While looking for actual news to write about, I stumbled across The Sacramento Bee’s California Baby Name Database, where they track the top 1,000 baby names. The list has a search feature, and allows you to track any name and whether or not it’s rising or falling in popularity.
You know, like Jack (number 63, and falling in California popularity, thanks).
The name Jack used to be a fairly common nickname, but hasn’t really been a big given name. I spent decades explaining to people that no, I am not named John, I am a real Jack. They always seem rather surprised or slightly disappointed, like I told them I wasn’t a serious person.
Of course, as a cartoonist, I’m not supposed to be.
I was born in 1960, the year Sen. John F. “Jack” Kennedy was elected president. And, interestingly, my parents were named John and Jackie. It’s true.
Naturally, they voted for Nixon.
I don’t know why they didn’t name me Ike. I like Ike. America liked Ike. But, intriguingly, I have never known nor met anyone named Ike. Don’t get me started on the first name of Ike’s vice president. It’s not a propitious or printable line of satire, either.
Anyway, being named Jack presented some teasing challenges, many of which I simply cannot relate to you in general circulation publication like The Bee. I have a metric that I ask friends about to have children to use. Tell me the name you’re considering, and I will spend five minutes writing nicknames for that name. If you’re comfortable with the outcomes, go ahead and name your child that name.
You’d be surprised by how many minds I’ve changed.
My parents originally planned on naming me Fred or Elyse. Fred was my father’s beloved uncle’s name, and I have to say I am really glad they came up with Jack, so to speak. Elyse wouldn’t have been bad, although I am not unconvinced they might have named me Jackie. Or, given their presidential voting in 1960, Pat.
It’s not really cool to make fun of people’s names, anyway. If you think about it, 99.9999999999999 percent of all the people in the world didn’t have a choice in the matter. If you have a compelling reason to change your name, there are avenues that exist for you to do so.
I have to say I might have chosen one of those avenues during a particularly bad Jack name-teasing stretch in junior high school.
Being named Jack is a blessing and a curse. There are some very cool Other Jacks, such as Jack Nicholson and Jack Kerouac. There are some very uncool Jacks, like Jack The Ripper and Jack Kevorkian. The other night, The Bee promoted a speech I gave as “You Don’t Know Jack,” which to me might have been slightly insulting if you didn’t know, well…you know.
So go try to California Baby Name Database. You find some good names in there, or you might just find Jack. I don’t know.
I’ll leave you with a final thought. If you ever date anyone named Jack, and you want to break up with them, don’t say “Hit the road, (insert his easily-parodied name here).”
It’s been done. How many times?
You name it.