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Sherman Says: The names should be changed, to protect the innocent

SPRINGVILLE — The Social Security Administration recently announced the most popular baby names for 2012. Michael and Sophia topped the New York state list.

The top five boys’ names for 2012 in New York were, in order, Michael, Jacob, Jayden, Ethan and Mason. Tops in popularity for girls were Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Olivia and Ava.

Jacob and Sophia are repeat champions, as America’s most popular baby names.

This is the 14th consecutive year that Jacob tops the list for boys and the second year, for Sophia. There are two new names in the national top 10, this year, as Elizabeth and Liam replaced Chloe and Daniel.

This is the first time Liam broke into the top 10. SSA staffers speculated that Liam’s newfound success can be attributed to Liam Neeson’s recent major roles in the films “Taken” and “The Chronicles of Narnia,” or Liam Hemsworth’s repeat appearances in the “Hunger Games” trilogy.

Many pop culture naming trends appeared in the “change in popularity” page on the Social Security’s baby names website. This year’s winners for biggest jump in popularity in the top 500 are Major and Arya.

While I grimace at bizarre spelling for traditional names, there is something to be said about names from the good old days.

Dora Wetzel, wife of Eusebius Wetzel, lived in Williamsville, during the mid-19th century. Those are two great names. We can only presume that Mr. Wetzel was named in honor of the original Eusebius, who was a Roman historian and scholar. That individual became the bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, in approximately 314.

Dora, of course, was a world-class explorer. In the 1930s, a man named Lincoln Beard lived in Clarence. That is a classic.

While no one could have foreseen the future, the match of two other Clarence residents was made in heaven. “The death of Elmer Stairs, a resident of Clarence Center for nine years, occurred on Monday, March 14, 1938. His marriage to Grace Wood was solemnized May 1, 1912.”

Would the headline for their wedding announcement have read, “Wood – Stairs?” I hope so.

Sometimes, your given name leads you down the path to your career, as an adult. Such was the case for the Rev. Wallace Easter, who practiced his faith in Clarence, approximately 50 years ago.

The manager of a Williamsville movie theater, Menno Dykstra, had a name that deserved to be up in lights.

The combination of first and last names is carefully weighed, by expectant parents. Names that rhyme should always be avoided, but apparently no one gave that advice to the parents of Lucy Gilhooly.

Who could forget someone with the ornamental name of Schuyler Bigelow? It sounds like the name of a character from “The Great Gatsby.”

The Social Security Administration’s announcement came out, days after I read profiles about individuals’ seeking election to local boards of education. One local candidate pointed out that her husband is a part-time hockey coach and went on to brag about their three sons, London, Maxim and Vanek.

Geography played an important role in another set of parents’ decision, when their suburban Buffalo son was born, 18 years ago. He was named Boston. Only they know if their inspiration was a Massachusetts city, a New York state town or a rock group.

My first name was the second most popular for boys, in the year 1955. I have been told this was because of the popularity of the Davy Crockett television series. Fess Parker, the homespun actor who portrayed Crockett, had a colorful name of his own.

The name David slipped to No. 15 last year, in the Empire State. It was No. 26 last year in Tennessee, where Crockett spent his youth. However, the name Fess does not appear in the top 1,000 names for any year in the last century. What a relief.

David Sherman is the managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.
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