Just Your Average Name Of The Year

Filed under: Baby Names

Joe The PlumberAmerican culture was dominated by politics this past year, and according to Laura Wattenberg, the baby-naming business was no exception.

Wattenberg, author of the book The Baby Name Wizard and founder of the website of the same name, tells ParentDish that this year's Name of the Year might come as a bit of a surprise. When she invited readers of he Baby Wizard blog to contribute nominations for the 2008 Name of the Year, many votes were political.

So what was the big winner?

Joe.

Joe the lumberjack, Joe Six-pack, Amtrak Joe Biden, and, of course, Joe The Plumber. Joe made a huge come-back this year.

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"Everything was politics, and so many people suggested the name Joe," she says. "This is a name that represents the Everyman. Now that is an anachronism, because your average Joe isn't named Joe anymore."

According to Wattenberg, whose book and website are based on an algorithm that takes into account thousands of pieces of historical and cultural data, the name represents the salt of the earth, the guy next door who always has the right wrench and whose favorite after-dinner libation is a cold can of Budweiser. The guy who lives in, say, Iowa.

However, Joe is less likely to live in Iowa than in New Jersey, Wattenberg adds, pointing out that the name Joe is one of the lowest-ranked names in the Hawkeye state, which is one of the most prominent political barometers in the nation. Joe is a name, says Wattenberg, that suggests a certain comforting nostalgia, a kind of cultural unity that doesn't exist anymore. It ranked 403 in popularity in 2007, according to the list released annually by the Social Security Administration; Jacob and Emily topped as #1 for boys and girls, respectively. In another name survey by Baby Center, Emma and Aiden were most popular for 2008.

Ironically, the name is more likely to be co-opted by the so-called "urban elite," says Wattenberg. So just what is the average Joe naming his kids in Iowa?

"Brayden, Jayden, Cayden," says Wattenberg. "People who used to name their kids Joe are inventing names, to make their kids more special, more unique." People like former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, perhaps, who spoke of small-town American values, but named her kids Trig and Bristol.

"Trig the Plumber" just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Despite it's zeitgeist, the name is unlikely to catch on in a big way, although it may take hold in communities where Max, Sam and Jack are popular, Wattenberg says.

What about last year's Name of the Year? What moniker captured the nation's fancy in 2007?

Why, Barack, of course.

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