What people name our most precious possessions, our children, has always fascinated me, as longtime readers of this column may have noticed.
    Some of us, including the Dicksons, opt for traditional family names, even if they sometimes sound a bit old-fashioned, odd or dated. This course does seem to have limits, however. I know several young Emmas and Ellas and Jacobs and Aarons, but no young Ethels and Berthas or Clarences and Elmers. Perhaps the resurgence of those names lies in the years ahead.
    {mosimage}Others of us go for the creative, choosing names from other nations and cultures, or simply creating a new and unique name for a new and unique human being. Occasionally I run into an unusual name whose bearer tells me it means virtue or beauty in some other language, but this path has its pitfalls as well. Naming a girl Chandelier seems a bit off base to me, as does the legal name I once read in the newspaper for a girl. The name was spelled using the numeral 8. Both of those choices seemed destined to set up those individuals up to deliver explanations all their lives.
    Still others of us honor someone we admire by naming our children for him or her. I have a cousin named Jessica in honor of a great friend of her parents and another cousin named Robert in honor of the doctor who delivered him.
Some of us name our children for people we admire but may not know personally, and with the advent of a new administration in Washington, we seem to be entering a new era in Presidential baby-naming as well.
    When I was growing up, it was common in Fayetteville to meet men named Franklin Roosevelt Smith or Franklin Roosevelt Jones in tribute to the President who led our country out of the Great Depression and who guided us and the world through World War II. My generation has more than a few Dwight Davids, in honor of the World War II military hero and United States President Dwight David Eisenhower. A bit later, I met several John Kennedy Somebodies, and there were even a few Lyndons running around, probably mostly in Texas. Not surprisingly, the name Theodore as in Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th President from 1901-1909, peaked in the early 1900s, according to the Social Security Administration which keeps up with such things. A trip to its Web site to tour baby names makes an interesting afternoon diversion and clearly illustrates the long American tradition of honoring our Presidents in this fashion. It is an Internet journey well worth the trip to me.
    The practice of Presidential naming seems to have fallen from favor shortly after the rash of Lyndons. Maybe folks just did not want to name their sons after Richard Nixon and his successors. Maybe we became cynical about instead of admiring of our leaders, or maybe the 1960s made us all especially creative, but for whatever reasons, there do not seem to be many Jerry Fords, Jimmy Carters or George Bushes running around in American neighborhoods these days.
    All of that appears ready to change.
    Jennifer 8. Lee — yes, 8, just like the newborn whose name I read in the newspaper, reports in the New York Times that Barack Jeilah was born to a mother in Phoenix, Ariz., after she got so excited on election night that she jumped up and down and promptly went into labor. Across the Atlantic Ocean, Michelle Obama was born to a mother in Kisumu, Kenya.
    Can little Malias and Sachas be far behind? {mosimage}
    If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then American Presidents, or at least some of them, should be proud that we lesser mortals name our children after them and their families. But the honor of Presidential naming comes with built in risk. The Times also tells us that bad economic times and scandal bode ill for Presidents with such problems and their potential namesakes. In 1928, Hoover — as in Herbert, was in the top 400 for boy’s names. But three years later, when the Great Depression had the entire nation in its grip, Hoover was pushing 1,000. Similarly, Clinton was a top 200 boy name during much of the 1970s and 1980s, but by 1999 and countless news stories about Monica Lewinsky and her berets and blue dresses later, Clinton had tanked to nearly 700.
    I suspect that what we are already beginning to see is the first wave of many Baracks, Michelles, Malias and Sachas who will be named in honor of our nation’s new, young, and attractive First Family. None of us can predict the future, of course, or know whether or how long these names will make the Social Security Administration’s Top 20 list.
    I do believe, though, that kindergarten teachers in classrooms across the nation in the fall of 2013 will make name tags for so many eager Baracks, Michelles, Malias and Sachas that most of them will be known as Barack A, Michelle B, and so on through Z.

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