Romney, The Baby Name: A 2012 Election Names Roundup
As first predicted here last November, Americans are facing a presidential election between exciting, unconventional candidates...in the name arena, at least.
Barack was our Name of the Year back in 2007, before Senator Barack Obama had even secured his party's nomination. The reasons were the name's unprecedented status as a "foreign" first name in American presidential politics, and the unprecedented way that the name itself was becoming a campaign issue. Even now, in 2012, the President's name remains a key weapon in the arsenal of those who hope to convince Americans that he is secretly a foreign-born Muslim.
As for Mitt Romney, the name Mitt epitomizes the modern political requirement to paint the candidate as "a regular guy." Forget that we're talking about a job that requires vast knowledge, delicate etiquette, and super-human powers of judgment to keep the world from exploding. The real question, apparently, is whether the candidate would fit in at your backyard weenie roast. Thus the typical presidential hopeful today goes by a friendly, one-syllable nickname.
In Governer Romney's case, the punchy nickname was inherited from a cousin of his father, Milton "Mitt" Romney. The candidate's given name, Willard (from dad's pal Willard Marriott, founder of the Marriott hotel chain), has been buried so deeply that it doesn't appear anywhere on his entire campaign website, including his official bio.
But there's another name in this race; a last name. Romney is a rare but simple English surname, with one of the three dominant endings -- y, r, and n -- that have turned hundreds of surnames into trendy baby names in the past generation. Here's just sampling of names with a Romney-like rhythm and heritage that make the current girls' top-1000 list:
Blakely, Kinsley, Sidney, Tenley, Hadley, Whitney, Brinley, Aubrey, Bentley, Kensley
Names like Brantley, Bentley and Oakley are soaring for boys, too. In past generations, that style coupled with a major presidential candidate would have guaranteed a surge of baby Romneys. Today, though, naming for political heroes has all but disappeared. In fact, parents seem to be actively avoiding politicized names. Otherwise the vast media focus on Sarah Palin should have led to a wave of little rhymes-with-Jalen Palins.
Let's turn, then, to the Washington names that do still shape baby name style: the names of political children. Malia, Sasha, Bristol and Piper are the real naming legacy of the 2008 election. The Romneys are parents of five sons, Craig, Benjamin, Joshua, Matthew and Taggart. The first four names are too familiar to catch parents' attention, so that leaves Taggart, called Tagg. If the name were Taggett, a la Beckett, Emmett and Wyatt, parents might be intrigued. But -rt names are at an all-time historic low.
Thus I'm left with a prediction of stunningly boring simplicity. The 2012 presidential election will have absolutely no impact on baby names at all...unless Romney picks a running mate with some pretty trendy kids.