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Baby names reflect state of war, pop culture as military, reality TV crack list

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 7:12 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Talk about high expectations for a newborn: King and Messiah are among the fastest-rising baby names for American boys.

They're just a little behind Major, the boy's name that jumped the most spots on the Social Security Administration's annual list of popular baby names.

Jacob is the most popular for boys — again — and Sophia is the top name for girls, according to the list released on Thursday.

But what about those rising boys' names?

Major jumped 505 spots to No. 483, followed by Gael, Jase, Messiah and Brantley. Messiah gained 246 spots to No. 387.

“I have no doubt Major's rising popularity as a boy's name is in tribute to the brave members of the U.S. military, and maybe we'll see more boys named General in the future,” said acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin.

Jase Robertson is a character on the reality TV show “Duck Dynasty,” about a family that makes duck calls. Gael García Bernal is a Mexican film actor. But Messiah?

Laura Wattenberg, author of “The Baby Name Wizard,” said Americans have long given their children “aggrandizing names.” She noted that Noble and General were on the list of popular boys' names for much of the 20th century, though neither cracked the top 100.

The Social Security Administration's website provides lists of the top 1,000 baby names for each year, dating to 1880, when the top baby names were John and Mary. John has dropped to No. 28 and Mary to No. 123 — the lowest for both names.

Among other boys' names gaining in popularity: Maverick, Armani and King, which jumped 133 spots to No. 256.

For girls' names, Arya jumped 298 spots to No. 413, followed by Perla, Catalina, Elisa and Raelynn.

Arya Stark is a character in the TV show “Game of Thrones.”

Today's top names aren't nearly as popular as the top names of a generation ago.

For example, 18,899 babies were named Jacob last year. Two decades ago, that wouldn't be good enough to crack the top 25. In 1992, Michael was the top name for boys, with more than 54,000 boys getting the name.

“We're seeing a total revolution in terms of the diversity of naming,” Wattenberg said. “Parents are really focused on choosing a distinctive name that will make their child stand out.”

By the way, if you have your heart set on having a baby Messiah, don't move to New Zealand, where names must conform to government rules, CNN reported this month.

The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages there has rejected not only Messiah, Christ and Lucifer, but Justice and King.

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