Bush Twin Syndrome: Generation Gap Siblings


Barbara and Jenna Bush with India the cat on Jenna’s wedding day

Like Swistle (from Swistle Baby Names) I was always unsettled by the names of the Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna.

Swistle brought up the Bush twin example in response to a reader who is grappling with naming girl number two when girl number one’s name was a compromise name picked by dad.

In this case, as is often the case, the mom’s tastes are more contemporary than the dad’s. Now this mom fears her children will have generation gap names. FYI: Girl number one’s name is Shannon.

Should this expectant mother ignore clashing sibling names and pick what she loves or try to find a name that complements her older daughter’s name? Is there a middle ground? Swistle and her readers have come up with great suggestions, such as looking at names that were popular around the same time or have something else in common with Shannon such as Celtic origins or double letters. It’s a great read.

Siblings—especially twins—with generation gap names drive me bonkers! I’m a name nerd after all.

With the Bush twins, I always assumed Barbara was honoring (after George W’s mother) and Jenna was the name they really wanted.

I had briefly considered that Jenna could have been honoring, but dismissed that possibility out of hand, since the name never really became common until shortly after the Bush twins were born in 1981.

Imagine my shock when I learned, from a thoughtful Swistle reader, that Jenna was also an honoring name, the name of Laura Bush’s mother, Jenna Hawkins.

Jenna Hawkins was born in 1919. That year Jenna almost didn’t make the Social Security baby name data. For privacy reasons, the Social Security Administration will not count a name in its database if fewer than five were born that year. In 1919 there were only six newborn girls on record* named Jenna.

How surprising! And now the Bush twins’ names make more sense.

*Many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card and therefore are not counted in the Social Security baby name data. 

Photo credit


  1. Thanks for passing on that tidbit! The seeming name-clash always bothered me, too…and I always felt sorry for the one “stuck” with Barbara.

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