Obviously, I got the name “Susan” from my parents. But why did they pick it?
Over the years, I pieced together the story. My practical, rational parents always planned ahead — with one superstitious exception. They had four children in all, and they stalwartly believed it was bad luck to think too much about a baby before it was born. They didn’t want to know the sex or anything else ahead of time.
In fact, it was bad luck just to think about possible names.
But laws require babies to be given names promptly. So after every birth, my parents needed to make a fast decision. In my case, after a long labor, they were both frazzled, and they chose the first thing that came to mind. As it happened, “Susan” reached an apogee in popularity that year, bestowed on 47,402 babies. That name came to mind first.
It’s an okay name, from the Hebrew word meaning “lily,” but every time I’m among women my age, at least two of us will be named Susan. I’d prefer something less common. It’s possible to guess my age from my name — much like the babies born today being named Emma, Olivia, Liam, and Noah. Names come and go in fashion.
Writers can hint at a character’s age by picking a popular name from their birth year. Betty, Jennifer, Christopher, and Joshua all had their day. For the United States, the Social Security Agency provides detailed statistics for the names registered each year.