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CARROLL: The Name Game
David Carroll
David Carroll - photo by Special Photo

I  recently attended a 100th birthday party for a wonderful lady named Mildred. A singer serenaded her, inserting her name into the lyrics of familiar songs. This was likely the first time in her life that she heard a song about “Mildred.”

Mildred is a fine name, and it is among many that have faded away since their popularity in the early 20th century. Others include Gertrude, Henrietta, and Myrtle. You also don’t see many babies named Esther, Agatha, or Bessie crawling around. For whatever reason, those are not among the vintage names that are making a comeback, like Emily, Scarlett, and Grace.

You may have also noticed the baby boomer names that inspired so many hit records are gradually disappearing. If you know a Rhonda, Barbara Ann, Debbie, Mary, Sherry, Tammy, or Diane, they are more likely to have an AARP card than a report card.

The same applies to us guys. Our granddads were named Clarence, Alfred, Floyd, and Milford. They named their sons Fred, Bernard, Raymond, and Ralph. You won’t see many of those names on 2024 birth certificates. Now and then, an uncommon family name will occasionally be used as a “tribute” middle name that a child will have to explain for the rest of his life. I wonder how many times Joseph Robinette Biden has had to tell people that his middle name was his grandmother’s maiden name? No wonder he goes by simply “Joe.”

That seems to be a thing among presidents. Think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Richard Milhous Nixon, Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Ronald Wilson Reagan. Harry S. Truman’s parents took a shortcut. His “S” didn’t stand for any name in particular, but honored both his grandfathers. Personally, I’m thankful for Dwight David Eisenhower. His middle name inspired my first name, which has served me well.

Of course, if you don’t like your first name, you can do just fine with a nickname for your entire life. A trio of siblings dropped their given names of Moses, Samuel, and Jerome at an early age to become Moe, Shemp and Curly. It helps to have a fun name if you’re going to be a Stooge.

Names can be tricky. What starts out as a delightful baby name can be hampered by events beyond your control. I can only imagine what women named Alexa must go through. People surely ask them a lot of questions. Karen has long been a popular name, but now that it has become the slang term for a woman who is entitled and demanding, some may shy away from being “a Karen.”

I know some ladies named Katrina whose lives were forever changed by the deadly 2005 hurricane that ravaged New Orleans. You know they hear it all the time. “Those people had to move because Katrina wrecked their home.”

When people do notoriously bad things, they take their names into the dustbin of history. That’s why parents haven’t named their children John Wilkes, Lee Harvey, or Benedict Arnold for a long, long time.

Even if you avoid a controversial name, you have to be careful in this era of monogrammed bracelets, luggage and towels. Initials matter. Think twice before you name your baby Andrew Stephen Smith. And if Lewis Scott Dodd tries to take his monogrammed bag through airport security, the cops will likely raise their eyebrows.

So what are the popular baby names of 2024? Many parents are opting for boys’ names that are short and punchy. We are seeing babies named Ace, Rex, Stone, Rock, and Peyton, as in Manning. For some reason, Western cities and states provide some popular male names. Many kids are named Dakota, Dallas, Reno, or Montana. (Eastern cities and states haven’t fared so well. You don’t see many boys named Roanoke, Tampa, or Kentucky.)

Today’s little girls are often named after celebrities, or fictional entertainment characters. Hannah, Scarlett, Taylor, Ariel, Adele, and yes, Peyton are all popular.

Finally, did you know the 3 youngest players in major league baseball (all, age 20) share the same first name: Jackson. So if you’re hoping to raise a star athlete, go with Jackson. Or of course, Peyton.

David Carroll is a Chattanooga news anchor, and his new book “I Won’t Be Your Escape Goat” is available on his website, You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, or at