Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Name Game

Most every year in May, I miss the Kentucky Derby.

Some years I miss it altogether, but I usually hear about it on the news after it happens.

Some years I’m aware of it in advance, but am too busy doing other things to watch.
And some years, I actually plan to watch it…. but I’m driving to the Piggly Wiggly to pick up more BBQ sauce when the four-minute race actually happens. Or flipping to the weather channel to see how fast the green blob is moving toward us. Or putting in a load of laundry. (Don’t laugh. I did laundry once.)

With most sports, if you tune in a few minutes late, its no big deal. If it’s NASCAR, you’ll pick ‘em up on lap three. If it’s football, you’re still in the opening possession. If it’s our national pastime, baseball, you’re still in the top of the first inning, and some of the fans in the stand are still awake.

But if you miss the first few minutes of the Derby, it’s over.

Turns out, it really doesn’t matter much, because the only thing I know about horses anyway is their names. Which, I suspect, is the same for many spectators, including some who probably make wagers based solely on that piece of information.

I like the names they come up with for their racehorses. This year, the winner’s name was “Mine That Bird”… not to be confused with “Summer Bird”, who placed sixth. The rest of the field included names like “Chocolate Candy”, “Join the Dance”, “Atomic Rain”, “West Side Bernie”, and “Mr. Hot Stuff”.

I feel bad for the horses. How would you like to go through your whole life knowing the people who feed you also decided to name you “Nowhere To Hide” or “Desert Party”?
Human names are much easier to figure. Apparently, parents-to-be travel in packs, and subscribe to the herd mentality when choosing names for their bundles-of -joy.
Last week, the Social Security Administration released the list of the top names of newborn babies for last year. This list was topped by “Emma”, which replaced “Emily” as the most common name for girls; and “Jacob” as the top name for boys. (“Emily”, by the way, had been the top girls name for the last 12 years; “Jacob” has now been in the top spot for 10 straight years!)

The runner-up names – positions two through nine – were Isabella, Emily, Madison, Ava, Olivia, Sophia, Abigail, Elizabeth, and Chloe for girls; and Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Alexander, Anthony, William, Christopher, and Matthew for boys.
The folks at Social Security also let us know which names are on the move, and which ones are falling like a rock. On their website – www.socialsecurity.gov – they share their full list of the 1,000 most common names for the year, along with other juicy tidbits:

This year’s winner for the biggest jump is Khloe, attributed to the popularity of Khloe Kardashian from the show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Khloe with a K increased 469 spots to number 196 in 2008, up from 665 in 2007 and 960 in 2006 (her first year on the list). Also, Chloe with a C is in the Top 10 for the first time ever.

Another fast riser is Miley, moving up 152 spots to number 127 for 2008, a rather impressive increase given this is only her second year on the list. On the downside for fans of Miley Cyrus’ fictional character, the name Hannah fell out of the Top 10 and landed down at number 17.

Jacoby had the biggest increase for the boys, moving up 200 spots to number 423, attributed to the appeal of last year’s star rookie Red Sox centerfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury.

Barack, they tell us, did not make this year’s top 1,000 boy’s list, but it did set what is believed to be a record by skyrocketing more than 10,000 spots in rising from number 12,535 in 2007 to 2,409 in 2008.

And Elvis, they report, is still shakin’ at number 713, but fell on the charts from 673 in 2007.

And, although the Social Security name-watchers did not include this in their annual press release, and as hard as it is to believe, for the umptieth year in a row, the name “Rod-Boy” failed to make the list at all. Apparently, out of the four millions kids born last year, nobody in America had the ingenious foresight to give their newborn that brilliant name: “Rod-Boy”!

(And probably only a handful of horse owners!!!)

Tune in next week, when we’ll take a look to see what Americans are naming their cats, dogs, boats and hurricanes these days.

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