Celebrity Names Blog

The Declaration of Independence and the New York Yankees

The Declaration of Independence and the New York Yankees

It doesn't take an onomasticist (that's one who studies names) to realize that there are more baby names being used today than ever before. Between the individuality revolution of the 1960s and the new availability of information (and name research) in the digital age, plus the ever-growing diversity of the US, we are seeing a growing variety of names being chosen for babies in the United States. In 2010, the #1 boy's name Jacob accounted for 1% of all male births. But in 1880, the first year that data was available from the SSA, the #1 boy's name John was given to over 8% of all male births! As you can see, there are a lot more names to choose from today (including, of course, the names people are making up).

As we celebrate Independence Day (woohoo! 3-day weekend!), we have a fun illustration of name variety to share with you: The Declaration of Independence. This statement was signed by the 56 most influential male political leaders of 1776 who lived in the thirteen American colonies and were now declaring their homes to be free independent states. And out of all 56 signers, there were only 27 different first names.

The top names signed on the Declaration of Independence:


Appearing 6 times each
William (today #8)
John (today #20)
Thomas (today #52)
George (today #153)

Appearing 3 times each
Francis (today #656)
Benjamin (today #25)

Even just these top 6 names represent the most famous Declaration of Independence celebrities Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and John Hancock. Heck, it even represents Francis Scott Key who wasn't around for the signing but later wrote the words to "The Star Spangled Banner" national anthem that we'll all be singing this weekend.

What are the chances today that you could get 56 men of similar age together in a room and have only 27 unique names between them? Not so good in today's name-saturated world. For a comparison, the current Yankees roster includes 56 male names as well (if you include coaches and manager), and the list has 56 totally different names on it. That's right, no repeats in a list of 56 American men all born within a 17-year time span.

If you really think about it, how many repeat-named people do you know? And what are the names that seem to be most represented in your life?

Read more about name variation and the theory of name entropy, and common names from the pilgrims on The Mayflower.

--M.F.

Comments

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July 2, 2011 8:16 AM
By zoerhenne (not verified)

I know 4 Susan's between the 40-60ish age bracket. 3 are neighbor friends, 1 is my SIL. 2 of them even live on my street. There are also 2 Linda's and a Lori on my street. I know several Denise's of 35-50 age range as well. I don't remember the husband's names repeating as much though.
All current for their age bracket as well.

July 2, 2011 9:28 AM
By StephanieKay (not verified)

I still have an overabundance of repeats in my age group, and I was born in '84. I'd say that about 50% of my circle of female friends/acquaintances are either named Jessica or Kim and the males are overrun by those named Chris/Kris or Sean/Shawn. My husband and I both have sisters and friends named Sarah/Sara, and he has at least four other guys named Joe in his work department, alone.

My own name is certainly not immune, either. I grew up as "Stephanie (Last-Initial)" because there was always two or three other girls named Stephanie in any given class at school. When I worked at Starbucks, I once counted six different female customers with the name "Stephanie" in a two-hour period, and they were all roughly my age (within about a 10-year margin), as well.

July 2, 2011 12:13 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My husband is a third with an unusual first name so that his father shares it is obvious. However, his middle name is Martin and his brother-in-law (sister's wife) is also named Martin. However, neither one goes by this name (husband goes by his middle initials M.J. and the BIL by Gray, his middle name). My husband has two other BILs (my brother and his other sister's husband) and both are named Michael (and go by the full name, not a nickname). This means that of the four men of my generation in my son's life (his dad and 3 uncles) two are Michael and two are Martin.

I also have a theory that nearly every one of my peers has an Aunt Carol or Aunt Nancy. I actually have one of each, and my husband has an Aunt Carol as well. I noticed when we started attending our friends' weddings that there was almost always an Aunt Carol or Aunt Nancy in attendance. And going back further, in my relatively small family I had 3 great-aunt Ruths on my dad's side.

Outside of the family, in my office group of about 120 mostly female staff, there are many Jennifer/Jen/Jenny/Jennies as well as several Amys. And were you to look at someone's list of Facebook friends I think you'd see more repeats there as well though nothing approaching the density of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

July 2, 2011 12:25 PM
By Goddess in Progress (not verified)

Ditto on the previous poster, I have one Aunt Carol, two Aunt Nancies, and two Aunt Marcias.

I'm an Elizabeth, so there were always a handful of us, but at least we had the Liz/Beth divide to separate us.

But these days, it's true, there's nothing approaching the level of Jennifer/Amanda/Stephanie that I grew up with in the late-70s and 80s.

July 2, 2011 5:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My family has an abundance of James/Jims. In my life, I've had a great-great Uncle Jim, three Uncle Jims, two cousin Jim/Jimmys, two of my cousins married Jims, one had a child named Jimmy, and I ended up marrying a Jim.

July 2, 2011 7:48 PM
By Kate (not verified)

I'm a college professor; every semester I get a to see a fresh sampling of names for people born between 1985-1993. I usually see fewer repeats in any given class of 30 students than I remember seeing when I was in school (with my 1970s birth cohort full of Adams, Matts, and Jennifers.)

July 4, 2011 10:03 AM
By Sebalek (not verified)

The names in my life that are most commonly repeats: Lori/Laurie x4, Victoria x3 (40ish), Sarah x3 (30ish), Jennifer x5 (late 20s-early 40s), Caitlin x6 (under 12) Jacob x5 (infant-40), Michael x3 (4-40), Aidan x4(under 10).

There are more and that's only from my mom's club which is 65 members (not including husbands and kids). The boy repeats are more likely to span several decades (~30+ years) as opposed to the girl names which generally only fall within a decade or so gap.

July 4, 2011 6:22 PM
By Lindsay (not verified)

"For a comparison, the current Yankees roster includes 56 male names as well (if you include coaches and manager), and the list has 56 totally different names on it. That's right, no repeats in a list of 56 American men all born within a 17-year time span."

Am I missing something with this statement calling all members of the New York Yankees "American men"? I could go through the roster and name all the players who are from the Dominican Republic and Mexico. I don't get it.

July 5, 2011 2:44 PM
By Karyn (not verified)

I went to school with two Karens. I'm married to a Brian, my close friend is getting engaged to a Bryan, my sister was dating a Bryan, and I know at least three others. I have two first cousins and a cousin-in-law named Daniel, my sister has two ex-boyfriends named Daniel, and I have several friends with this name, too. I have multiple friends/acquaintances named Michael, Sara(h), David, Jonathan... I could keep going but I I think the point is made. All of these people were born between 1979 and 1993 and all of the names are quite "mainstream". The majority are Jewish, and I think that probably makes some difference, but I know plenty of "multiples" who are not.

And I had the same thought about the Yankees not all being born in the States.

July 5, 2011 5:19 PM
By Top 10 name of the 70s (not verified)

Depends on your cohort. I teach in an all-boys private school. It is in a WASP-y area, and here in Australia the trend for "kreatyv" naming is not so..ahem..embraced as it is in the US (especially among the demographics that can afford private school!)

In my 8th grade class (boys turning 14) I have 3 x James + 1 x Jamie, 2 x Harry, 2 x Thomas, 2 x Nicholas. Along with Will, these would make up the most popular names at the school.

Good sensible names for the future captains of industry!

I would suggest that any professional sporting team (a la the Yankees) would take in a range of cultures and demographics, and therefore a range of naming preferences. With the payment and draft system you are not necessarily getting "like" people in the one team - so naturally there would be a wide range of names. You would be better to conduct your research in a local Little League team.

July 6, 2011 11:27 AM
By Another British Laura (not verified)

I was one of 5 Lauras in my year at secondary school, plus a Lauren and there were Lauras in the years either side of mine that I knew.

It seems like in Britain everyone knows a handful of Dave/Davids and I know 4 Simons (one being my bf).

July 6, 2011 11:37 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

I went to a Jewish school and it was Old Testament boys names with snappy single syllable nicknames that reigned supreme. There were always seas of Joshes, Bens, Sams, Dans and Daves For girls it was Sarah/Sara and Rachel. As I was born in '89 we also had more than our fair share of Jennifers and Jessicas.

The only double names that weren't so predictable were in my elementary school where we had two girls named Elyse (but none named Elise) and two named Zoe (I being one of them).

July 6, 2011 11:41 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

Good point on Little Leagues! The men who signed the Declaration of Independence all had two major things in common: they were white and they were rich. If you head into any classroom you are bound to find doubles of certain names. But where you are makes things interesting.

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