A moan to Lisa

Image by Stuart Miles

Image by Stuart Miles

I never thought I’d see the day, but it’s finally happened: Lisa is on the endangered species list.

I knew so many Lisa’s growing up that it’s one of the few names that doesn’t conjure up any specific imagery for me–other than a girl who’s about my age. There are lots and lots of 40-something Lisa’s around. So many, in fact, that when people recognize me on the street as “Lisa Dinaberg,” I just smile and say hi. Most of the Lisa’s I know don’t even turn around quickly when someone calls out their name. It’s like yelling Mom at a soccer match, you could be one of dozens, and so you may as well wait for the second yell.

If I introduce myself to someone who’s hard of hearing, nine times out of ten they’ll say, “Nice to meet you, Lisa.” I just smile and nod.

It’s hard to fight the power of Lisa. I’ve been answering to her my whole life.

I just about fell off my chair in shock as I read about Lisa’s fate this week when the Social Security Administration came out with its annual list of most popular names.

All of the headlines were full of the fact that Emily was #1 for the 12th straight year (snooze), while Jacob took the lead for the 9th time in a row (snore), but they missed the real story. What about the demise of Lisa’s?

Sure, Lisa had a good run. She was the most popular girl’s name in the United States from 1962 to 1969–hence all the soccer moms named Lisa running around–and she stayed in the top ten till 1976. But her numbers have declined steadily since then. Last year she hit a record low and was ranked 573rd.

She was ranked 573rd!

Take a deep breath and consider the significance of this. In my kindergarten class, there were seven Lisa’s, which using Leslie Math translates into 70 gazillion Lisa’s now walking around on treadmills to avoid getting varicose veins.

Now, there are more girl babies named Nevaeh (#31), which is “heaven” spelled backwards, than Lisa. Spiritual names like Destiny (# 41) Trinity (# 72), Serenity (# 126) and Harmony (# 315) also beat out Lisa last year. I guess heavenly names are big these days.

The green movement is also inspiring names, with Jade (#113), Ivy (#301), Autumn (#91), Aurora (#317), Skye (#475), Summer (#158), Violet (#231), Hazel (#361) and Amber (#146) outranking Lisa.

While the heavenly and earthly trends follow fashion in other areas, “for reasons likely to puzzle baby name experts around the world, American parents have become infatuated by names, particularly for their sons, that rhyme with the word ‘maiden,'” says Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security.

For boys there is Jayden (#18), Aiden (#27), Aidan (#54), Jaden (#76), Caden (#92), Kaden (#98), Ayden (#102), Braden (#156), Cayden (#175), Jaiden (#191), Kaiden (# 220), Aden (# 264), Caiden (# 286), Braeden (# 325), Braydon (# 361), Jaydon (# 415), Jadon (# 423), Braiden (#529), Zayden (#588), Jaeden (#593), Aydan (#598), Bradyn (#629), Kadin (#657), Jadyn (#696), Kaeden (#701), Jaydin (#757), Braedon (#805), Aidyn (#818), Haiden (#820), Jaidyn (#841), Kadyn (#878), Jaydan (#887), Raiden (#931), and Adin (#983). This startling trend was present, but less pronounced, with girls names: Jayden (#172), Jadyn (#319), Jaden (#335), Jaiden (#429), Kayden (#507), and Jaidyn (#561).

Social Security spokesman Mark Lassiter says that the agency will resist any legislative efforts to standardize the spelling of these names. Imagine the bureaucracy associated with that.

Lisa’s never had to worry about whether their name would be spelled with a random vowel combination or an extra “y” in the middle, which might be part of the reason they’re on their way to Extinctionville.

Poor Lisa. It’s tough for me to enjoy such a hollow victory dance, but I feel journalistically obligated to tell you that Leslie (spelled the right way) was ranked 127th.

I totally kicked Raiden’s butt, too.

Share your thoughts with Lisa, we mean Leslie, by emailing email. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.com.
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 16, 2008.

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