John: Baby Name of the Day

Amy Keyishian

P and Johnny
P and her pal Johnny
A return to the classics is sometimes in order. When I was a kid, there were three or four Johns in every class, with a Jon(athan) thrown into the mix every once in a while just to keep things interesting. But when my friend named her now-2-year-old son John (to be called Johnny), my reaction was, "Wow! That's unusual!" Because these days, it is!

"We thought it'd be classic-cool, especially next to the many Djangos and Jaspers on the playground," my friend says. "Also, because we couldn't agree on anything else, and we've got such an unusual last name. When we saw him, he was such a bruiser of a giant baby, we thought this simple, masculine name fit him to a T." Or a J.

John is a paradox: It's got so much history, it invokes nothing in particular. It's got so much meaning, it can mean anything.

It works for anyone: Republicans (McCain), Democrats (F. Kennedy), music fans (Lennon, Coltrane), Bible-thumpers (the Baptist), history buffs (Adams), obscure Shakespeareans (King) … There are Johns all over the place, and for Johnny, there's Depp, Cash, and Carson. You can name a kid John and flatter just about everyone on your must-please list.

Derived from Hebrew via both Latin and Greek, John originally was Yochanan, meaning "Yahweh is gracious." The Romans spelled it with an I (as in Iohannes), and it goes around the world as Giovanni (Italy), Johann (German), Ivan (Russian), Juan (Spanish), Jean (France), and Eoin (Ireland).

John had a stranglehold on the no. 1 spot on the Social Security Administration list from 1880 till 1921, and it stayed in the top 10 till 1987. These days, it hovers at 26 after steadily slipping down from 14 over the past 10 years. Let me put this in perspective for you: As of writing this, there are more newborn Jaydens (no. 8) than Johns. It only ranks 49 among CafeMoms (Logan is your no. 1).

Obviously there are regional preferences. In California, where I (and my Johnny-having friend) live, John plunges to 49. In Alabama, it's no. 2. Go figure.

What do you like better -- John, Johnny, Jonathan, or what? Do you think the classics, like William, Robert, and Thomas, are poised to make a comeback? Tell us in the comments!

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