The big news from the Social Security Administration is the ousting of a champion: Liam has dethroned Noah as the nation’s most popular boy name. This was the headline of its newly released baby-name report, an annual synthesis of Social Security card applications from the past year that offers a fascinating cultural statement and doubles as a tip sheet for expectant parents.
Those hoping to avoid preschool confusion and the fate of forever appending the first initial of your last name may want to eschew Emma, which secured the No. 1 spot among girl names for the fourth consecutive year, as well as Olivia and Ava, which held their ground at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
Our love of a “v” sound buoyed by vowels was also reflected in a few newcomers to the top 10, including Oliver (No. 9) and Evelyn (No. 9).
New moms are dusting off their grandmothers’ names, but they’re threading that antique lace to red bandana, according to the list of names that made the biggest leaps in popularity. A gust of Wild West spunk emerged in 2017 with the likes of Oaklynn, Oaklee, Luella and Sunny, alongside fast-galloping boy names like Wells, Wilder and Ridge.
Among those who read the report with great interest was a pregnant mom in upstate New York who posted the top 10 to Instagram and commented on Logan’s surge to No. 5.
Kate Towne has a trained eye — not only because she has named six sons with her husband but because the 39-year-old stay-at-home mom is the pre-eminent Catholic baby naming consultant. Kate is paid to provide consultations for expectant parents based on her proven expertise, showcased delightfully on her popular blog “Sancta Nomina,” Latin for “holy names.” For $50, she will contemplate a couple’s preferences, factor in names of the baby’s siblings, scan the saints, conduct research, tap into her exhaustive knowledge, examine her instincts and pray — all leading up to the formulation of at least five suggestions for each gender.
Until you’ve read Kate’s consultations, you can’t appreciate the value this provides to a pregnant woman scratching her head over baby names as she launders onesies and writes baby-shower thank-you cards or evicts a toddler from the nursery. There’s proof in the pudding: Countless clients have named a child with one of Kate’s picks.
Her interest in names was first influenced by her mom, an Irish poet. Kate has always filed away surprising selections and winsome pairings, scrolling favorite names in a notebook at age 14.
Today Kate appreciates the pro-life power of a name, personalizing a baby in utero and conferring it with dignity. She marvels over her unexpected ministry — a term she didn’t initially think in until a reader used it.
“I’m so blessed that my funny little interest has turned into something amazing that actually helps other people and gives glory to God,” she said.
It goes to show that ministries can’t be confined to a narrow box, she adds. Many of her friends also have discovered novel avenues for their God-given talents, with outcomes they’d never imagined on a timeline entirely His.
She’s counting on perfect timing to decide the name of her seventh baby, due in September, whose gender is unknown. Agreeing on a boy name is difficult, having already named six. Pregnancy after pregnancy, her chosen girl name has not wavered: Susanna, honoring her mom (Susanne), her grandma (Anna) and St. Susanna.
Kate can refer to her new book, “Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady,” and hope for grace from the novena she’s praying to St. Gerard, patron saint of pregnant women. Ultimately, she’s confident the name will feel right, chosen for a baby to be embraced by a band of brothers, steeped in Catholic tradition and swaddled in love.
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