On the occasion of his 85th birthday

Bob has been one of the most common boy's names used in Europe since the 13th century. Well, Robert has been. However, most have been as Bob. Bobby, Rob, and Robby than Robert. In addition, as to the nicknames, Bob tops the list.

Currently, Bob (if you grant me), ranks eightieth in popularity for newborn males. The Census Bureau also tells us, it ranked number 1 in popularity for newborn males between 1924 and 1939, that is when Bob was born.

But, we know that Bob is still #1. We just know it. Intuitively. Completely. However, as Bob might ask, how can we be sure?

Because, I have done the research. I can share with you the methodology that leads to the conclusion. Objectively. Completely. Indubitably.

Consider, Bob is one of the few male names whose spelling is the same forward or backward: Forward: Bob. Backward: Bob. Pretty good.

But my friends have pointed out another such male name: Otto. Forward: Otto. Backward: Otto. This makes Bobs and Ottos equally distinctive. Maybe. Distinctive is good, but let's keep at it.

There are certainly some pretty impressive Ottos. Otto Preminger, Otto von Bismark, Bob's old Professor--Carl OTTO Friederich, Otto Graham, Otto Kerner, and Otto Klemperer, and one might add Mel Ott(o) as well. But, good enough?

Consider this list of Bobs: Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Bob Gibson, Bob Griese, Bob Richarson, Bob Turley, Note also that Bob was the most popular of major league baseball players in the 1930s. Furthermore, I think Bobs were responsible for a disproportionate share of double plays too, but baseball stats are not up to speed here. For sure, though, a disproportionate number of 20 game winning pitchers in a season from 1960-2010 were named Bob. Coincidence? I think not.

So, it's a tie: Otto and Bob. Bob and Ottto. Distinctive names. Distinctive carriers. Still, consider one more factor.

All good scholars know that all things equal, a shorter explanation is better than a longer one. So, the tie breaker: Otto and Bob. The latter name is more parsimonious, more compact, 3 to 4. Both names are distinctive. Both have illustrious holders. But Bob is unique.

Of course, we all knew this, but in social science, what we most often do is nail down the obvious.

Bob. Congratulations on your eighty-fifth birthday. You are not only distinctive, but unique.

On this occasion, I am honored to call you a friend for over fifty years.

Malcolm Feeley