little research on it and found a lot of characters in TV and movies, including the Friday the 13th movies; Jason on the popular series The Waltons, which started out as a TV movie at the end of 1971 before turning into a TV series that lasted 9 seasons; the character of Jason Weber on the soap Guiding Light– he was on from 1965 to 1966 and was killed off in a car accident; and the character Jason on the sitcom Here Come the Brides, which lasted from 1968-1970 (from 68 to 69 the name Jason more than doubled in count). Jason may have died off in popularity in recent years, but it’s not that far gone- in 2013, there were still 5400 babies! Not too shabby. Jason probably helped usher in today’s plethora of names ending in ‘on’ like Mason, Peyton, Jayden, and Grayson and so it doesn’t sound that old yet.

There’s a twist in the Jason storyline, though- Jayceon! First appearing in 2005 and hitting 1,838 names in 2013, Jayceon has come to the forefront thanks to rapper Jayceon, also known as Game. Mostly pronounced exactly like “Jason”, this new spelling has risen fast. Many spelling variations also exist, like Jaycon, Jayson, Jasen, Jaiceon, Jasyn, Jaceon, and Jaesun.

Name Trends: Friends Edition


Friends was an incredibly popular show on television from 1994-2004. Everyone tried to be home or tape it on Thursday nights at 8. So did the names of the characters- Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, and Joey- gain or lose popularity because of the show? Only Chandler received a boost by the show and it was pretty minor. A rarer name back then, the show at least put Chandler into the consciousnesses of parents everywhere as they named their babies. As the table below the graph shows, Chandler was already on the rise, so the show just catapulted it higher. The name Rachel (and its similar spelling, Rachael) may have fallen due to the show- it’s hard to say for sure. The actress (Jennifer Aniston) and character became super popular a couple years in, especially in part to “the Rachel” haircut, so that may be why it started to drop around 1997. It’s interesting how Rachel plateaued for several years because I have not seen this shape for very many popular names (most names are mountain, hill or roller coaster-shaped). I was surprised to not see Phoebe gain more popularity as the character is lovable and Lisa Kudrow is hilarious, but maybe her eccentric and aloof personality turned people away from the name. The name Monica stayed pretty flat through the start of the show but dipped after the 1998 Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The line on the graph represents when Friends premiered in fall of 1994.
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Name Trends: Political Edition

Note: This post was updated on January 24, 2017.

What happens to your name if your dad or husband becomes the President of the United States? Take a look at Chelsea and Hillary, which took a nose dive after former President Bill Clinton took office. I can’t say for sure why, but I’d speculate people didn’t want their kid to share their name with someone so well known and be associated with them, whether they liked the Clintons or not. Even if you liked the name Chelsea and you voted for Bill, seeing them all over the newspapers and TV may have been nixed Chelsea off your baby list. Maybe they didn’t want people responding with “oh, like the first daughter?” or “like as in Clinton?” when told their baby’s name. I suppose some may have been turned off because of political party affiliation. Who knows, but neither name recovered, which is sad, because I think Chelsea and Hillary are nice names, but that’s just my opinion.

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Jenna Bush’s name trajectory has been a bit more of a roller coaster, but the name Jenna, like Chelsea and Hillary, also took a popularity hit once her dad became President.  However, it increased sharply shortly after her grandfather became the VP, but it’s hard to tell if that’s what caused the increase. I found no distinct correlations with Barbara, George, and Laura.

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One Sport Per State


I love this infographic from Slate on assigning just one sport for each state without duplicating. Ohio, my home state, got cornhole! Obviously other sports are pretty popular here, like high school football (they gave that to Texas) and basketball (Indiana), but cornhole is a staple in Ohio and many give us credit for at least bringing it to the forefront and helping spread the game (if you ask others, they’ll say Ohio invented it- that’s debatable). Known simply as “bags” in other places, you can find cornhole in leagues and at all kinds of parties and bars in the buckeye state.

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Do Americans suck at tennis?

So the talk of the tennis world in the US can often revolve around why there aren’t as many American players anymore. Where are our up and coming superstars? Where did all these Russians come from? Are we not driven enough? Is tennis just not that popular here? People are used to seeing their American favorites (McEnroe, Evert, Austin, Sampras, Roddick, etc) at the top of the rankings and winning grand slams. The game has gotten much more international with players from all over the world. I wondered- where exactly does the United States stand? Are we really doing as bad as everyone says we are? I’m a pretty avid fan and have noticed fewer American men in the top rankings but the women seem to be doing okay to me, but I wonder what will happen when Venus and Serena retire because it does not seem like anyone is close to making themselves at home in the top 10. Several young phenoms are or were close- Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Melanie Oudin, and Christina McHale, to name a few- but no Serenas in the mix just yet (all of the above still definitely have a shot, though, if you ask me). The last American man to win a grand slam was Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open! Before that, guys like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and John McEnroe ruled the roost.

The below graphs are from data for the top 300 tennis players on the men’s and women’s tours from October 2014. In the first graph, showing the number of players per country per gender, you can see that there are more American players than any other nationality, but the second graph, which shows the number of players per million residents, we Americans rank near the bottom! (Note that in the 2nd graph, only countries with at least 2 players were included).

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As much as we think “The Russians are coming!”, I was shocked to see how low they ranked in the per capita list. Many of the world’s more populated countries- China, India, US, Russia, Brazil- are near the bottom of the list or non-existent (Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria). Small countries like Croatia are tennis powerhouses- 4 out of every million Croatians is a pro tennis player (top 300)- impressive! That would be like the state of Ohio having 44 pro players… insane.*

Some interesting things to note are the countries with big disparities between men and women. China has a ton of female players, but almost no male, and it’s reversed for Argentina. France and Spain have lots of male players, while the Czech Republic, Japan, and Russia have much more females. Both Russia and Czech Republic have benefited from a few past superstars, like Anna Kournikova and Martina Navratilova. I’ve also heard that female tennis players like Li Na are huge in China- major celebrities.

The fact that Luxembourg is 2nd on the list does not mean it’s a tennis powerhouse- they have just two players, one male and one female, ranked inside the top 300. Countries like Serbia and Croatia, with 12 and 17 players respectively- now that impresses me. Is it their underdog status and war-torn history that help give the players drive and determination? Do they dream of money and fame and a mansion in Florida or a sweet pad in Monaco? In a future post, I hope to explore reasons and theories behind why some countries excel and others, like America, are seemingly less successful!

*I think Ohio only claims one player, as far as I know- Nicole Gibbs. We kind of have two if you count Chieh-yu (Connie) Hsu, who plays under Taipei but spent a lot of her childhood in Cincinnati (I played her three times in junior tournaments despite being six years older).

EDIT: March 10: Ohio is also the home state of current top 100 player Lauren Davis!

Sources: WTA, ATP