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Sense and Nonsense: William, Emma take the lead in names for 2012

May 28, 2013

By Lynda Hollenbeck

And they named the baby John ... Marsha ... Billy ... Joan ... Henry ... Ellen ...
Whatever moniker is chosen, it sets the tone for the rest of the child's life. And unless drastic measures are taken, it's as permanent as the color of one's eyes.
Some people love their names; others hate them. Most parents put some thought into the naming process, but I have to wonder sometimes whatever could they have been thinking when I come across something that surely has caused the kid grief throughout a lifetime.
I could list examples, but as surely as I did, it would offend someone and that's not my intention here.
The Social Security Administration annually releases a listing of the most popular names given to children, giving the top choices for the country as well as a state-by-state accounting.
The agency recently announced that the most popular baby names in Arkansas for 2012 were William and Emma.
Those are solid, respectable names. I applaud the choices. Way to go, parents.
In successive order, the next-in-line favorites for boys were Mason, James, Jacob and Elijah. Those are all nice names, too.
After Emma, the girls' favorites were Sophia, Ava, Isabella and Olivia. Again, good choices, names that have stood the test of time, faded out of popularity for a while and now are enjoying a rebirth.
On the national level, the agency announced that Sophia and Jacob were the most popular baby names in the country in 2012. Good, respectable names. We just have slightly different preferences in Arkansas, it would seem.
Whenever I think of baby names, a memory of long ago comes to mind. I mean no offense by listing the name here, so I hope none is taken, but I don't think I'll ever forget the string of names given to a neighboring couple's child from many years ago in Fayetteville. They called the boy Barrett Stouthall Tunstill Lewis Lee Statton. (All of those names are not necessarily spelled correctly, but I'm 99 percent certain they are correct phonetically.)
When the mother told me about the child's extended names — it sounded like a page out of the dictionary — she explained that he was named for every generation of her husband's family that had lived in Arkansas. (They were from another state, but I don't recall which one.)
At the time this boy was born, I was awaiting the birth of my first child, and the first thing I thought of when the woman told me about the multiple names was "he's gonna have a heck of a time getting all those names on an application blank for college."
Since I'm a big sentimentalist, I appreciated the emphasis on family lineage, but six names seemed like an awfully big load for a tiny baby.
My child — if he turned out to be a boy, as indeed he did — was to be named after his two grandfathers. I thought Paul Jennings Campbell was enough of a mouthful for anyone, but it didn't come close to a six-pack.
I confess that I don't recall what had been chosen for a girl's name in the event there hadn't been a Paul. It surprises even me that the name is lost to the recesses of my mind.
And now that I focus on this subject, I don't remember the alternatives for my next two children either. I suppose since there was no use for them, I just let them fade away.
Anyone interested in checking out the popularity of names by periods can do so on the Social Security’s website, which offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880. It's obvious when you check it that pop culture affects the popularity of names.
That website — a mouthful in itself — is
www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/pr/babynames2012-pr.html.
A name that became "acceptable" in that regard came about following the birth of entertainers Sonny and Cher's daughter. As far as I know, no one had ever named a kid Chastity until they bestowed the label on their daughter. Before that period, it would have been an embarrassing choice, but like so many other things, if a celeb does it, the world finds it suddenly acceptable.
After including the above reference, I did some Internet research to verify the spelling of the name and learned that Chastity is now legally Chaz to coincide with a surgical gender change that took place about three years ago.
I don't think I could add anything to that.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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