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.