A while back, my friend Anne Barnes remarked on how many of our pals here in town are named Anne (with an "e"). Not only that, we all happen to be married to a William, be it Will or Bill.
She celebrated this generational coincidence by throwing a dinner for four of us couples who share the name (more proof that Charlestonians will use any excuse for a party).
Anne and Will Cleveland followed up a few months later with another festive gathering.
I guess it's my turn soon, but this got me thinking about what a period piece our name has become: exotic enough to be a party theme.
From being a fairly common girls' name in the 1940s and '50s, Anne lost ground to Ann (sans "e"). But I checked Social Security online to discover that, in 2012, our ranking in the United States sank to 561st. This was humiliating.
We were light years behind No. 1 Sophia. How could we achieve Serenity (No. 58)?
What could be the Genesis (No. 56) of this steep decline? On our Journey (No. 327), it's hard to accept that Brooklyn (29), London (94) and even Jordyn (121) had left us in the dust.
It seems to me that one's birth name wields a big influence on personality. It's a person's ID. People almost appear to live up, or down, to their name and perhaps with it their parents' aspirations.
Young mothers who saddle an infant with a corny moniker such as Blue Ivy (Beyonce), Bear Blu (Alicia Silverstone) or Zuma Nesta Rock (Gwen Stefani) might consider taking a longer view. The child with the quirky name, whose path through life will be greeted with raised eyebrows or worse, can't help but be affected.
Just last summer celebrity Kim Kardashian and rapper Kanye West dubbed their new baby North.
One wonders what the future holds for a kid called North West.
The latest hot names, according to Nameberry.com, which tracks trends, are Imogen, at No. 1, and Khaleesi at No. 6. The latter is from the "Game of Thrones" series. Pop culture strikes again.
As for creative spellings of traditional names, the Jazmins, Madalaynes and Kourtnayes, it's a matter of taste, just not mine.
On the other hand, I love the names that African-American moms come up with, from Ashandra to Lashona and Quanesha to Zettica, which sound original and pleasing to the ear.
A venerable Southern tradition is using family surnames as first and middle names. The other day an old Charlestonian joked to me that when he introduces himself to newcomers from "off," they do a double take. They seem to think, he said, that his parents named him after local city streets.
I'm sure there are exceptions, but we Annes strike me as straight arrows, even a bit boring. Whether it's the name, our times, or our upbringing, I can't say.
Indeed, what's happened to the Barbaras, the Ellens, the Susans and Lindas of previous generations? Also sadly out of fashion are Southern double first names: the Martha Jane's and Betty Sue's we all knew. Yet in the boys' rankings, William has remained in the top 20 for the past 100 years. It doesn't seem fair.
On 2012's list, Anne got a look-in with Hannah, at No. 22, from the Hebrew mother of the prophet Samuel, and the root of our name, which means grace.
If I'd been named Hannah or Anna, and my husband was Bob or Otto, instead of Bill, we'd be a complete palindrome couple, since our last name spells the same way backward and forward.
Not to be small-minded, but when Anne is so far down the list of popular names, how can we have a Melody (No. 174) in our hearts and a snappy Cadence (290) in our step?
On second thought, maybe we shouldn't have too many wannabe's in our exclusive little club. My dining table only seats 10.
Anne Semmes is a freelance food and travel writer who moved to Charleston from London. Before going to England, she was a restaurant critic for The New York Times New Jersey section. A regular correspondent for Passport Newsletter, her articles also have appeared in Food Arts, Food & Wine, The Local Palate and Victoria.
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