How popular is the baby name Joseph in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Joseph.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Joseph


Posts that Mention the Name Joseph

Popular Baby Names in NWT, 2019

According to Cabin Radio, the most popular* baby names in the Canadian territory of Northwest Territories in 2019 were Zoey and Elias/John/Joseph/Michael (4-way tie).

Here are Northwest Territories’ top girl names and top boy names of 2019:

Girl Names

  1. Zoey (4 girls)
  2. Emily, Hazel, Kinsley, Lily (3 girls each)
  3. Adeline, Alexandra, Amelia, Anastasia, Ashley, Aurora, Blair, Edie, Ella, Evelyn, Everly, Helena, Josie, Lexie, Lilah, Madeline, Madison, Miley, Myla, Nevaeh, Neve, Ruby, Ruth, Sadie, Serenity, Sofia, Sophie, Victoria, Willa (2 girls each)

Boy Names

  1. Elias, John, Joseph, Michael (3 boys each)
  2. Aiden, Benjamin, Bodhi, Carter, Charles, David, Dominic, Dylan, Edward, Elliott, Felix, Hudson, Iverson, Jack, Jeremiah, Jimmy, Jonah, Joshua, Lennox, Levi, Mackenzie, Maverick, Nate, Nathan, Nicholas, Noah, Riel, Theo, Timothy, Walker, Wesley (2 boys each)

In 2018, the top names in NWT were Carter, John, Olivia, and Peyton (with 4 babies each). In 2015, the top names were Abigail and Liam. And in 2020, the very first baby born in NWT was named Axel.

Sources: Zoey is the NWT’s most popular baby name of 2019, The NWT’s top baby names of 2018

*These rankings only cover NWT births through early December.

The Arrival of Arbadella

Amos ‘n’ Andy baby-naming contest ad, 1936

The similar names Arbadella and Arbedella both debuted in the SSA baby name data in 1936, and both saw peak usage the following year:

ArbadellaArbedella
19408 baby girlsunlisted
19397 baby girlsunlisted
193812 baby girls5 baby girls
193733 baby girls [peak]9 baby girls [peak]
19366 baby girls [debut]6 baby girls [debut]
1935unlistedunlisted

What was the influence?

The radio serial Amos & Andy — one of the very first situation comedies. The initial version of the show (1928-1943) aired for 15 minutes, five days per week, and was the most popular radio program in the nation in the late 1920’s and early 30’s. In fact, the show’s “popularity ensured the success of radio broadcasting as a form of mass entertainment.”

The show “was based on the model of minstrel shows, [and] thus based on racial stereotypes.” The main characters — African-American men named Amos Jones and Andy Brown — were played by white radio performers Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

In an episode that aired during October of 1936, Amos and his wife Ruby welcomed their first child, a baby girl. The baby wasn’t named right away — instead, the show’s sponsor, Pepsodent Tooth Paste, held a baby-naming contest.

The contest was advertised in newspapers nationwide. The ads noted that the judges would consider “originality, uniqueness, and suitability” when making their decision, and also offered some name-choosing prompts, such as:

  • “…you might think “Amanda” would be a suitable name because it contains so many of the letters of both “Amos” and “Andy.””
  • “…remember, too, the baby’s maternal grandmother is named Lillian.”

Thousands of prizes were offered, including a $5,000 grand prize. Here’s the full list (and what the prizes would be worth in today’s dollars):

  • 1st: $5,000 in baby bonds (equivalent to $92,183.93 in 2020)
  • 2nd: $1,000 in baby bonds ($18,436.79)
  • 3rd: $100 baby bond to each of 10 winners ($1,843.68)
  • 4th: $50 baby bond to each of 100 winners ($921.84)
  • 5th: $25 baby bond to each of 720 winners ($460.92)
  • 6th: $2 cash to each of 2000 winners ($36.87)

The contest closed in mid-November. The winning name, Arbadella — suggested by Mrs. Joseph L. Smith of Ohio — was announced in mid-December. (The second-place name, Ladicia Ann, was suggested by 12-year-old Indiana boy Urcel D. Miller.)

The late-in-the-year announcement of the winning name accounts for why the baby name Arbadella (and spelling variant Arbedella) debuted in the data in 1936, but saw even higher usage in 1937.

After welcoming Arbadella, Amos and Ruby went on to have two more children: Amos, Jr., and Amosandra. Neither of these fictional babies had a discernible impact on U.S. baby names, though.

What are your thoughts on the name Arbadella? Do you like it?

Sources/Tools:

P.S. Norita was also a contest-winning name of the 1930s…

P.P.S. In the early 1950s, The Amos ‘n Andy Show aired on television. This time around, the characters were played by African-American actors. Despite good ratings, the show was cancelled after two years due to pressure from the NAACP.

Malta to Allow Maltese Baby Names

malta

Yay for Malta!

Years ago, I mentioned that Malta was the only nation I knew of in which parents were not allowed to register baby names in the national language.

Why couldn’t they? Because Malta’s government IT systems could not handle Maltese font.

But “a collective overhaul across government IT systems [is now] being done to ensure Maltese orthography is accepted across the board,” and Malta will soon be allowing parents to officially bestow traditional Maltese names.

Maltese, a Semitic language that descended from Sicilian Arabic, has six letters that English doesn’t have. One of them, ie, is easy enough to replicate on a computer; the other five (below) are not.

Here’s how to pronounce them, roughly:

  • C-with-a-dot makes a ch-sound
  • G-with-a-dot makes a j-sound (without the dot, G makes a g-sound)
  • Gh-with-a-line is silent*
  • H-with-a-line makes an h-sound (without the line, H is silent*)
  • Z-with-a-dot makes a z-sound (without the dot, Z makes a ts-sound)

Without these letters, a large number of traditional Maltese names are unable to be rendered properly.

(I would love to list some of those names, but, ironically, I can’t — WordPress hasn’t played nicely with special characters ever since the introduction of the Gutenberg editor a few years back.)

Anyway…well done, Malta! I’m proud of you. :)

Sources:

*More on the silent letters: “Maltese orthography continues to reflect the presence of some letters that are no longer pronounced in order to indicate semantic provenance — a convenience that makes it possible, among other things, to look up words in the dictionary under the three-consonant root (as one does with Semitic languages).”

Update, 6/13: Here’s an image of a list of traditional Maltese names…

Maltese baby names

The list above includes Maltese names that are equivalent to: Angelo, Beatrice, Francis, Elizabeth, Jacob, James, George, Juliet, Justin, Joseph, John, Hilda, Lucia, Luigi, Theresa, and Vincent.

P.S. While gathering these names, I happened to find out that the surname Buttigieg — as in former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg — is Maltese and means “poulterer.” Specifically, it comes from a pair of Sicilian Arabic words meaning “father, master, owner” and “fowl.”

Name Quotes 80: Jamie, Imogen, John

Time for the latest batch of name-related quotations!

From a 1997 article in Jet magazine about how Jamie Foxx (born Eric Bishop) found success in comedy after changing his name:

Foxx, who was determined to make it as a stand-up comedian, went to Santa Monica “where nobody really knew who I was,” he reveals, “and changed my name to Jamie Foxx.” He remembers, “Three girls would show up and 22 guys would show up [at Amateur Night]. They had to put all the girls on who were on the list to break up the monotony. So when they look up and they see Tracey Green, Tracey Brown, and these unisex names I had written on the list, they picked Jamie Foxx. ‘Is she here?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, Brother, right over here man,'” Foxx said in a deep, macho voice. “I’d go up and do my thing with the Cosby and Tyson (impersonations), and they were like ‘Who is this Jamie Foxx kid?'”

From an opinion piece asking scientists to stop naming species after awful people:

There’s even a beetle named after Adolf Hitler, and specimens have become a collectible item among neo-Nazis to the point that it’s actually affecting wild populations of the species.

From an Eater article about the delicious pork product Spam:

Although lore behind the name Spam varies, [George A.] Hormel himself claimed the product was named for a combination of the words “spice” and “ham,” despite the fact that neither ingredient appears in Spam. The confusion has led some to speculate that Spam is an acronym for “Shoulder of Pork And Ham,” but company line gives Kenneth Daigneau, the brother of a Hormel VP, credit for naming the product. As Hormel tells it, he launched a naming contest for the new product during a New Year’s Eve party, when Daigneau spit out “Spam” as if “it were nothing at all,” Hormel told Gill. “I knew then and there that the name was perfect.”

From an article about Amazon Alexa’s influence on the baby name Alexa:

About 4,250 Alexas are turning five in the U.S. this year. One of them is Amazon’s.

The voice-computing technology that can now control more than 85,000 different devices debuted Nov. 6, 2014.

[…]

In 2015, the year after Amazon Alexa debuted, Alexa was the 32nd most popular female baby name in the U.S., bestowed upon 6,052 newborns that year, according to Social Security Administration data.

Alexa as a baby name has since declined in popularity.

From a DMNES blog post announcing the publication of “Names Shakespeare Didn’t Invent“:

In this article, we revisit three names which are often listed as coinages of Shakespeare’s and show that this received wisdom, though oft-repeated, is in fact incorrect. The three names are Imogen, the heroine of Cymbeline; and Olivia and Viola, the heroines of Twelfth Night. All three of these names pre-date Shakespeare’s use. Further, we show in two of the three cases that it is plausible that Shakespeare was familiar with this earlier usage.

From an article about a surname mash-up in Australia:

Sydney couple Courtney Cassar, 31, and Laura Sheldon, 29, welcomed daughter Lyla Jill last month, but rather than using a hyphen between their family names, they bestowed the ‘mashed-up’ moniker ‘Casseldon’ on their baby girl instead.

From a Fader article about musician/rapper (and snappy dresser) Fonzworth Bentley:

That man was Derek Watkins, but he’d become known to millions as Fonzworth Bentley. His moniker was inspired in part by Bootney Lee Farnsworth, the underdog boxer from the 1975 Sidney Poitier-directed movie Let’s Do It Again.

From an article about the most common names among students at Michigan’s conservative Hillsdale College, which has about 1,500 undergraduates:

The most popular names at Hillsdale are John, with 22 carrying the name; Hannah, appearing 20 times; and Andrew, Emma, and Jacob, which all appear 19 times. Other popular names include Jacob [sic], Michael, Joseph, Matthew, Nicholas, Sarah, and Emily.

Several of these names are popular nationwide, but Hillsdale bucks certain national trends. Many of these students are namesakes to biblical or family figures. 

[…]

The majority of Hillsdale students are between the ages of 18 and 22, with a large portion born in the early 2000s.

For more name-related quotes, check out the name quotes category.

Unusual Baby Name: Vice President

I put together a long list of unusual name combinations a few years back, and one of my favorite names from that list was “Vice President.” It’s just so curious. (Why add the “Vice”? Why not just “President“?)

Turns out, though, that “Vice President” may not have been the boy’s legal name after all.

According to the 1920 U.S. Census, Vice President Evans was born circa 1918 in South Carolina to parents Joseph and Pearla. But I found a similar family on the 1930 Census, and the equivalent child in that family was named “Thomas.”

So my best guess at this point is that “Vice President” was a fake name the parents gave the enumerator — maybe to imply that the toddler was 2nd-in-command after his father? Who knows. Regardless, the name still makes me smile.