Are you waiting for the day the CEO of that Fortune 500 company is named Britney? Our guest news blogger Mary Doyle has some thoughts on that. (Christine Diemert)
(Odd) names in the news
What’s in a name? Well, if it’s Newt or Mitt or Barack, you may have a shot at the highest political office in the U.S., but it will be in spite of your name, not because of it.
Through the decades, uncommon first names like Newt (or Newton) have bounced into and out of popularity lists, but traditional names have dominated.
Now some of the less traditional names are making their way onto Top-10 lists. On the most recent U.S. Social Security list, for example, the No. 4 choice for boys is Jayden, a name that didn’t even track until 1994. Since then it has steadily climbed in popularity, helped along no doubt by the fact that Britney Spears named her second son Jayden.
With more little Jaydens and Aidens (No. 9) and Madisons (No. 9 for girls) and Addisons (No. 11), those names become the new Johns, Thomases, Marys and Susans on the playground. But the non-traditional or trendy names that started showing up more regularly with the baby boomers are still struggling to get through the doors of power in the political or business worlds.
In politics, for example, the names Newt and Mitt and Barack – none of which has ever broken a major Top-100 list – are a departure from the Williams, Georges, Ronalds and Jameses who have populated the White House. You have to go back to 1963 before you run into a name that is not considered common – Lyndon B. Johnson. In the year of Johnson’s birth, in fact, the top names were the more presidential John, William, James and George.
Similarly, in Canada, the prime minister’s office has attracted those with fairly common names – Stephen, Paul, Jean, Kim, Brian, John, Pierre, Joe. Again, it’s the early ’60s when a prime minister with what might be considered an unusual name is sworn in – Lester Pearson. Lester was by no means in the Top 10 in 1897, the year of Pearson’s birth, but it was at least in the Top 100. Today Lester, like Lyndon, is absent from the popularity charts.
And sadly for little Jayden and Aiden, a look at the names of CEOs in Fortune 1000 companies shows that they tend to have traditional first names – John, Robert, James, Richard, etc. Even more sadly for little Madison and Addison, there are too few female CEOs to draw any meaningful conclusions about women’s names.
Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, with their very non-traditional names, went almost entirely in the opposite direction with their kids. Newt’s daughters are Kathy and Jackie. Mitt started out of the box, with Taggart, but then retreated to traditional, with Matthew, Joshua, Benjamin and Craig.
Often the parents leading the way in off-the-chart naming are celebrities. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have little Apple (no ranking at all) and Moses (No. 510). Gwen Stefani has Kingston (which appeared on the list only in 2006, the year of his birth) and Zuma (no ranking). David Bowie was an early adopter in 1971, with Zowie. And Canadian Bryan Adams, whose first name is only slightly uncommon because of the spelling variation, had Mirabella Bunny (yes, Bunny) in 2011.
Sarah Palin, a celebrity/politician with a very traditional first name, went wildly untraditional with Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig.
As the numbers of strangely named little ones increase, what will become of them as they grow up? The stats don’t look good so far. In Canada, a scroll through the list of accomplished citizens who have been appointed to the highest level of the Order of Canada turns up no Apples or Zowies or Bunnys. Nor do the names show up on the list of Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients in the U.S.
But maybe by the time little Apple grows up, her name will be so common as to be annoying. If not, she can always take a leaf from Zowie Bowie’s book. He changed his name to Duncan Jones and is now an award-winning director.