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More babies named Barack

Last year Conan O’Brien joked of then-candidate Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East: “Obama says he’s excited about the trip -- mainly because he’s looking forward to meeting other people named Barack Obama.”

Obama won’t have to go that far anymore.

The 44th president’s forename, once a rarity in American hospital nurseries, has made what is believed to be a record leap in popularity this year, according to the Social Security Administration, which on Friday released its lists of the United States’ top 1,000 baby names for girls and boys in 2008.

Though Barack didn’t crack the top 1,000, it did skyrocket from No. 12,535 in 2007 to No. 2,409 last year.

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That leaves Barack considerably behind male names like Uriah (No. 697), Zaire (No. 844) and Blaze (No. 866). And he’s nowhere near No. 1 Jacob. But if the craze holds up, Social Security officials say, Barack looks likely to crack the top 1,000 this year.

If so, it will be another measure of the journey that the name, like the man himself, has made from the far reaches of American consciousness to the center of the culture.

The president was named for his father, Barack Obama Sr., a Kenyan from the Luo tribe who was born on the shores of Lake Victoria. The name “Barack” is a Swahili version of the Arabic word for “blessed.”

The president’s middle name is Hussein, which did not make the list of the top 1,000 boys’ names.

According to the Social Security Administration, the names of Obama’s wife and daughters lag well behind No. 1 Emma (which dethroned Emily after a 12-year run). Sasha sank from 351 to 363 on the list of girls’ names, and Michelle dropped from 94 to 103. But the name Malia jumped from 400 to 345.

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richard.fausset@latimes.com


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