Monday, Oct 15, 2018
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Lucas Co. parents look to literature, the Bible for babies

Names from past often personalized

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    Shaneka Satahoo holds her baby Alexander Blair, the first baby born in Lucas County in 2017, on Sunday. Alexander was not one of the top names of 2016 but could be on the list by year's end.

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Chances are good that if you don’t already know an Olivia or a Mason, you will soon meet one.

Those two names topped the list of most popular names for babies born in Lucas County in 2016, according to statistics provided by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

Olivia triumphed among all names — at least 38 babies born last year in Lucas County will share the moniker that appears in William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night.

Mason ruled supreme for boys, proving that a name that can trace its roots to long-ago stone workers can be popular in tech-savvy times. At least 37 boys born locally were named Mason.

Other commonly chosen names in Lucas County are associated with literature, the Bible, surnames, and previous generations.

For girls, Emma, Harper, Ava, Charlotte, Avery, Evelyn, Amelia, Abigail, and Madison rounded out the local top 10.

Emma is the title character of a Jane Austen novel. Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, died in February. 

For boys, prepare to meet tykes named Jackson, James, Liam, Lucas, Oliver, Wyatt, Carter, Elijah, and Noah.

James, Elijah, and Noah are all Biblical.

“It’s very cyclical. What tends to happen is that people are using names that are from two generations ago, so the names of their grandparent’s generation or their great-grandparent’s generation,” said Jeremy Wallach, a popular culture professor at Bowling Green State University. “These are old lady names that have been revived.”

When Danielle Wilhelm was trying to decide what to call her daughter Harper, now 2, she didn’t know any children by that name. Weeks after Harper was born, Ms. Wilhelm started hearing about other little Harpers.

Two years later, it is the third most-popular girl’s name in Lucas County.

“I had never heard it before. Now I hear it all the time,” Ms. Wilhelm said.

She gets to know plenty of kids’ names as manager of the Sylvania toy store Learning Express, where monogrammed items like lap trays and organizing totes are popular.

“We see so many people’s names,” she said. “Some people like to keep it classic, and others are trying to do something different.”

Changing the typical spelling of a name is a common way parents personalize a traditional name.

Ms. Wilhelm said she’s run across plenty of boys named Jackson, but also ones who spell it without the ‘c’ or as Jaxon.

Common names with twisty spellings is “the biggest thing” Tracie McNutt notices about the names of babies she cares for as a labor and delivery nurse at Mercy Health St. Charles Hospital. Olivia is a big hit, but she’s also seen parents begin the name with the letter “A.” The pronunciation doesn’t change, just the spelling.

She thinks parents like the traditional names but are looking to make it a little “different.”

“Americans are always choosing between individualism versus conformity,” Mr. Wallach said.

The answer to that conundrum: a recognizable name with a unique spelling.

Another trend: Babies who are given their mother’s maiden name as a first name, Ms. McNutt said.

Kayla Bradshaw, an administrator at the child-care center Kidz Watch in Sylvania, only knows one child with one of the top three local boys and girls names. But, she noted the abundance of girl names that end in the letter “a” — citing Alexandria and Sondra as examples.

Some of the families whose children attend the center purposefully picked names with the same first initial for each of their children, while others are big on repeating family names.

Across Ohio, the order of last year’s most popular baby names changes slightly from the Lucas County list.

Emma was the most common girls name in all of Ohio, followed by Ava and Olivia. The state’s most popular boys name was Liam, followed by Noah and Carter, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health. The statewide and county lists include names recorded from Jan. 1, 2016, through Dec. 29.

Down deeper on the statewide list, more unusual names pop up.

When 55 newborn boys in Ohio are named Kyrie, as happened in 2016, one has to wonder how much it has to do with Kyrie Irving. The Cleveland Cavaliers player made a big-time shot to help win game 7 of the NBA finals in June, ending a championship drought to the delight of frenzied fans.

With a little Faith (actually, quite a few: 118 girls in Ohio) that Journee (51 girls) ended with a Major (52 boys) Legend (59 boys).

Contact Vanessa McCray at: or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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