AS DWIGHTS AND LYNDONS OF OLD, BABY BARACKS BOOM
By JENNIFER 8. LEE
(This article is part of TIMES EXPRESS. It is a condensed version of a story that will appear in tomorrow’s New York Times.)
c.2008 New York Times News Service
Decontee Williams was so excited by Barack Obama’s victory on Tuesday night that she started jumping up and down — and went into labor. Twelve hours later, Barack Jeilah was born at Phoenix Baptist Hospital to Williams and Prince Jeilah. The baby was 8 pounds, 9 ounces and had a full head of hair.
"I love Barack Obama, and I love the name," said Williams, 31, who came to the United States as a refugee from Liberia in 2003. "In Africa, we call it a blessing. That is a good name."
In the last week, Barack, Obama, Michelle, Malia and Sasha have become inspirations for first and middle names across the United States, according to news reports. But the Obama baby boom has been even more pronounced in Kenya, particularly in Kisumu, an area in the western part of the country where relatives of Obama live.
From Election Day through Saturday afternoon, 43 children born at the Nyanza Provincial Hospital in Kisumu were named after the Obamas, with 23 boys given the first and middle name Barack Obama and 20 girls named Michelle Obama.
There have been other presidential naming trends, according to Social Security Administration data. Franklin jumped to No. 33 in 1933, up from No.147 in 1931. Dwight surged in the 1950s and Lyndon in the 1960s. Theodore hit its peak in the first decade of the 20th century.
"Honoring new presidents with baby namesakes used to be an American tradition," said Laura Wattenberg, author of "The Baby Name Wizard." But she pointed out that the custom faded around the time of Watergate, in part because people became more cynical about the presidency.
Wattenberg said Barack and Obama might break that trend for a number of reasons. Blacks, particularly moved by Obama’s victory, tend to be more open to new names and to naming children after public figures. Also, Obama drew strong support from people of childbearing age, and his name sounds fresh.
Obama has said that Barack has the same etymological roots as the Hebrew name Baruch, "one who is blessed."