I’ve always liked my name. The older I got, the more I realized that it really fit me. Until the day I walked down that long aisle, I introduced myself as ‘Judy Johnson’. It was very sing-song and alliterate. It was easy to remember. It was unique, and yet not strange. It was just what I desired to be, as a person. The day we said our vows, I lost my sing song ending, but hung onto it as a middle name, because I never wanted to forget the person I was before two became one.
Having named four babies in my lifetime, I can appreciate how tricky the task can be. We’ve all met people who don’t seem to fit their name. A Bob who looks more like a Steve. And we’ve met people who seem to perfectly fit the name their parents so wisely bestowed upon them. My son Isaac, has a name that means ‘laughter’, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his quick wit makes me laugh every single day.
But in the last few years I’ve started to notice that no one uses my name anymore, when they’re picking out just the right title for their newborn daughter. It never shows up on popular baby name lists. In fact, it hasn’t for decades. I think working at the library increased my curiosity. I started to notice the names of the little patrons who showed up for story time every week. There were many Sarahs, and Owens, and Emmas, but not a single Judy.
The more the idea turned over in my brain, the more I started to do some research. Every famous Judy I could find was over the age of 50. I started to think I might be the youngest Judy on the planet, as I currently hang out in the mid 40s. I found a name database online, designed by a parenting website. It’s a pretty nifty thing to play with. You punch in any name and it will tell you how popular it was, in any given year, from the turn of the century until today.
It was no surprise, I guess, that Judy hit its peak in the fifties. In the mid sixties, when I showed up, it was beginning to tank in popularity. Which explains why every character named Judy in a movie or on a TV show is nearing retirement age. It’s not a name given to the perky, beautiful teen character.
Which is why I got a bit excited when a new kid’s movie hit theaters recently. I’d been aware of the children’s book series named “Judy Moody”, and was very pleased that my name finally claimed a young character. But it was doubly thrilling when Hollywood grabbed onto it and put it on the big screen - ‘Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer’. My name, in the big lights!
Then a popular singer, someone who’s on the radio all the time (and my teens even have on their ipods!) gave birth to a baby girl last week. I almost missed the news of the baby’s name, since celebrity babies are not really on my daily radar. But flipping through a magazine I stumbled upon it. This music artist named her daughter Jude. Now I know…my kids have already told me, it’s not the same. But I’m going to claim this one. You can’t tell me that at no time in this child’s life, will someone slip, and in a moment of sweetness, call her Jude-ey. Which comes out of the mouth in the same way my name does. The name that hasn’t been popular since the fifties.
It’s coming back. I just know it. My sisters and I were all given names (Mary, Nancy, and Judy) that were popular at our births, but never seemed to be popular again. I’ve been pretty happy with mine. I’ve got a broad imagination. I can imagine that ‘Hey Jude’ was about a Judy, not John Lennon’s son, Julian. And I can ignore the fact that the other famous song to include my name, ‘It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want to’, was released the year before I was born. I think it’s still a great name, worthy of a little more use.
So I’m starting to lobby friends and relatives who are of child bearing age. Are you looking for a great name, that’s widely recognized, but not yet trendy? Are you brave enough to start the trend to bring Judy back? There’s been a recent surge of old names that have become new again.
All of those Emmas and Margarets need some playmates with classic names too. It’s time to call their friend Judy for a play date.