THE BLOG
12/14/2011 06:00 am ET Updated Feb 13, 2012

Baby Names: What They Say About Our Times

My son played on a Little League team last year with Declan, Kennesaw, Tristan and Hunter. My daughter has twin classmates named Bohdi and Kai (they act on FX's "American Horror Story") and she has so many friends named Sara that we've taken to numbering them in conversation as in, "Mom, can I sleep at Sara #2's?"

I am the child of a Sam and Esther and niece of a Sylvia, Faye, Sophie, Nellie and Hy. See where I'm going with this?

I've long been a student of baby-naming conventions and what they say about our times. Do you know any Ronalds or Harolds under 40? Or any Taras over it?

What we name our children speaks a lot more about where we are emotionally at the time than where they may be headed in the future, and therein lies the problem. I'm sure Moon Unit or Dweezil Zappa would agree, as might their sister, Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. I know plenty of Jerrys and Janises named after Garcia and Joplin, respectively -- and not one of them has a musical bone in their body.

We bestow names with many considerations in mind -- our history, to honor a loved one, great figures we admire in literature -- but I suspect not many consider how our children will age with the names we give them. I still giggle at the idea of a nursing home filled with Tiffanys instead of Sadies and Shirleys. (But fortunately, since Tiffany hasn't been on a top 20 name list since the early 1980s, I don't think I'll be around long enough to see it happen.)

But names are important. First, they must be able to withstand not just the third-grade playground test (my heart breaks for all the Buckleys who must die a little each time a new kid "discovers" that with the change of just one letter, young Buck gets propelled into the no-fly zone), but names also must hold up to the test of time.

And as best as I can determine, one name has done just that: World, meet William -- although you likely already know a dozen of them.

Lots of blogsites keep track of what the most popular names are for any calendar year, but I'm turning to the Social Security Administration as the official record-keeper.

According to the Social Security Administration, the most popular baby names for 2010 for boys are: Jacob, Ethan, Michael, Jayden, William, Alexander, Noah, Daniel, Aiden and Anthony; and for girls: Isabella, Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Ava, Emily, Abigail, Madison, Chloe and Mia.

Take a look at the list of most-popular names for 1950, my birth year: Top 10 boys names were , Robert, John, Michael, David, William, Richard, Thomas, Charles, Gary, Larry; Top 10 girls names were Linda, Mary, Patricia, Barbara, Susan, Nancy, Deborah, Sandra, Carol, and Kathleen.

William has been around forever, appearing back in 1925 and then still holding his own in 2010. For all I know, he's been on every list in between and then some. The name, of Germanic origins, means protector of the realm or kingdom. How interesting, then, that we have no William running for president. (Anyone hoping for a Bill Clinton comeback?)

William even has a website devoted to all things William, which is where I was able to glean that it was a William who invented the baby carriage (1733, English architect William Kent for the 3rd Duke of Devonshire's children) and another William improved it a century and a half later (William H. Richardson patented an improvement to the baby carriage in the United States on June, 18, 1889.) We have a Prince William, better known as Kate Middleton's husband, and we have a William (Mitchell) who invented Pop Rocks, the Boomer candy-of-choice (circa 1956) that exploded in your mouth. Bill Coors developed the first all-aluminum beverage can and William Mark Felt was the Watergate scandal whistleblower better known to the world as "Deep Throat" -- two men, two separate events that while not exactly linked, both ultimately shaping this writer's life.

As for baby-naming on a wider scale, I'd draw your attention to a 13-pound baby born in Germany in November. His name: Jihad.