When the births of the so-called Generation Xers began and ended remains a subject of debate, but the range generally starts in the mid-‘60s and runs through the early ‘80s. The period when the name “Jennifer” reigned supreme as America’s favorite girls’ name covers about the same time frame. According to the Social Security Administration’s Baby Names data, Jennifer slowly crept up from obscurity beginning in 1938. It entered the Top 20 in 1965, and hit the No. 1 spot by 1970. There it stayed for 14 years.1 (If you want to know how common your name has been in America, visit the SSA’s Baby Names page. Under “Popularity of a Name,” enter yours and then select a timeframe. I chose “1900 and later.”)
I came along relatively early in the Jen/GenX years. I don’t know why all those other parents chose the name for their daughters, but my mother says mine was a compromise. She claims her first choice, Carrie, was nixed on the grounds that, combined with my last name (Sansbury), it sounded too sing-songy. The movie “The Summer of ‘42,” starring CoverGirl spokesmodel Jennifer O’Neill, had hit theaters just a few short months before I was born and made an impression on my parents. My middle name came from The Left Banke’s 1966 hit “Walk Away Renee.” I guess that makes me the namesake of a celebrity and a song.
Growing up, I got a kick out of telling the story of my pop culture-inspired name — especially because so many of my classmates didn’t know what, if anything, inspired theirs.
Do you have an interesting story about how you got your name? Please leave a comment and tell me about it!
1. Social Security Administration, “Popular Baby Names,” database,
(https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/ : accessed 16 Jan 2018), Popularity of a Name search for Jennifer, 1900 and later.