Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Fun Friday: Your Library Colleagues and Their Inner Teenagers or A Rose By Any Other Name

Did you know that you could have fun with the Social Security Administration website? Yes, indeed. The SSA has a cool little application called popular names by birth year.

I decided to take this information and combine it with census information (fun with the census!) and other sources to get a picture of what the teenage years might have been like for library colleagues with a particular name. Some names, like Michael and Elizabeth, are timeless classics. Others are not. What started me on this little project? Well, I was recently informed by a teenager that my name was “old.” Moi! C’est incroyable! But whether one has a classic name or an obsolete name, remember they were all the names of teenagers “once upon a time…in a galaxy far, far away…”

…Mary & Michael

Mary watches “I Love Lucy” on TV and is secretly reading the racy new best-seller “Peyton Place.” Michael is reading J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" and likes to watch “Dragnet” and listen to Elvis [Presely’s] new album “Heartbreak Hotel.” They both think hula hoops are “cool.” In school today they practiced “duck and cover.” They write their book reports by hand or use a typewriter. After their homework is done they are going to the movies to see the Rat Pack. Mary like to wear her blue jeans rolled up at the ankle with ballet flats with the heel crushed down, while James wears his blue jeans with a plain white T-shirt just like James Dean. Mary and Michael are two of the most popular names for people from the World War II generation born between 1928 – 1945.

…Linda & James

Linda “borrowed” her older sister’s book “The Valley of the Dolls” and just got the Iron Butterfly album “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” James is reading “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe and thinks the Beatles and The Doors are “far-out.” They write their book reports by hand or use a typewriter. James keeps getting hassled by his Dad and teachers because his hair is “too long.” Linda and James’s favorite TV shows are “Get Smart” and “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” especially when the Smothers’ Brothers are on. Later they are going to see the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” when Linda’s sister gets back from the anti-war rally to drive them downtown in her VW Van. Linda can’t decide whether to wear her low slung hip huggers with the wide belt or her bell bottoms with the beads and peace signs—both are “groovy.” Linda and James are two of the most popular names for Baby Boomers born between 1946 – 1954.

…Susan & David

Susan and David are apathetic and aren’t impressed with their history teacher’s attempt to get them interested in politics. They think, “What is the point? After Watergate it’s all ‘bogus’ anyway.” Susan’s favorite TV show is “Mash” and David thinks Belushi and Ackroyd on “Saturday Night Live” are hilarious [“Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger. No Coke. Pepsi”]. Susan is reading “Watership Down” and David is reading Stephen King’s horror novel “Carrie.” Susan and David type their book reports on an electric typewriter or on the school’s Kaypro computer using the CPM system. David’s favorite album is Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” [“Hey, teacher. Leave those kids alone”] but Susan prefers Elvis [Costello]. They love playing the new TV video game “Pong” as well as going to the arcade to play PacMan. Their clothing is unisex and plain and they both wear Levi’s corduroys, pull-over sweaters and docksiders. Susan and David were annoyed that they had to wait in line for over an hour to get gas for the car to go to the movies. But it was totally worth it to see “Star Wars.” See, they can be impressed. Sometimes. Susan and David are two of the most popular names for Baby Boomers born between 1955 – 1964. This group is sometimes referred to as “Generation Jones.”

…Jennifer & Michael

Jennifer has a huge crush on Johnny Depp from “21 Jump Street” and Michael thinks the Wayan brothers, Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx are hilarious on “in Living Color.” Both Jennifer and Micahel love the new animated primetime show “The Simpsons.” All these shows are on the new Fox network. Jennifer is reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” for school and Michael is reading “Ender’s Game.” He is going to compare it to the movie “War Games” and type his report on his PC that uses the MS-DOS system. He and Jennifer are going to the movies to see the Brat Pack but he has time—it takes Jen forever to do her hair. Jennifer likes to wear her hair big and she got a perm to help keep it that way but it is still a process. First the blowdryer, then the curling iron, then the superhold hairspray. Both Michael and Jennifer wear stonewashed tapered jeans. Jennifer is surprising Michael with a Walkman for his birthday with a mixed tape of his favorite songs by Bon Jovi, Duran Duran and The Cure. Their friends Christopher and Jessica are into grunge and Nirvana. The teachers at school think Chris and Jess are slackers because of how they look, but Jen and Mike know that Chris and Jess are entrepreneurs and are running a T-shirt printing business out of their parents’ basement. Excellent! Dude, did you know that Jennifer, Michael, Christopher and Jessica are popular names for Generation X born between 1965 – 1979?

…Ashley & Matthew

Ashley and Matthew are designing a webpage for a school project. Ashley studies hard and plans to go to a good college but for now she takes a break to watch the new episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She calls her friend Brittany on her cell to talk about the show. They will blog about it L8R. Ashley is interrupted by a text from Matt. He reminds her that they are having a party at Tyler’s to watch the “X Files.” Ashley texts Matt back TTYL. Matt is reading “Holes” and Ashley is reading a book called “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by a new British author called J.K. Rowling. Ashley and Matt will write their reports on their laptops and email it to the teacher who is an “old school dude.” Ashley decides to pick up some snacks at the grocery store and grabs her reusable canvas bag. She listens to Justin [Timberlake] on her mp3 as she walks to the store. Her favorite movie is “The Titanic” and she adores Leonardo DiCaprio. Matt spends his free time skateboarding and wants a career either saving the environment or designing computer games. He would like to be able to take his dog to work and to work flexible hours so he can fit his boarding in. If Matt can’t find a job he likes and that works with his schedule he will create his own business--he is confident that he will be successful. Ashley, Matt and Tyler are some of the most popular names for Generation Y born between 1980 – 2001.

Now take a deep breath and check out the Social Security Administration's popular names by birth year and see where your name stands.



  • At 2:15 PM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    Awesome. I love baby name trivia.

    My name was most popular (#83) in 1915. It dropped off the list in 1956 and did not re-appear until 1984, at #944. It's been steadily increasing in popularity to its 2006 position of #125.

    I am also a huge fan of Nymbler, which is affiliated with The Baby Name Wizard, and which gives users suggested names that match or work well with names the user provides. For example, when I give Nymbler, my name, it suggests Cecile, Elinor (a variant of my daughter's name), and Louise for girls, while it provides Gerard, Bertram, and Jules for boys. You can refine or change the results by giving Nymbler more names, and by choosing names for girls, names for boys, or names for girls and boys.

  • At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    what about us whippersnappers born between 80 and 95? maybe i'll have to write that one.

  • At 7:37 PM, Blogger Susan said…

    Oooh, I like Nymbler! Thanks for the recommendation.

  • At 3:57 PM, Blogger Susan said…

    Hey bibliokrick thanks for the comment! I have checked my notes and fixed my typo and you will see that you whippersnappers are in Generation Y. Thank goodness for Generation whY? ...especially when us Jones'ers and X'ers start needing (yikes!) reading glasses.

  • At 3:28 PM, Blogger Carlie said…

    My name (Carlisle Elizabeth; I was named for my father's favorite aunt, Carlisle Florence, and my mother's great-aunt Elizabeth) has never been popular. Ever. My nickname seems to have become more popular in recent years but while I've met Karleighs, Karlees, Carlys, and even a Carleen, I've never met another Carlie. I've met a male Carlyle but never another female Carlisle.

    (And you would not believe the comments I get from Twilight fans: "Your name is really Carlisle? But you're a GIRL!" Yes, been one all my life in fact.)


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