Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hey, that's my name, too: Popular school names follow national trends

If you were to randomly select a senior, chances are you would pick a “Sarah.”

Of the seven “Sarahs” currently attending (or teaching) at SCDS, five are in the high school and, of those five, four are in the senior class.

That is to say roughly 11 percent of the senior class is named “Sarah.”

This level of popularity follows the trends shown on Social Security Online (S.S.O.), a Website that lists the top 200 names per decade for male and female babies.

“Sarah” was the fourth most popular name for girls born in the 1990s, according to S.S.O., having jumped into the top 20 names for girls in the 1970s.

According to senior Sarah Habbas, having four “Sarahs” in a grade tends to cause some confusion, especially when all four share a class, like junior AP English last year.

“You could never know if someone was talking to you or not,” Habbas said.
Senior Sarah Fleming agrees.

“It can be embarrassing when you react and they aren’t talking to you,” she said.

Fleming and Sarah Mancina, also a senior, are both members of the SCDS piano trio, playing violin and cello respectively.

They avoid confusion by using the nicknames “Big Sarah” for Mancina and “Little Sarah” for Fleming.

These come from both their heights and instrument sizes, as the violin is much smaller than the cello.

While popular in the high school, “Sarah” is all but absent in the faculty and lower grades, following the downward trend reflected by S.S.O.’s rankings.

However, there are currently five “Patricias” on the staff.

This is consistent with the name’s peak in the 1950s and ‘60s as the third and fifth most popular girls’ name, respectively.

After this boom in popularity, the name’s prevalence dropped, and it no longer appears in the top 200 baby names.

Neither English teacher Patricia Fels nor art teacher Patricia Kelly runs into problems with the duplicate names.

Most people call Fels by her last name.

There were multiple “Patricias” in Fels’s elementary school, where she adopted the nickname “Fels.”

“[This] started in fifth grade when I sat in front of a girl named Patti Fenner. So to make it easier, I just became Fels and she was Fenner,” she said.

For Kelly, the solution was her initials.

Most now know her as “Ms. PK,” though some still call her Patricia.

And everyone knows math teacher Patricia Dias as “Mrs. D” (if they remember not to call her
“Ms. J” as they did before she married last year).

Though numerous on the faculty, “Patricia” is missing altogether from the student body.
But other names are on the rise.

There are five girls named Zoe between the middle and lower schools and not a single one in the faculty or upper grades.

This coincides with its appearance in the top 200 baby names of the 1980s, rising from 179 in the 1990s to 54 in the 2000s.

The trends for boy names can also be traced through the school.

“Brandon” is as prominent in the high school as “Sarah,” with five between the four grades.
There are, however, only two in the rest of the school.

“Brandon” peaked in the 1990s at 11 before dropping back down to 21 in the 2000s.

Though there are two “Brandons” in the sophomore class, according to Brandon Pefferle, this doesn’t cause many problems.

“People just call me by my last name, and sometimes [Brandon Mysicka] too,” Pefferle said.

Of the five “Jacobs” in the school, four are in the middle and lower schools, consistent with that name’s rise in popularity in the 2000s.

It has replaced “Michael” as the most popular name for boys.

“Jack” and “Jackson” are two names popular schoolwide, with eight in the student body.

“Jack” has risen from 167 in the 1980s to 40 in the 2000s, while “Jackson” didn’t appear in the top 200 boy names in the 1980s but jumped to 42 in the 2000s.

There has also been a spike in popularity of androgynous names in the middle and lower schools.

There are four “Aidans” and one “Aiden” in the lower and middle schools

These sprang into the 54th and 55th spots for boys respectively in the 2000s after not making the top 200 names for boys or girls any decade prior.

“Sam” is also common throughout the student body for both boys and girls, with six “Sams” and one “Sami.”

“Sam” appears to be consistently popular in all grades, while, according to S.S.O. “Sam” is on the rise for boys, going from 52 in the 1980s to 24 in the 2000s.

High-school teacher Brooke Wells occasionally encounters confusion about his name with people who don’t know him.

“I sometimes get letters addressed to Ms. Brooke Wells, college counselor,” he said.

Though his name does tend to cause confusion, Wells is proud of it.

“I was named after my grandfather, Lt. Colonel Kenneth Brooke,” said Wells. “[Wells’s name] was a token of respect to him.”

Why so many parents choose “Sarah” or “Patricia” at any given time can’t be proven.

In Kelly’s case, she was named after a cousin because her mother liked the name, while Fels
was named after her mother.

Fleming’s cousin’s name inspired her parents to name her “Sarah.”

Mancina’s parents wavered between “Rose” and “Francesca” before finally deciding on “Sarah.”

“They just liked [Sarah] the most,” said Mancina.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, in their book “Freakonomics,” found a correlation between
the financial situation of the parents and their child’s name.

Using the work of Roland G. Fryer Jr., a Harvard professor who examined the birth-certificate information of every child born in California since 1961, they found that parents name their children with names that sound “successful.”

“It is the family just a few blocks over, the one with the bigger house and newer car,” they write in the book.

“Parents are reluctant to poach a name from someone too near—family members or close friends—but many parents, whether they realize it or not, like the sound of names that sound ‘successful.’”

Name trends begin with the elite, they write. When a name becomes popular among the richest or most successful or intelligent, it trickles down through the tiers of society, as all want their children to experience the same success as others.

Eventually, a name becomes so commonplace it is no longer “high-end,” and falls out of common usage as society moves on to the next “it” moniker.

Using this theory, Dubner and Levitt predicted what they believe could be some of the top boys’ and girls’ names of 2015.

For girls: Annika, Eleanora, Isabel, Maya and Philippa. And for boys: Anderson, Bennett, Carter, Sander and Oliver.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bouncer wins battle to clear his name

A BOUNCER who was prosecuted after defending the public against a man armed with a knife has cleared his name.

Sami Lahmadi was working for Dick De Vigne’s in Warrior Square, Southend, when he was threatened by three angry clubbers who had been thrown out of the venue.

Mr Lahmadi, 43, from Southend, stood up to the men and chased them off with a metal pole when he caught sight of a knife.

But Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyers decided he had used excessive force, throwing Mr Lahmadi into a year-long battle to overturn the charges.

Mr Lahmadi has now won his appeal in court.

The CPS declined to comment on Mr Lahmadi’s case.