An Abundance Of Jacobs

Oct 7, 2018

The Jakes and Jacobs of the world have teamed up and are playing football for the University of Washington. Well, maybe not all of the Jakes and Jacobs, but several have made the team's roster.

The Huskies currently have four quarterbacks named Jake or Jacob. And if that doesn't make things confusing enough, two more Jacobs – a linebacker and a tight end – are suiting up for the purple and gold as well.

NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke with the Wall Street Journal's Jacob Gershman, who recently wrote an article about the name's popularity, in which he asks, "How bad is the Jacob glut?"

"They had this issue coming into the season – you know, 'If we want to be able to communicate with everybody on the team without causing confusion, we can't have everybody named Jake or Jacob,'" Gershman said.

The four quarterbacks worked it out among themselves to only allow one person to go by Jake, and that was senior Jake Browning.

"And the others had to go with either their last name or a shortened version of their last name. And I think, you know, I think they're all fine with it," Gershman said.

Jacob was the number one name given to boys from 1999 to 2012, according to the Social Security Administration. That's 13 years of Jacobs and Jakes.

The prevalence of the name may not be completely linked to its biblical namesake Jacob — patriarch of the 12 tribes of Israel.

In Gershman's article, Cleveland Evans, a Bellevue University psychology professor and author of The Great Big Book of Baby Names, cites 1970s movies such as Big Jake and Chinatown as likely factors in the uptick of babies named Jacob.

Now that many of them are entering college, the workforce and even dating apps, Gershman said the general public seems to be taking notice of the surge.

"They'd say, 'Oh god, there's so many Jakes, it's just, you know, why are there so many Jakes, Jacobs on Tinder," Gershman said.

Though Jacob has enjoyed a long run as a top baby name, Gershman said that in the future, it might be tough for any particular name to reach the same type of popularity.

"There are fewer names that are common," Gershman said. "There's more diversity. Parents are just more aggressively looking for something different. So if you're number one, it kind of puts a target on your back."

With a dwindling number of Jacobs now entering the world – it was replaced by Noah in 2013 an Liam is currently at the top — Gershman said all of the Jacobs need to stick together.

"You can either look at them as rivals or, you know ... join together and advocate for our Jacob rights," Gershman joked. "I think the more the merrier."

Sarah Handel and Viet Le produced and edited this story for broadcast. Cameron Jenkins adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Something's going on at the University of Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Go Huskies, go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jake Browning is the star quarterback for the Huskies. But get this, there are three more Huskies quarterbacks named Jake or Jacob.

JACOB GERSHMAN: They had this issue coming into the season. You know, if we want to be able to communicate with everybody on the team without causing confusion, we can't have everybody named Jake or Jacob.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Too many Jacobs - so the quarterbacks got together in a room and they settled it.

GERSHMAN: Only one of them got to be called Jake, and that was Jake Browning. And the others had to go with either their last name or a shortened version of their last name. And I think - you know, I think they're all fine with it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sure. They're fine with it, but there's still two more Jacobs on the team. That makes six Jakes and Jacobs wearing the purple and gold. So what gives? The person we've turned to for answers is yet another Jacob, Jacob Gershman. He wrote about this Jacob glut in The Wall Street Journal.

GERSHMAN: Jacob was the most popular name given to newborn boys starting in 1999.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: From there, it spent the next 12 years in the top spot, according to the Social Security Administration. That's 13 years of Jacobs, Jakes and Jakies (ph). And the oldest of the wave are now starting to enter college, the workplace and the world of dating apps. While researching his story, Gershman saw people online complaining about it.

GERSHMAN: They say, God. There's so many Jakes. It's just - you know, why are there so many Jakes, Jacobs on Tinder?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there really are. The dating app company told Gershman that Jake and Jacob combined make up the most popular men's name on Tinder. Going forward, though, Gershman doesn't think any one name will have this kind of run at the top of the charts.

GERSHMAN: There are fewer names that are common. There's more diversity. Parents are just more aggressively looking for something different. So if you're number one, it kind of puts a target on your back.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Still, we had to ask Jacob Gershman, who's 39, if he's worried about all those younger Jacobs nipping at his heels.

GERSHMAN: Look. You can either look at them as rivals or, you know, you say, we have to join together and advocate for our Jacob rights. I think the more, the merrier. I'm fine with a lot of Jacobs in the world. It's a good name.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that was The Wall Street Journal's Jacob Gershman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.