Yesterday I wrote a blog post about common names in the USA on Sitzman ABC, my language-learning blog. It was ostensibly for my English students, but I thought some Sitzblog readers may like it, too. Plus, some of the vocabulary–like ostensibly–may be a bit difficult for some of my lower-level students. In any case, feel free to check out the article on Sitzman ABC or here:
A few weeks ago I wrote two articles about naming customs in the USA and Costa Rica. I mentioned that I also wanted to talk a little bit about common names in both countries, but since the posts were already so long, I decided to do a shorter post later. This is that post.
Common Last Names in the USA
First of all, let’s look at last names, since they’re the same for both men and women, obviously. According to this list, which seems to be available in some form on more than one site, the two most popular names are Smith and Johnson. I had actually thought it was the other way around, but they’re both very common. The top 5 is rounded off with Williams, Jones, and then Brown, which didn’t really surprise me much. In fact, of the top 20 names the only ones that surprised me were Garcia (18) and Martinez (19), mainly just because they were the first Hispanic last names on the list, and I expected Hispanic names to be a bit higher. I’m sure that a lot of last name statistics also depend on geographical regions, though.
I also noticed that “Sitzman” was conspicuously absent from the Top 20… and the Top 100. So I searched for it, and apparently it’s number 24,083… that’s right, my last name is the 24,083rd most popular last name in the US! Believe it or not, but it’s even less common than the last name “Pizza” (ranked 24,007th). But still: Pizza! I’d have a more common last name if my name were “Ryan Pizza.” Ouch, that hurts.
Common First Names in the USA
Now, first names were the ones that surprised me a bit more. I discovered that the Social Security Administration (the agency in charge of retirement and pension payments in the US) keeps statistics related to baby names. I spent a while looking at different names, charts, and statistics on their website, and it was pretty interesting.
According to this table, the most common first names in 2010 were Jacob, Ethan, and Michael for boys and Isabella, Sophia, and Emma for girls. Hmm, not too bad, I guess, but then I saw that for boys Jayden is #4 and Aiden is #9. Are those even names? (Disclaimer: I’m a mean, grumpy man.) I suppose that it’s cold comfort that it’s not as strange as the list of top baby names in Great Britain (seriously, England: “Alfie”? What’s going on over there?).
Still, I guess the names don’t seem so strange if you look at this chart, which displays the top 5 names for each year from 1911 to 2010. It also explains why I know a lot of Jennifers, Ashleys, Matthews, and Christophers.
So how does “Ryan” fit into these numbers? Well, in 2010 it was number 23, just above “Samuel” and “Jackson” (and probably even further ahead of babies named “Samuel L. Jackson”). Sadly, it’s still below Mason and Logan. Brian and Bryan don’t seem to be on the top 25 list for 2010, but maybe they count them as two different names because of the two spellings?
On the SSA site you can also search for popular names from the year in which you were born, so I did that. I had always imagined that my name was pretty common and boring, since I know a lot of Ryans, Brians, and Bryans. I was right. In 1980, Brian was #12 and Ryan was #15. The #15 name for girls in 1980 was Christina, and that seems about right.
There is one part of the SSA baby names website that is very disturbing, though. It’s the “Change in Popularity” section, which lists names that have gained in popularity recently. There are some really ridiculous names on this page, especially for the boys. Seriously, who in their right mind would name a beautiful baby boy Bentley, Knox, Jax, Zayden, or Ryder?
Anyway, that’s my names post. I hope there was something interesting for you. And if any of my friends who read this have children with those “strange” names, then of course I was just kidding! Your baby and his name are both wonderful and special!
Thanks for reading. If you want to join in on the discussion, say hi in the comments section. Take care, and have a great day!
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Errand-Running Monkey at Sitzblog
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