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Heptune's Baby Names for March, 2001

Names of the Presidents, Part IX: Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton

by Brenna Lorenz

 A lot of babies are named after United States presidents, especially today, where we see girls called Madison, Kennedy, Taylor and Tyler. So we thought we'd go through the whole list of presidential names, and see how (and if) they are used as baby names. We started in April with Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, continued in May with Presidents Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, and Harrison, in June with Tyler, Polk, Taylor, and Fillmore, in October with Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln and Johnson, in November with Grant, Hayes, Garfield and Arthur, in December with Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt and Taft, in January with Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, and in February with Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon.

 Upon the resignation of Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal in 1974, his vice president, Gerald Ford, became the first American president who never ran for office as either president or vice president. Ford had replaced Spiro Agnew, Nixon's original vice president. Ford's surname is an English name referring to "someone who lives near a ford or river crossing." The name has never been particularly popular as a given name, and seems to have peaked as such at the beginning of the 20th Century. Although I have not found any examples of Ford being used for girls, feminine forms such as Fordan and Fordellia exist. I have not found any examples of usage of the name in connection with President Ford.

 Ford was defeated by Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. Carter was cursed with a bickering cabinet, the energy crisis and the Iran hostage crisis. His surname is of Middle English origin and means "a transporter of goods." Usage of the name as a given name for boys goes back to the early 19th Century, and it has enjoyed moderate but steady use to the present day. There is no obvious connection with President Carter.

 In 1980, Carter was defeated in his bid for reelection by Republican Ronald Reagan. America's first divorced president, Reagan served for two terms, surviving an assassination attempt. According to Hanks and Hodges, A Dictionary of Surnames, Reagan's name is an Anglicized form of the Irish name Ó Riagáin,  meaning "son of Riagán." Riagan is of uncertain origin, but might mean "impulsive, quick-tempered." As a given name, Reagan is used for both girls and boys, and has been moderately popular since the 1960s. The name had been used for boys very sporadically since the late 1800s. The rise to popularity in the sixties, some 15 or so years before Ronald Reagan was elected president, suggests that he is not responsible for the name's usage as a given name.

 Reagan was succeeded in the presidency by his vice president, George Bush. Bush served one term during which he conducted the Persian Gulf War. His surname is of Middle English origin and simply means "dweller near a bush." I have found only two examples of the use of this surname as a given name for boys, one for a boy born in 1857 in Arkansas, and the other for a Tennessean born around the turn of the 20th Century. Obviously, these two individuals had no connection to President Bush, or to his son, George W. Bush, the current president.

 George Bush was defeated for reelection by Democrat Bill Clinton in 1994. Clinton brought the United States an era of economic prosperity and scandal, and was the second president to be impeached. Clinton's surname is derived from Old English roots and means "from the enclosed settlement." The name has been in steady use as a boy's name since the early 1800s. The feminine form Clintontina has also been recorded. Usage of the name does not have any obvious correlation with President Clinton.

 And this concludes our analysis of the use of presidental surnames as given names in the United States.

    Variations: (m) Forde, Forden
    Variations: (f) Fordan, Fordellia

    Variations: (m) Reagen, Regan, Regen, Regin
    Variations: (f) Raigen, Ragin, Regan, Regana, Regen

    Variations: (m) Clent, Clinnt, Clint
    Variation: (f) Clintontine

Go back to February's names: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon.
Go to April's names: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas.
Return to Heptune's Journal of Lore and Levity!
Return to Heptune's Baby Names Central.
Check out Names from the Ocean!
Read about A Tragedy Told in Names.
Check out Names in Early Jazz and Blues.

Published 3/1/01.
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