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By any other name


The cycles of personal names have been tracked in recent years by the New York Times, showing a clear link between popular culture and how we tag our offspring. Tiffanys abound lately (in various spellings), though I suspect that moniker has passed its prime. Movie stars have been a common source (Heath, for example) or the characters they play on the big or more often the little screen (Hannah, as in Montana, will probably spike this year). If you’re searching for a top choice–or wish, on the other hand, to avoid popularity like the plague–I recommend a U.S. government website that lists the twenty most popular names by year since 1879. Enjoy.

When’s the last time you met someone under the age of forty named Leonard or Edna? It only confirms the addage: “Nothing seems so old as that which only recently seemed so new.” My given name, for example, was supposed to be Roy, like my father and grandfather. But Marge would hear nothing of it, so Ronald I was labelled. More’s the pity. I loathe my name and always have. If you must address me, make it “Ronald,” rather than “Ron.” Never, please, never call me “Ronnie”–that was and will forever be a president who I took great pleasure in voting against.


A postcard recently came into my possession, a real photo studio card of a stylish young woman. It is postmarked 1912, which seems confirmed by her ensemble–if not virginal white, then some pastel shade of a refreshing summer sorbet. “Boo,” she writes to her friend Ella Martins in Peoria, “does this scare you most awfully?” The card is simply signed Esmay and sent from Allerton, Iowa, in the south central part of the state near the major railroad hub of Creston. I visited the train station there once.

Ancestry.com has not been forthcoming with any likely candidates to have been this charming young woman, but I haven’t given up. With or without further biographical detail, Esmay has already become part of the Agincourt community, certainly someone’s daughter-wife-mother-friend-lover-confidant-etc. Time will tell.

And, if not, I will.

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