Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Name Game

No. The title isn't about the hit song in 1964 by Shirley Ellis by the same name. But names are a fun subject as we found out while on the road in March of this year. I was traveling with the two oldest Grandkids. As I get older, so do they. And as they get older, they gain in wisdom And quite frankly, my Grandkids are smart. Maybe smarter than I was at their age. Okay, for sure, they are smarter than I was at their age. But as wise? I dunno.
I am the fortunate one that has a fantastic relationship with these fabulous children. I am so blessed to have them in my life. One of the best parts of our relationship is the time we spend talking to each other. General conversation for the most part, but I get to learn what they are learning if I pay attention.
Sometimes it’s a school lesson or subject. A project they are working on. Like the time the oldest, Anna, wanted to discuss the American Revolution. Turns out she chooses to side with the French! Another example was when 12 year old DJ needed to tell me the most common first name on earth and did so by asking me if I knew the answer to that particular question.
I remembered from way back that I thought John was the most common first name. DJ immediately told me that it wasn’t John. “It is Mohammed”, he said emphatically.
I countered with, “Well, maybe John is the most common first name in the United States.” I added, “And Joseph, my name, is second.” 
I was making this up and hoped I was right. I at least hoped they wouldn’t challenge me as I wasn’t really quite sure. Seems these kids are getting too smart. On DJ’s insistence, we went to the almighty computer and did a search. Sure enough, in the whole of the world, the most common first name is Mohammed. In the United States, James gets the nod.

John is second, and Joseph, my namesake, comes in a lowly ninth. The name Joe, a derivative of Joseph in most cases, is down the list at 51st! Most folks call me Joe or Joey. By the way, Joey comes in at number 307.
I revolted. “If Joe isn’t more popular than that, why do we have so many references to Joe?” 
Hey Joe, (Where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?), Cuppa Joe, Morning Joe, Joe Momma, Plain Old Joe, GI Joe, Say it ain’t so, Joe, Joe this, Joe that, Joe the other. Joe the plumber. Joe the bartender. Joe’s bar. Joe’s Diner. Joe’s Bar and Grill, Eat at Joe’s. Joe Mauer, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Joe Hill. 
Cowboy Joe, Joe Millionaire, Joe Blow, Average Joe. Not to mention the use of Joe as a middle name. Billy Joe, Bobby Joe, Randy Joe. There is a Joe, North Carolina and a Joey is what they call a baby kangaroo in Australia. And how many more using the shortened version, spelling Joe without the “E” on the end like Mary Jo? Who is Joe Blow anyway?
Why when I was a kid, a fictitious character we all sought to mock was a character we called Joe Matradatz! I mean, if James is so damn popular, why don’t they use his name for coffee? Cuppa Jim, or Jim Matradatz?
Now, in our name controversy, I had the upper hand. As a 12 year old, DJ hadn’t heard of all these references. Then, we looked up his first name, Derek. He came in at 163rd! Click on these handy links for reference and see where your name is. They have girls too, that list is HERE. The boys names are at This Link.
I managed to get him to agree that Joe should be up higher since it had such significant press and usage, you know, being a part of the vernacular and all. But the facts didn’t lie. At least I was higher than Derek. By the way, he was named after his Grand Fathers. His Dad’s Dad and his Mom’s Dad. Well, he’d have a name higher up on the list if his Father hadn’t insisted that his Dad’s name went first. DJ stands for Derek Joseph. Had he been named JD, he could have been right up there near the top. 
Now, I think I’ll do a search for girls names and see where Josephine comes in. Holy Crap, that one is 121st. Mary gets the number one place. Sorry Anna. You’re at 33, ahead of Derek, but your real name, Arianna is at 2495th.
Where does your name fall in? What were your parents thinking? I remember wanting our first born, if it was a girl, to be Maggie. We used the biblical Margaret, and slanged it to Maggie. Alyssa, our second born, was taken from a book of names. (Must have been smokin’ a little that night). We liked the sound of it. There isn’t a soul that calls her Alyssa. Everyone says Melissa, Poor kid. Mea Culpa. 
Our third daughter is Jayne. It had to have that weird spelling as it was to honor someone that my spousal unit thought very highly of. We call her Jane or Jay’-Nee, but spell it with the “Y” in there. By the way, she hates the phrase “Plain Jane”, and her nicknames is Binky. Go figure.
There can be no end to the stories behind someone’s name or names of towns. I remember reading a book by author William Least Heat Moon called “Blue Highways”. He circumnavigated the USA and wrote about his exploits, similar to “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck.
Moon put great emphasis on the unusual names of places. Like Dime Box, TX, Nameless, TN and Remote, OR. Have some fun looking at the names of American cities and towns in This Reference.
Another game we played while on the road was to find a name of a town or city and see how many states it is common to. I think there are 20 Ashlands. Topping this list with 49 is Greenville. That puts a Greenville in almost every state. Guess which state doesn’t have a Greenville. By the way, Franklin is second with 30 states having a city by that name. 
Playing with names of people, places and things can be a lot of fun. Have some fun of your own and report back. I’m sure there is a story for every name. Smith? Johnson? If your last name is one of these two, you are ranked one and two respectively and encompass over 4,600,000 of the population in the US. I live on Johnson Street. Let me see how common that is. 40th. How about that!
Author's Note: I wrote this after our recent March 2012 trip to New Mexico. I have logged over 9000 miles on a motorcycle or driving a car since April 28th. I will eventually be putting together video and still photos from these trips and publishing the stories over the next few months. This should keep me busy between trips the entire Summer.


Mary said...

I really didn't think Mary was a very common name anymore. Rarely (really never) come across one. In elementary school there were so many Mary's I had to go by Mary D. which I hated. Very surprised by this revelation.

billie said...

i don't think i come close to any popularity with my name :) mine is old english and i get mistaken for bobbi all of the time...which is probably more popular than billie- although you know two :)

Dawn Elliott said...

You always write the most interesting posts, Joe! I went and looked up my name...I'm 146th with Dawn...who knew? Glad to hear you have smart communicative grandkids...I just spent a long weekend with extended family and had a blast!

Mel said...

Oh!! Games! FUN!!
Debates with short people!

Lemme assure you, I rarely win, but it ain't the winning that matters in that one!

I always ask the kiddos "What'd ya learn in school today" when they leave the classroom....and gosh darn it if they don't amaze me with some of the stuff they come up with.
*laughing* Most times I smile and nod, make a mental note and wait to look it up on the www! LOL Sonofagun.....most times I'm catching up to THEM!

Oh, and I checked.
I ain't even on the list. *laughing*

I'm okay with that.
I knew I wouldn't make the 'common' list. 3359th if I go by what folks dub me!
MORE proof that I'm an alien! Hahahahahaha

I only 'appear' common cuz of the union with the 'resident alien' who landed 34th with his first and 27th with his last!
*laughing* How's that for a 'cover up'?!!