Patty (Photo by Jonathan Borba)

The story of my name, so I was told by my father, is as follows: When my mom was pregnant with me, they were discussing names. My dad mentioned that he liked the name Patty for a girl, as every Patty he had ever known was very bubbly and upbeat. As you would expect, I have never been bubbly a day in my life and, even more oddly, none of the other Patricias or Pattys/Pattis/Patties I have met (both my age and older) have been particularly bubbly, either. Most of them were perfectly nice, but bubbly? No.

In response to this apparently false observation, my mother reminded him that her mother’s name was Patricia. She died when my mom was five, so I have no solid evidence on her level of bubbliness either way, but given what I do know about her life, I somewhat doubt it. Thus, I became Patricia, called Patty my whole life.

I bring this up because, this past Friday, the Social Security Administration released the baby name rankings for 2020. As a lifelong name nerd, this is always a big event for me. The months-long delay in the release last year pained me greatly, so I was pleased when they came out on time this year. Or I was, until I went to see where Patricia ranked, and it didn’t come up in the top 1000 names.

The year I was born, Patricia was ranked number 101. 3,419 American girls (of which I was one, obviously) were named Patricia. From 1930–1966, it was one of the top girls’ names in the nation, always ranked in the top ten (though Linda and Mary kept it from ever reaching number one). When looking at all of the women born over the last 100 years, Patricia is the second-most common female name in the United States, second only to Mary. Patricia had ranked in the top 1000 since 1886.

That said, Patricia’s fall from grace was not unexpected. It had been on a slow but steady decline since 1967. Last year, it ranked at 942 — I knew the end was nigh. And really, I get it. I think Patricia is a solid name with numerous nickname options, and it certainly fits me. That said, would I ever name a kid Patricia? Nope. It’s not my taste, and my taste in names is generally of the “kings and queens of England” variety. Unfortunately, it isn’t a timeless name like Mary or Elizabeth — it’s dated; the baby boomers’ Jennifer or Ashley. That said, I’m still a little sad. After all, I am a name snob and would much rather have Patricia in the top 1000 over Aspyn (#901) or Oakleigh (#860).

Of course, Patricia’s not down for good. 212 babies born in 2020 were named Patricia, and while that’s certainly not a lot (for reference, names in the top 300 spots all have over 1,000), it is more babies than were named Jurnee or Lakelyn, which I feel pretty good about. And it’s sitting in good company with names like Rosalind (one of my favorites, and given to 152 babies), Beatriz (114 babies), and Antonia (198 babies). In other words, Patricia is almost a truly unique name now (keep that in mind, wannabe creative and unique parents).

We’ll close with some etymology for Patricia. It comes from the Latin Patricius, meaning “nobleman.” That’s right, Patricia is unique, exclusive, and high-end. And if that doesn’t make you feel better, it was ranked number 410 in Ireland.

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