And now, something politically irrelevant…

We will shortly be inaugurating a President with three “funny-sounding” names (depending on where you’re from, and what you find funny.) Barack Hussein Obama. So what?

Well… None of those three names have ever been monikers applied to a sitting president. Trivia question: When was the last time a U.S. President brought not one, not two, but THREE brand new names to the office?

In 2001 George W. Bush brought ZERO new names to the office (George is an old one, and Walker and Bush were both done by W’s dad.)

In 1993 William Jefferson Clinton brought one new name to the office.

In 1989 George H. W. Bush brought two new names to the office – Walker and Bush.

In 1981 Ronald Wilson Reagan brought two – Wilson is the repeat.

In 1977 James Earl Carter brought two – James is the repeat.

In 1974 Gerald Rudolph Ford brought three new names. Woo-hoo! But we never got to vote for him. I declare that this doesn’t count.

In 1969 Richard Milhaus Nixon brought three new names… okay, we elected him. Yes, yes we did. So it’s been FORTY YEARS*.

A statistical analysis of name re-use frequency among U.S. Presidents might be interesting. What would be REALLY interesting would be if it predicted anything useful. Or anything more useful than “statisticians can predict anything once it has happened.”

(*Note: I could be wrong about “Richard” never showing up as a Presidential middle name. My cursory search did not reveal it. I know those guys by first and last names only, just like everybody else who studied U.S. Presidents in grade-school.)

30 thoughts on “And now, something politically irrelevant…”

  1. If John Sidney McCain got into office, he’d have 2 new names. If he died in office, we would have had 3 new names, as long as we don’t count first lady’s names. Sarah Louise Palin.

  2. If John Sidney McCain got into office, he’d have 2 new names. If he died in office, we would have had 3 new names, as long as we don’t count first lady’s names. Sarah Louise Palin.

  3. “Clinton” was a new name to the Presidency, but we’ve had a Vice President Clinton.

    Previous Presidents whose names were entirely new:

    Dwight David Eisenhower
    Harry S Truman
    Herbert Clark Hoover
    Warren Gamaliel Harding
    Theodore Roosevelet
    Stephen Grover Cleveland
    Chester Alan Arthur
    Rutherford Birchard Hayes
    Hiram Ulysses Simpson Grant
    Abraham Lincoln
    Franklin Pierce
    Millard Fillmore
    Zachary Taylor
    William Henry Harrison
    Martin Van Buren
    Andrew Jackson
    James Madison
    Thomas Jefferson
    John Adams
    George Washington

  4. “Clinton” was a new name to the Presidency, but we’ve had a Vice President Clinton.

    Previous Presidents whose names were entirely new:

    Dwight David Eisenhower
    Harry S Truman
    Herbert Clark Hoover
    Warren Gamaliel Harding
    Theodore Roosevelet
    Stephen Grover Cleveland
    Chester Alan Arthur
    Rutherford Birchard Hayes
    Hiram Ulysses Simpson Grant
    Abraham Lincoln
    Franklin Pierce
    Millard Fillmore
    Zachary Taylor
    William Henry Harrison
    Martin Van Buren
    Andrew Jackson
    James Madison
    Thomas Jefferson
    John Adams
    George Washington

  5. This sort of analysis sounds like the perfect premise for a Software Engineering interview.

    “Hi! You have 30 minutes, this txt file of president’s names, and python. Write me a program that prints out how many names each successive president had that wasn’t already in the set of names presidents had had at the time of their ascendency.”

    The first test is if they can do it. The second is how well they handle the case of Grover Cleveland.

    1. Based on a list of names as input, it’d be hard to differentiate between the Grover Cleveland case and a hypothetical case of two different Presidents with identicial names (either a father/son pair without different middle names, or simply a coincidence).

      1. (Note to self, don’t wrap attempts at offbeat closing jokes in program propositions: You’ve invoked logical analysis and you cannot escape.)

  6. This sort of analysis sounds like the perfect premise for a Software Engineering interview.

    “Hi! You have 30 minutes, this txt file of president’s names, and python. Write me a program that prints out how many names each successive president had that wasn’t already in the set of names presidents had had at the time of their ascendency.”

    The first test is if they can do it. The second is how well they handle the case of Grover Cleveland.

    1. Based on a list of names as input, it’d be hard to differentiate between the Grover Cleveland case and a hypothetical case of two different Presidents with identicial names (either a father/son pair without different middle names, or simply a coincidence).

      1. (Note to self, don’t wrap attempts at offbeat closing jokes in program propositions: You’ve invoked logical analysis and you cannot escape.)

  7. Being a Brit I had to go and check this out for British Monarchs (Prime Ministers are too easy, they seem to have lots of unique names.) All the monarchs of the 20th Century had names that were used before. Queen Victoria was the last new name, so that’s all the way back to 1837. Before that it’s George I, starting a tradition of Georges – we’ve had six of ’em now.

    Assuming Prince Charles ascends the throne, and uses the name Charles (they sometimes pick a different name, they have a stack of ’em) and then Prince William succeeds him, they’re both names already used more than once. Could be easily looking at 200 years since the last new name took the throne.

  8. Being a Brit I had to go and check this out for British Monarchs (Prime Ministers are too easy, they seem to have lots of unique names.) All the monarchs of the 20th Century had names that were used before. Queen Victoria was the last new name, so that’s all the way back to 1837. Before that it’s George I, starting a tradition of Georges – we’ve had six of ’em now.

    Assuming Prince Charles ascends the throne, and uses the name Charles (they sometimes pick a different name, they have a stack of ’em) and then Prince William succeeds him, they’re both names already used more than once. Could be easily looking at 200 years since the last new name took the throne.

  9. George Walker Bush, in fact, is the only President not to bring a new name to the list . . . unless you count the second presidency of Stephen Grover Cleveland.

    John Adams and Andrew Johnson are the only other two fully redundant names, but John Adams preceded his son and Andrew Johnson preceded Lyndon Baines Johnson. Which makes John Adams the only President whose name was both entirely new and is entirely redundant.

      1. If you remove John Adams from the list of presidents, the names “John” and “Adams” still appear in the list . . . several times in the case of John, but most notably because his son has both “John” and “Adams” in his name.

        Similarly, if you remove Andrew Johnson, you still have “Andrew” and “Johnson”, between Andrew Jackson and Lyndon Baines Johnson. If you remove George Walker Bush, “George”, “Walker”, and “Bush” remain on the list.

        As ralphmerridew pointed out, Thomas Jefferson (between Thomas Woodrow Wilson and William Jefferson Clinton) and GHW Bush (between his son and Herbert Hoover) also have fully-redundant names . .. though if you eliminate one of the Bushes, the other’s name is not fully-redundant.

  10. George Walker Bush, in fact, is the only President not to bring a new name to the list . . . unless you count the second presidency of Stephen Grover Cleveland.

    John Adams and Andrew Johnson are the only other two fully redundant names, but John Adams preceded his son and Andrew Johnson preceded Lyndon Baines Johnson. Which makes John Adams the only President whose name was both entirely new and is entirely redundant.

      1. If you remove John Adams from the list of presidents, the names “John” and “Adams” still appear in the list . . . several times in the case of John, but most notably because his son has both “John” and “Adams” in his name.

        Similarly, if you remove Andrew Johnson, you still have “Andrew” and “Johnson”, between Andrew Jackson and Lyndon Baines Johnson. If you remove George Walker Bush, “George”, “Walker”, and “Bush” remain on the list.

        As ralphmerridew pointed out, Thomas Jefferson (between Thomas Woodrow Wilson and William Jefferson Clinton) and GHW Bush (between his son and Herbert Hoover) also have fully-redundant names . .. though if you eliminate one of the Bushes, the other’s name is not fully-redundant.

  11. I’m pretty sure there was a VP named Richard (Richard Mentor Johnson).

    A while back, I counted and noticed that, among presidents, the most common first name appeared 6 times, the second-most appeared 5, the third-most 4, and the fourth-most 3. (Then there was a 3/4 way tie for fifth.)

  12. I’m pretty sure there was a VP named Richard (Richard Mentor Johnson).

    A while back, I counted and noticed that, among presidents, the most common first name appeared 6 times, the second-most appeared 5, the third-most 4, and the fourth-most 3. (Then there was a 3/4 way tie for fifth.)

  13. President Nixon, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein forever changed the relationship between the President and press. While the story needed to be told, I’m not certain the result is a good thing.

  14. President Nixon, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein forever changed the relationship between the President and press. While the story needed to be told, I’m not certain the result is a good thing.

Comments are closed.