January 20, 2007

angels in america

The New York Times reports that Angel is now the most popular name for boys of Hispanic origin in New York City (nationally, it ranks 32nd, just behind José). So, why is this news?
In New York, the nation’s proverbial melting pot, a traditional Spanish name has not been No. 1, even among Hispanic boys, since the mid-1980s, when José ranked first. (José is still ahead of Angel nationally, in 30th place.) Instead, Hispanic parents generally choose decidedly Anglo names, like Kevin and Justin.
Other top names for Hispanic boys were decidedly non-Hispanic, among them Anthony, Christopher, Justin, Joshua, David, Daniel, Kevin, Michael and Jonathan. The most popular names for Hispanic girls in 2005 were Ashley, Emily, Isabella, Jennifer and Mia. Other top names in NYC in 2005 were were Emily and Ryan for Asian babies, Kayla and Joshua for Afro-American babies, and Sarah and Michael for non-Hispanic white babies.

What's so special about Angel?

“It is today’s perfect compromise name,” he [=Cleveland Kent Evans, the president of the American Name Society] said, “for those who want to emphasize their Hispanic heritage and yet assimilate into the larger society at the same time.”

Héctor R. Cordero-Guzmán, the chairman of the Department of Black and Hispanic Studies at Baruch College, said Angel was suggestive of “qualities mothers would like their children to have or is somewhat eponymous. The levels of religiosity in the Latino community, I think, also add to the popularity of the name.

“I do not think the increase in the name reflects increasing (or decreasing) ‘nationalism’, nor is there a particularly popular figure in music or film or TV that would explain the sudden jump in the name,” he said. “When Latino parents look for names they look for names that can be pronounced well in both Spanish and English.”

Nice explanation, except that it only seems to work for boys' names.

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