What's in a Name?

Aug 14, 2017

Baby names tend to peak in popularity, and then decline over the following years. According to the Social Security Administration, none of the top ten male or female baby names in Iowa from 1960 showed up in the top ten in 2016. Names like David, Mary, Michael, and Lori have been slowly replaced by Oliver, Emma, Owen, and Olivia. Patricia O’Conner, language expert and author, discusses the decline in popularity in the once ever-present names "John" and "Mary."

O'Conner told Charity that John was the most popular male name in America for about 400 years, stemming back to the Mayflower, up until the 1920s; Mary was the top female name until the 1960s.

"Today, Mary is down below the top 100 nationally, as well in Iowa, as a choice for a girl's name. But John, meanwhile, is still a fairly popular name; it's now ranked 28th nationally among the top 1,000 names, and #59 in Iowa, which is pretty respectable. So that's sort of the background we're talking about when we  look at when names really started changing a lot."

On this Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe takes questions from listeners, and speaks with Patricia O'Conner, language expert and author of "Words Fail Me," "Woe is I" and other language books, as well as the proprietor of the blog "Grammarphobia."