Demographics is destiny, as my friend and occasional Spanish translator Marlene Braga reminds us. As counted by the Census and reported in The New York Times, even as Smith remains the most popular surname in the land, with 2.4 million of us, our ranks are indeed in decline.* Meanwhile, many Spanish surnames on the move. Hot on the heels of Smith are Garcia (No. 8, up from the 18th spot) and Rodriguez (all the way to No. 9 from 22nd place—and one of them has quite a big contract). Says the Newspaper of Record:
Demographers pointed to more than one factor in explaining the increase in Hispanic surnames.
Generations ago, immigration officials sometimes arbitrarily Anglicized or simplified names when foreigners arrived from Europe.
“The movie studios used to demand that their employees have standard Waspy names,” said Justin Kaplan, an historian and co-author of The Language of Names.
“Now, look at Renée Zellweger,” Mr. Kaplan said.
Exactly. And so to Ms. Zellweger and the Garcias of the world we say: Todos tenemos una historia.
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*SMITH ranks, however, are in the rise.
Jerry Garcia from Flickr user Janesdead.
Gael Garcia Bernal from Flickr user Osei.