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What we can learn from the most popular baby names in Alberta

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Why couldn't mom and dad have named us Zeus and Apollo? Image: FOTO:FORTEPAN/Kölcsey Ferenc Dunakeszi Városi Könyvtár/Petanovics fényképek/Creative Commons

It's been a long run of bad news for Alberta's United Conservative Party government, so it must have seemed like a nice change of pace for those who toil in the government's communications brain trust to have the chance to write up an upbeat news release about last year's most popular baby names.

Nate Glubish, Alberta's most junior cabinet member in both rank and calendar years, was recruited to do the annual honours yesterday, complete with a cute slide show of snapshots of some of the 49,030 babies born in Alberta in 2020.

As is traditional, the government annually publishes a list of boys' names and girls' names -- there were 25,160 new Albertans on the first list and 23,870 on the second. We shall return to this question in a moment. But so as not to be a bad sport about this, I'll cut right to the Chase (reported 21 times, all boys) and name the most popular names now.

The most popular name on the girls' list was Olivia (236), No. 1 for the fifth straight year. The most popular name on the boys' list was Noah (239). Readers can look up the rest of the top 10 lists' entries for themselves by reading the news release and discovering what the communications professionals thought were the most interesting and engaging statistics to rattle off.

With a nod and a wink to a certain segment the UCP's base, the government's cheerful communications team remarked upon how positivity -- names like Faith, Hope and Charity -- appealed to some parents. To be fair, no one suggested that the greatest of these was Charity.

Indeed, as may befit Jason Kenney's Alberta, Charity was the least of these in 2020, with only two babies so named. The greatest of these, as it turns out, was Faith (21), followed by Hope (17). Perhaps in a sign of the times, there was only one Chastity. There was only a single Prudence, as well, although it would be imprudent to draw too many conclusions from that factoid.

As there is no historical or cultural reason why names describing such qualities as Faith, Hope and Charity -- or for that matter Chastity (1), Poverty (0) or Obedience (0) -- should be specifically assigned to one gender, the question arises whether we should even have a boys' list and a girls' list.

Isn't it time, in the spirit of the age, to simply publish a single, annual, ungendered top 10 list of Alberta baby names?*

Someone at the virtual news conference -- perhaps the last one the Kenney government will hold -- certainly should have asked Glubish that question.

In the event, though, there were no questions at all. News conference staff sounded quite plaintive waiting for someone, anyone, to speak up. Perhaps it was just too hot to put in the effort.

Media that covered the event pretty well left it to the news release writers to do the writing for them -- not a bad outcome from the government's perspective, but one that leaves Albertans without explanations to several pressing questions and no chance for Glubish, who seems like a polite young man, to demonstrate he is capable of handling a more challenging portfolio.

For example, why are so many children in Alberta named after gods? Athena (55), Odin (24), Apollo (8), Minerva (2), Zeus (1), Thor (1), and Aphrodite (1), for example. Surely there is a PhD thesis for some aspiring sociologist in these divine revelations! This year, disappointingly, there was no Jesus chris10ed in Alberta. A chance for Jesus to return will come again next year.

By the way, there are 19 new Angels among us -- 15 girls and four boys.

Finally, and this is a pressing question that Glubish really should have been asked as well.

Why are Olivia (236, remember) and Jack (169, and No. 6 on the boys' list) on each top 10 List over the past five years as well?

Surely this is a question with political implications for a government run by so many men named Jason. Jason (34) lagged Jack and Olivia significantly in 2020, but was statistically too close to Rachel (29) to draw any conclusions.

I noticed no Jagmeets, only 18 Justins and five Erins -- all of them on the girls' list.

* You are being trolled, oh thin-skinned foes of "political correctness" and "cancel culture." Please do rise to the challenge! 

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.

Image credit: FOTO:FORTEPAN/Kölcsey Ferenc Dunakeszi Városi Könyvtár/Petanovics fényképek/Creative Commons

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