From the Desk of Jay Rainey – September 9, 2022

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to catch up with two of our Upper School students on the north-south path behind Olson Hall just after classes had ended. We walked and talked about their day as cross country runners warmed up on the lawn to our left and field hockey players gathered down the hill to our right. After a minute or two, one of them asked me, “Mr. Rainey, do you know my name?” The question is not as presumptuous as it sounds. Indeed, it is one I hear from students often—almost as an invitation to a parlor game—having made no secret of my interest in knowing every one of them. “No,” I admitted, “I do not. I fell out of practice when we were all wearing masks for so long. But if you remind me of your names now, I will not forget them.”

It’s been a while since I took a comprehensive look at all of our student names at MICDS, and after this conversation on Wednesday, I decided it was time for a refresher. You might be interested to know that “A” is the most common first-name initial by a wide margin. We have 186 “A” names, 103 “M” names, 102 “S” names, and 99 “C” names across grades JK-12. On the other end of the spectrum, we have only eight “Y” names, two “Q” names, and one “U” name—and we have no “X” names at all. If any of you happens to know a young Xavier, Xeno, or Xerxes, please encourage them to submit an application to MICDS!

Taken as a whole, beyond the first initial, MICDS student names include 1,100 “A” letters in total. “E” is the next most frequent letter with 771 instances, followed by “I” with 568. “N” is the most common consonant in our students’ names, occurring 548 times. The least common letter is “Q,” with four instances. Next most unusual is “F,” which shows up only 27 times in all of our students’ names. “Z” is rare, too, with just 29 appearances.

Regarding the names themselves, Henry, Max, and Ellie are most common at MICDS, with 14, 11, and 10 students, respectively, so known. After these, Cooper and Hannah are represented nine times apiece on our student rosters, and Abby, Alex, Andrew, Ava, Charlie, Chloe, Jack, and Kate appear eight times each. The popularity of names ebbs and flows over time, of course—we enroll no Clarence or Ethel at MICDS today, nor any Minnie or Seymour—so it is interesting to compare frequency by birth year. Our oldest students, born between 2004 and 2008, are most commonly named Alex, Chloe, Ellie, Hannah, Henry, and Max. Students born between 2009 and 2013 are most commonly named Abby, Cooper, Henry, and Ryan. Among our youngest students, born between 2014 and 2018, Alex (four instances), Henry (three instances), and Charlie, Cooper, Ellie, Elliot, Evelyn, Jack, and Oliver (two instances each) are the most common names. (In case you are curious, the most popular baby names in the United States from 2004 to 2018 were, in rank order, Jacob, Emma, Michael, Isabella, and Olivia.)

As for name length, the average among MICDS students is 5.4 letters. Five-letter names are most common, followed by six-letter names, followed by four-letter names. In the double digits, we only have four: one 10-letter name, one 11-letter name, and two 13-letter names.

I would suggest that two findings from this exercise are most important: that students with highly-represented names—names that begin with “A,” or names with five letters, or names like Henry, Max, and Ellie—should know that they are connected with those who share these identifiers with them; and that students with less common names or name attributes—the initial “U,” or any occurrence of “Q,” or a two-letter length—should know that they are possessed of special qualities. In most cases, our students’ names simultaneously embody universal and unique traits, and in this way manifest the broader balance of community and individuality that we inhabit at MICDS. Five letters is the most common name length among our students, and yet 71% of them have shorter or longer names. “A” is the most common initial, and yet 85% of student names begin with a different letter. Henry, Max, and Ellie are the most common names on campus, and yet over 97% of our students are called something else.

I have just queried our student directory for names selected at random, and it has given me these: Nathaniel, Madeline, Rama, Graham, and Luke. 12 MICDS students bear these five names. I have just queried it again: Tyler, Katie, Alexa, Mia, Oliver. 23 students bear these five names. One more time: Abel, Finn, Mae, Joseph, Bizzy. Only six students bear these five names. Our universality and our uniqueness alike are our strength. What a joy it is to endeavor to know our students fully, and to encourage them to know themselves fully.

Always reason, always compassion, always courage. My best wishes to you and your families for a very happy weekend.

Jay Rainey
Head of School

This week’s addition to the “Refrains for Rams” playlist: Grow by Samm Henshaw, along with, in light of the passing of Queen Elizabeth yesterday, Her Majesty by The Beatles, a song for whose namesake Paul McCartney performed with affection in June 2002 (Apple Music / Spotify)