The Name Game
December 21, 2016

As President-elect Donald Trump fills his last remaining Cabinet positions, analysts are turning to his ambassador appointments as the next signal to how the president-elect will run his government. While Trump has already named South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, and conservative hard-liner David Friedman as the ambassadors to the U.N., China, and Israel, respectively, the remaining posts could indicate whether Trump plans to stick to a more traditional ambassador team or whether he will buck the norm.

Trump is reportedly considering former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman for ambassador to Japan, a choice that would appease the party establishment as Huntsman is an experienced diplomat in East Asia, but the president-elect is also said to be considering less traditional figures like New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and New York developer Peter Kalilow. As Maggie Haberman writes in The New York Times:

President-elect Donald J. Trump feels he owes little to the Republican establishment donor set, a majority of whom opposed him. He also ran a campaign that challenged longstanding shibboleths of American diplomacy. Mr. Trump's choice of ambassadors could be a sign of how serious he is about both those stances. But as his transition team begins sifting through possible choices for a dozen major embassies, the signals are unclear. [The New York Times]

Trump will also have to contend with competing opinions, as his closest advisers are split on whether the president-elect would be smart to use his ambassadorships to reward donors and supporters he might need down the line, or whether he should try to bring outsiders on-board with his campaign with the posts. Read more at The New York Times. Kimberly Alters

May 27, 2015

If you know a Jennifer, she's probably in her late 20s or early 30s, while Aunts Linda and Carol are likely turning 65 this year. Thanks to this name/age calculator, it's easy to see when a given name peaked in popularity, a measure which is often a reliable indicator of someone's age.

But names also correlate with professions, states, pop culture events, and even your political leanings:

  • Jobs: Luigi and Bobby are disproportionately likely to drive race cars, while I (Bonnie) apparently missed my calling as an interior decorator.
  • States: Thanks to uneven immigration patterns, Arizona has a lot of Garcias and Montoyas, while my state of Minnesota is packed with Scandinavian surnames like Peterson and Hansen.
  • Culture: Shirley Temple on screen means more Shirleys; Game of Thrones on screen means more Khaleesis. (It's a title, guys! Come on!)
  • Politics: Malik and Natasha lean the furthest left, while Delbert and Brittney are most likely to vote GOP.

Click over to the Washington Post to figure out how well your name fits with your life. Bonnie Kristian

September 17, 2014

What's in a name? When it comes to how to refer to the extremist group that has terrorized Syria and northern Iraq and violently imposed a caliphate, a lot.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a bit of a misnomer, says France, as it lends the imprimatur of Islam to a group that the vast majority of Muslims finds despicable. "This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims, and Islamists," France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement. "The Arabs call it 'Daesh' and I will be calling them the 'Daesh cutthroats.'"

The name Daesh, according to France24, is a "loose acronym" for "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham). The name is commonly used by enemies of ISIS, and it also has many negative undertones, as Daesh sounds similar to the Arabic words Daes ("one who crushes something underfoot") and Dahes ("one who sows discord"). Samantha Rollins

May 9, 2014

The last time a name other than Michael or Jacob was the most popular baby name for boys born in the U.S. — 1960 — President Obama hadn't been born yet, and Russia was our No. 1 geopolitical foe. Some things haven't changed, but in a decades-in-the-making surprise, the Social Security Administration declared Noah to be the most popular boy's name of 2013, followed by Liam. Jacob dropped to third place, while Michael languished in seventh position, after 55 years as either the first or second most popular name for boys.

For girls, Sophia reigned supreme in 2013, followed by Emma and Isabella; while the popularity of girls' names has fluctuated more widely over the decades, this continues a trend for Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella, and Ava to duke it out for the pole position.

The real fun in the SSA baby name report, however, comes from its list of fastest-rising baby names: Jayceon — rapper and reality TV star The Game's given name — won that contest for the boys, while Daleyza — the name of Mexican regional singer Larry Hernandez's daughter, who appears on his popular reality show — rose an astonishing 3130 spots in the ranking from 2012. Other names you'll soon be hearing mothers scream more often on your local playground include Zayn, Azariah, and Kalel for boys, and Jurnee, Everleigh, and Gwyneth for girls.

If you're expecting a baby and looking for some new (or old) ideas, or you just have an extra hour or nine to browse the last century-plus of baby name trends in the U.S., head on over to the SSA's baby name website. You can also check out the video below for 2013's top 10 baby name countdown. --Mike Barry

See More Speed Reads