Recently I happened to see a list of the most popular baby names in Ohio, and saw that Robert, once again, didn’t make the list. Oh, you’ll still see Robert on the statewide representation of popular names on the linked webpage — its located down there near Marietta on the map, along with Audrey and Kyle — but the the article points out that the truly popular choices are names like Nevaeh, Jayden, and Madison.
Apparently the criteria for name selection these days include not only names that have no discernible gender identification, but also names that are unpronounceable. If you are a kid named Nevaeh — regardless of your gender — every teacher who calls the roll from kindergarten to 12th grade is going to butcher the pronunciation and, deep down, bear tremendous resentment that you didn’t have a familiar, pronounceable name like Bob. (For record, I’ve learned that Nevaeh, which is “heaven” spelled backward, is a feminine name that is pronounced either ne-VAY-eh or ne-VAY. I suspect the latter is probably the French pronunciation).
It turns out that Bob hasn’t been popular for decades. In fact, every decade of my life has seen the name Robert decline in popularity, and recently the decline has been precipitous. I flatter myself that there is no causal relationship between my role in the world and the plummeting popularity of my name. But when I see that the top name list of 2009 has Alfie — Alfie! — coming in at number 4 and Robert nowhere to be found, I begin to wonder. Seriously, Alfie? It’s embarrassing!