Pop culture plays an increasing role in how people arrive at names for their offspring.
When Elvis Presley arrived on the scene, there were folks who named their children after him. For the past 56 years, the name "Elvis" had been in the top 1,000. Last year, it dropped off. Elvis has been dead for nearly 34 years. I guess people forget.
Harris, the name I was given, hit an all-time popularity of 750 out of 1,000 in the year I was born. It hasn’t cracked the top 1,000 since 1988, when it reached 971. My middle name, Cooper, was not even on the charts until I was 22-years-old.
In the last few years, Cooper has found new popularity and was No. 76 in 2010.
I’ve never hated either of my names, but I found it frustrating when trying to buy bike tags and key chains with an imprinted name. Neither Harris nor Cooper was anywhere to be found.
The most popular boy’s name of 2010 was Jacob. I don’t think it was because of some new fascination with the Old Testament, where Jacob was a leader of the Hebrew people. The second most popular name was Ethan, who was a cymbal player in King David’s court.
The most popular girl’s name of 2010 was Isabella, which has a rather regal sound, as in Queen Isabella, who dispatched Christopher Columbus to the New World. I don’t think the popularity has anything to do with our history. Coming up second among girls is Sophia, followed by Emma and Olivia.
I have great-nieces named Sophia and Emma. This may be one of the first times the Blackwoods have been on the cutting edge of names.
The names that grew the most in popularity were Maci for girls and Bentley for the boys. Maci Bookout is a reality TV star of a show called "16 and Pregnant." Bentley is the name of her baby boy.
When I was growing up, one of the most popular shows was "Bonanza." I don’t know that there was any spike in the names of Ben, Hoss, Little Joe or Hop Sing. In the earlier years, Pernell Roberts, who was from Waycross, played Adam. I don’t know that many guys in their 50s named Pernell.
Another popular show was "The Andy Griffith Show," which to the best of my knowledge did not result in an increase in names like Barney, Goober, Gomer or Opie. Although I think it is fair to point out that like Ethan, Barney Fife played the cymbals in the Mayberry band.
The fine gentleman who is my boss is named Nathan, which is No. 27 for 2010 and has been in the top 100 for nearly 40 years. That’s another one of those with good Biblical origins.
There weren’t any reality shows when he was born and the top stars of the day were named Bing, Bob, and Milton.
There are all sorts of reasons to give someone a name. Love and admiration of family is not a bad one. I’m named for the doctor who saved both my life and my mother’s during a complicated delivery.
I keep hoping the proverbial pendulum of life might one day swing back in the right direction. Until then, children will be named for folks on the public stage with less than good behavior.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on