What’s In a Baby Name?

The Social Security Administration released the list of top baby names for 2011 and as I perused the list, I thought about the oft-repeated line among black parents when it comes to baby naming: make sure your kid gets the interview. In other words, if you give your child a name that’s too “black,” future employers will toss your kid’s resume in the trash can without even considering whether the child is qualified for the job.

So what does it mean when a name is too “black?” And too black for whom—white people, snooty black people, Asian people, old people, dumb people?

These are fascinating questions—and the answers probably depend on whom you ask. It’s sort of like what former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”

So I grabbed the list in search of the highest ranked name that absolutely would not get the interview—in my opinion, of course. The winner?

With these things, for some reason you have to go over to the girl side for the most egregious violators. Why is it that we get so much more creative with the girl names than the boy names?
Anyway, I digress.

The winner was Nevaeh (at least in the state of Georgia). Somehow Nevaeh is the 27th most popular girl name in Georgia. Not only have I never seen the name Nevaeh before, if I saw those particular letters written down on a piece of paper, I wouldn’t even be sure it was a name. How is it possible that Nevaeh is 27th and I’ve never seen or heard of it before? But there were 217 girls who were given that name last year in my home state of Georgia. It beat Ashley and Zoe and Aaliyah and Savannah and Caroline—names that show up on every girls’ soccer team in the U.S. How many soccer teams have a Nevaeh? Does yours? I think I’m demanding a recount.

There was a name whose popularity dangerously plummeted between 2010 and 2011: Jamarion. There were 112 fewer Jamarions who made their way into the world between 2010 and 2011—and clearly the world is a much poorer place because of it.

It goes without saying—Jamarion is definitely NOT getting the interview either.

And which names are the most popular in the U.S., once again (seemingly year after year)? Jacob and Sophia.

Yes, they would both get the interview—as they stood in line with the 55 other Jacobs and Sophias up for the same job.


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