Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


June 3, 2013

Tidbits: What's in a name?

CROSSVILLE — Being born in the time before routine ultrasounds, my parents thought I was going to be a boy. I'm not sure if mom was carrying high or low, or if the wedding ring on a string went one way or the other, or what other old wives tale was used to determine I would be a he rather than a she, but that's what they thought and that's how they prepared.

A name was chosen, Porter Allen Mullinix. It was a great name, filled with family history. My grandfather's name is Porter, as was his father's, and both great-grandfathers on my dad's side were Porters. Allen was my dad's middle name. It was perfect.

Except I wasn't a boy.

They had to regroup pretty quickly. Apparently they don't let you leave the hospital without a name on the birth certificate. The story goes that dad was sitting in the waiting room waiting for the nurses to announce my arrival and was watching a soap opera, General Hospital or All My Children or some such program, and one of the characters was named Heather.

That was also the fifth most popular name for girls born in 1978, according to the Social Security Administration, which tracks such things for posterity, entertainment or to give folks like me something to write about.

They added a middle name I share with my mother and my cousin, ensuring I could never go by it. It's a shame. I like my middle name better, mostly because there weren't five other Sheas in my kindergarten class. Luckily, none of the other Heather's had a last name that started with an "M," or I'd have had to learn to spell Mullinix at age five.

Because of its popularity, when you see someone named Heather, you might think they're in their late 20s to mid-30s. It's certainly not an old-fashioned name, not yet, anyway. There are names that you hear and you picture one of the Golden Girls or a grandmother. But some of those old fashioned names are making a comeback.

Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella and Sophia were the top five girls' names for babies born in Tennessee in 2012, and Sophia was the top name nationally. Popular boys' names were William, Mason, Elijah, James and Jacob. 

One hundred years ago, the top names for boys and girls were topped by John and Mary. There were some names you don't see very often now on those lists, such as Ethel, Edna and Gladys. For the boys, Walter, Albert and Raymond stand out as names ripe for a comeback.

Parenting magazine has offered a listing of old fashioned names that are making a comeback and have risen sharply in popularity in the past decade, though none have made the top 10 yet. Oliver, Owen, Stella, Hazel and Eli are rising stars for those looking for something a little different from the top names of the day.

Looking for unusual, different baby names for famous couples' offspring has led to some names that probably aren't going to catch on. There's Jason Lee's Pilot Inspektor and Gweneth Paltrow's little bundle of joy Apple. Frank Zappa had some very creative offerings with kids named Dweezil, Ahmet, Moon Unit and Diva Thin Muffin. I can almost excuse Dweezil and Ahmet, maybe even Moon Unit, but Diva Thin Muffin? I suspect he just threw some odd, non-related words together as a joke. That doesn't explain why anyone in their right mind signed that birth certificate.

A study has actually found that it's not just celebrities that want to saddle their children with a lifetime of "What were your parents thinking?" The trend of giving children less common names began after World War II, illustrating the growth in individualism in society.

"If names get too popular, people may not want them anymore," said Jonah Berger, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania in a 2009 interview with USA Today.

When that happens, less common names begin to become more popular. And, of course, naming trends cycle just like trends in hairstyles (the mullet may be making a comeback) and clothes.

Regardless of how unique or common your name may be, it is yours and yours alone. Like Dr. Seuss said, "There is no one alive who is Youer than You."

Always remember to be yourself. You don't have to go with the crowd just because you share a name with half of them.

• • •

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at

Text Only
  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

  • Tidbits: Make the best of your road trip

    I didn’t care for road trips when I was young. It was so confining to have to sit in the back seat, staring out the window for hour after hour, hayfield after hayfield. And when you’re a kid, time doesn’t pass like it does when you get a little older. Just the trip from Jamestown, TN, to Crossville, roughly 30 miles, felt like an eternity!

    July 14, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Biased climate agenda will cost trillions

    For anyone who has been educated in the history of science and scientific method, this whole issue of “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” is an embarrassing and painful exercise.

    July 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Time for an oil change

    The land of Iraq, earlier known as Mesopotamia, has a long history going back to Neanderthal times some 60,000 years ago. Later, around 10,000 years ago, it became the site for some of the most important developments in human history: the invention of the wheel, planting of cereal crops, the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture. Today it is recognized as one of the cradles of civilization.

    July 8, 2014

  • We the People: American women, be informed and vote

    Voting for today’s Republican Party and its Tea Party members, means you are voting against more than most realize.  This is especially true for women.

    July 8, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014