18
Nov
07

In which I am not a “statistical anomaly”

Recently I was celebrating my own unique existence.  As it turns out, my middle and last names are some of the most common in the U.S.

My middle name (my mother’s maiden name) is in the Top 15 of the 5,000 most common surnames in 2000, falling from its spot on the Top 10 list in 1990.  And my last name is #108, down from #104 in 1990.  To add insult to injury, my seemingly unusual first name, in another form, is the most common surname in the world.  (Though I do love when I meet folks who tell me my first name is a “Chinese” name.)

Fortunately, Redstar doesn’t make the list.  You can test your own surname via the link. 

I LOVE these kinds of articles about census data.  But note the total lack of irony in the reporting about the “durability of the family of man” that the persistence of certain last names reflects and the subsequent paragraph on slavery’s contribution to that familial lineage:

But the fact that about 1 in every 25 Americans is named Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller or Davis “suggests that there’s a durability in the family of man,� Mr. Kaplan, the author, said. A million Americans share each of those seven names. An additional 268 last names are common to 10,000 or more people. Together, those 275 names account for one in four Americans.

…The durability of some of the most common names in American history may also have been perpetuated because slaves either adopted or retained the surnames of their owners. About one in five Smiths are black, as are about one in three Johnsons, Browns, and Joneses and nearly half the people named Williams.  

 

H/t to Zuzu at Feministe, whose blog moniker is also likely as rare as her last name is common.

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