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The Name Voyager by Martin Wattenberg
February 8, 2005 6:58 AM   Subscribe

Names in Time [babyfilter]
Martin Wattenberg has crafted an elegant interactive visualization of this baby-name data (discussed mefiwise here ). Martin's work discussed here before: 1 2 3
posted by e.e. coli (70 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting and pretty. Take a look at K and see how it exploded in the last decade or two.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:22 AM on February 8, 2005


That is hella cool. Thanks for the link!
posted by contessa at 7:23 AM on February 8, 2005


Crashes Safari every time (os 10.2.8) when I start to type, java doesn't load with firefox... not mac friendly or just me?
posted by HuronBob at 7:26 AM on February 8, 2005


Very nice. I'm surprised Max and Zack are ranked so low - it seems like everybody names their boys that.
posted by fungible at 7:31 AM on February 8, 2005


I referee mostly U13 soccer matches and it's apparently a Federal law that every girls team must contain at least two Ashleys, Emilys and Laurens.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 7:31 AM on February 8, 2005


That's a very fun tool.
Also, I was appalled to note that my name is now in the top 100, while it was about 700th when I was born, and has always been an odd/memorable name. For some reason, the thought of eventually running into a lot of people 20 years younger than me who have my name sort of gives me the creeps.
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:36 AM on February 8, 2005


Wow, this is amazing. It's exactly what my husband and I needed when we were looking for baby names, but we couldn't have even articulated the need. Every time we would think of a name, we'd look at the data for every year on the social security database, trying to get a feel for what the trend was, whether it was becoming more or less popular.

I am just so excited by how good information design brings data to life.
posted by eileen at 7:38 AM on February 8, 2005


Fascinating. My own name peaked in popularity in the 80s, and is now on a slow slide into obscurity.
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:38 AM on February 8, 2005


Beautiful.

HuronBob: works on Safari for me.
posted by gwint at 7:42 AM on February 8, 2005


names as art - great post!
posted by bluesky43 at 7:51 AM on February 8, 2005


Holy Crap! My name has practically gone extinct!
posted by sourwookie at 7:59 AM on February 8, 2005


Holy Crap! My name has practically gone extinct!

Well, we considered naming our daughter Sourwookie, but my mother-in-law objected.
posted by mmahaffie at 8:06 AM on February 8, 2005


Heh. Krystle and Fallon are just mid 80s spikes, but Alexis kept going.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:07 AM on February 8, 2005


I love the fact that Xander and Willow show up on the list in the '90s, thereby confirming the existence of Buffy fans as hardcore as me. ("Buffy" herself shows up briefly in the '70s, then disappears.)
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:13 AM on February 8, 2005


Beautiful idea. Really impressive.
posted by coelecanth at 8:13 AM on February 8, 2005


Fascinating. My own name peaked in popularity in the 80s, and is now on a slow slide into obscurity.

My given name peaked in 1900 (or earlier) and has been on the slide ever since. Seems to be off the radar now. Elmer is more popular these days!
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:18 AM on February 8, 2005


This is really addictive. Who was "Stoney" that caused a tiny blip in the early 60s?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:19 AM on February 8, 2005


Ulises!? WTF?
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:29 AM on February 8, 2005


And Lars was mildly popular throughout the 60s and 70s and then went away again.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:32 AM on February 8, 2005


Just as I suspected, Ella and Jackson have made some astounding leaps -- Jackson form 656 in the 1970s to 52 in 2003 and Ella from 662 in the 90s to 44 in '03 -- confirming the anecdotal trends of the aspiring yupsters in my local playgroupland.
How did Ella get plugged back into the mainstream so suddenly?!
posted by chandy72 at 8:35 AM on February 8, 2005


A definite Kirk spike in the 60s. Creepy!

Typing in LAT brings up all the clichéd ghetto names. They seemed to have dissapeared after in the 90s.

And there were no Mohammeds born before the 1980s?
posted by Harry at 8:37 AM on February 8, 2005


Every time we would think of a name, we'd look at the data for every year on the social security database, trying to get a feel for what the trend was, whether it was becoming more or less popular.

See, what we really need is a good hash function for identifying new humans with unique IDs, minimizing collisions within demographics likely to have to deal with each other.

Now, I know what you're thinking: hash codes are too hard to remember! Well, we just use the hash as a generating string for a easily memorizable name, so "P123A32S4362JZ56" becomes "Princess Adolph Stradlater Jamiroquai Zwanzighausen".
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:38 AM on February 8, 2005


Britney, Brittney, Britany, Brittany, Brittani, Britannnie, Britni. Enough already.

Sunshine hippie spike. hmm that would be a good name for a band
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:40 AM on February 8, 2005


The visualization is great. An interesting addition would be some way to aggregate the various spellings of a name to see how these have evolved over time.
posted by Songdog at 8:58 AM on February 8, 2005


Deborah peaked in the 1950s, almost no usage in 2003. Not exactly a bad thing.

Crashed Firefox 1.0, fine with IE 6.0
posted by deborah at 9:04 AM on February 8, 2005


Our friends gave birth to the first Hazle in about 75 years, it seems.
posted by me3dia at 9:05 AM on February 8, 2005


For the poster who was wondering about Ulises, it's spanish form of Ulysses or Odysseus. Hektor is also popular, and quite an excellent name.

Since these are demographic trends from Social Security databases, they should be reflective of trends of immigration and increases in the population of various linguistic and cultural influences.
posted by mikojava at 9:11 AM on February 8, 2005


I've always wondered about that huge spike in the popularity of Jason in the 1970's. Anybody know what that's about?
posted by sklero at 9:17 AM on February 8, 2005


ITheCosmos - my fiancee has a name which exploded in popularity for little boys who are now about 7 and under. It always cracks me up in stores when an irate mother yells his name and he immediately looks guilty.

Plus, we figure 20 years from now if he has to send out resumes, he'll look young but with a ton of experience and that might work in his advantage.
posted by arabelladragon at 9:25 AM on February 8, 2005


I love the explosions in names that start with uncommon letters: Q, X, Y, and Z .
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 9:42 AM on February 8, 2005


Also, type in "LAT" for the crazy 70s and 80s spike in names like Latoya, Latonya, Latosha, Latasha, Latisha and Latrice. And notice that they have *all* dropped off the top 1000.

Ooh... weird. I also just noticed "Nevaeh" which is currently number 150. Can't figure it out? It's "heaven" backwards...
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 9:52 AM on February 8, 2005


Heh. Krystle and Fallon are just mid 80s spikes, but Alexis kept going.

I'm an Alexis, born 1969, when it was #395. Nobody thought it was a girl's name, and my social life took a minor hit in elementary school when a lunch lady revealed that there was a famous Russian wrestler named Alexis.

The 80's were rough. I heard, "Oh, like on Dynasty?" a lot. In the 90's, it was "Oh, like the car?"

The people who named their kids after the bitchy joan collins dynasty character in the 80s had poorly behaved toddlers. For a while there I couldn't venture into Target without hearing my name screamed in the aisles.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:54 AM on February 8, 2005


Wow. Look at the spikes for Elvis.

Checking my name (Crystal), it peaked in the 70's and 80's at #36 and #21 but yet I never met another one in school until my last year of high school.
posted by chickygrrl at 10:00 AM on February 8, 2005


This is perfect, as baby names weigh heavily on my mind these days. We want something slightly retro, nice, and not too popular, and this visualization gives us all that.

While I was searching the Am... names, I shouldn't be surprised but I still am when I noticed since 2001 there has been a spike in babies named "America"
posted by mathowie at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2005


Well, lets see... "Meta" rang in the century at #371, and dropped from there. So:

Retro - Check. It peaked in 1900.
Not too popular - Check. It's been out of the top 1000 since 1920.
Nice - Well, check, of course.

I think we have a winner.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 10:08 AM on February 8, 2005


Very impressive.

Bravo.

I too wish this had been available/known to me 1.5 years ago. Would have been much easier than digesting those damnable Social Security lists.

Mathowie: those were nearly our same criteria. An "established" name, easy to spell and pronounce, but yet not overly popular. Having to go through life either as "John S." or "Mary 2" or whatever would be excruciating, and having your name mispronounced every day and having to constantly correct people would be no better.

On preview: Lazlo's right. I think you have to go with "Meta" at least for a middle name. Come on matt, chance of a lifetime!
posted by Ynoxas at 10:16 AM on February 8, 2005


This is perfect, as baby names weigh heavily on my mind these days. We want something slightly retro, nice, and not too popular, and this visualization gives us all that.

Heh. Been there, done that.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:27 AM on February 8, 2005


This is really beautiful.

How did Ella get plugged back into the mainstream so suddenly?!

It's similar to Emma, which according to various sources is either #1 or #2 in the U.S. right now ... some people, in search of a "unique yet familiar" name, gravitate toward names that sound like names in the Top 10 but aren't quite as common. (I think Lydia is getting a similar boost from Olivia, as is Amelia from Emily.)

I'm thinking about these things way too much; I'm due in about four weeks or (yikes!) sooner. We instituted a 50/50 Rule: the first name shouldn't be in the current top 50 (at least as of 2003, the latest year the SSA gives), but also should be something that could have been given to a baby 50 years ago. (So no Nevaeh -- or even Neveah, its common variant: "Haeven" backward!) I promise we won't use Meta, though.
posted by lisa g at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2005


Well, this settles it, I'm naming my first-born son 'Buster'.
posted by saladin at 10:47 AM on February 8, 2005


Ok: Trinity - #57 in 2003

Christian spike or geek spike? Or both?
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 11:10 AM on February 8, 2005


My father-in-law is to blame for the popularity of the name Madison for girls. It's #3 in the US right now, and #2 both last year and the year before that.

I'd like to apologize to the country on his behalf, but I can't--his wife, my mother-in-law, seems to be set on it being her first granddaughter's name...
posted by Asparagirl at 11:12 AM on February 8, 2005


Also check out the popularity of Trinity lately....hmm wonder ife neo is also high?

On preview: damny you lazlo
posted by Numenorian at 11:26 AM on February 8, 2005


Upon more review/preview, I should actually review my post:
if
*not*
ife

and

damn

*not*

damny

Looks like I picked a bad day to quit sniffin' glue
posted by Numenorian at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2005


So that's what caused the downfall of the Men of the West.
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:37 AM on February 8, 2005


I wish he broke down the name data by states. There is some weird stuff going on there. I once did a small state-wise analysis and found for example that "Kevin" (an Irish name) is in the top 5 name in Puerto Rico, even though it doesn't make the top 5 in any US state. What is going on there?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:44 AM on February 8, 2005


Liberty also peaks like America.
posted by graventy at 12:23 PM on February 8, 2005


This is perfect, as baby names weigh heavily on my mind these days. We want something slightly retro, nice, and not too popular, and this visualization gives us all that.

Congrats, mathowie. A baby mefi on the way!
posted by tidecat at 12:51 PM on February 8, 2005


Oh, and why do all of the vowel names have the same mid-century sag?
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 1:14 PM on February 8, 2005


This is the best thing I've seen all day.

Just when I thought I'd exhausted all the time-wasting possibilities on SSA.gov.
posted by exceptinsects at 1:42 PM on February 8, 2005


Then there's Jennifer, #1 in the 1970s and still holding on, whose entire popularity arose, I believe, from the character in Eric Segal's Love Story. (So how come "Oliver" didn't get a Love Story bounce?)
posted by Creosote at 2:22 PM on February 8, 2005


I was gratified to see that the 60s-70s Jen/Amy/Sarah explosion was wider-spread than just my undergrad campus.
posted by COBRA! at 2:31 PM on February 8, 2005


Names such as Barbara, Betty, Linda, Nancy, Lisa, and Patricia -- did they just snowball by chance, or can you think of famous early examples (real or fictional) that probably helped them along?

And how come it took until the 1970s for Adolph to fall off the chart?
posted by pracowity at 3:10 PM on February 8, 2005


Names that take huge nosedives: Adolf/Adolph, Monica, Mona, Dick, any others?
posted by straight at 4:15 PM on February 8, 2005


Waldo has seen better days.
posted by BrandonAbell at 4:34 PM on February 8, 2005


Check out "Oswald" -- it took a huge dive in the beginning of the century, but suddenly was reborn in the 90s as the immensely popular "Oswaldo."

Oswaldo, heh.
posted by rafter at 5:04 PM on February 8, 2005


Just curious, Harry...what is a "ghetto name"?

Meanwhile, take a glance at growingfamily.com and try to guess where these (actual) baby names will eventually place on the graph:

Raedynn
Breck
JaAires
Kashis
Koda
Daxon
Matissen (a cre8tive twist on Madison, apparently)
Mazzy Jane
Tris’Stan
Xzavier
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:52 PM on February 8, 2005


Heh, type 'Eth' to see a huge spike in one name and the dwindling into oblivion of another. Names are so faddish.
posted by groar at 10:31 PM on February 8, 2005


This is FANTASTIC. I would love to see conjecture about why certain names seem to rise and fall through the decades.

Some interesting things: the death of the name "Al" in the 70s, the sudden spike in children named "London", "Paris", and "Hunter" in the 80s and 90s, the spike in the name Muhammad starting in the 80s, the spike in "Sunshine" during the 70s, the death of "Betty" at the same time, and the spike in the myriad of spellings for names that end in "Lee" in the 90s. It looks like people are acquiring a taste for somewhat unique names, which, ironically, won't be unique for long (check out Elias and Seth). This is endlessly fascinating.

Also, check out the undulations of the name "Mercedes" and the rise of the name "Lexus".
posted by deafmute at 10:50 PM on February 8, 2005


I just spent way too much time typing in random letter combinations. Now I'm trying to understand how it was *ever* cool to name your kid one of these:

primitivo
furman
clotilde
cloyd
napoleon
posted by groar at 11:10 PM on February 8, 2005


There was a crash in Bu- and Be- names. How come no one names their kid Buck or Bud or Buford or Burl or Burton or Buster anymore? No Burnices or Bulahs? Have all the Bers hit the Bermuda Triangle?
posted by pracowity at 5:45 AM on February 9, 2005


Heh, type 'Eth' to see a huge spike in one name and the dwindling into oblivion of another. Names are so faddish.

Wow, the Ethel-Ethan trough is beautiful.

We're about to name a boy. Certain names we liked (Elijah, Dominic) are shown by this chart to be much more popular than I ever would have expected. So yeah, maybe we should go for Buford or Burl instead. Or, you know, Urban.
posted by melixxa600 at 8:52 AM on February 9, 2005


Wow, did I ever need this a decade ago. Since I adopted my kids I didn't hang with the mommies-to-be crowd and didn't do much name comparing, just picked one I liked. Imagine my surprise when I enrolled her in pre-school and she was the 3rd Hannah in a class of 20 kids! I've been apologizing to her since - all the Hannahs in her seventh grade class go by their last names to avoid confusion. (Though I still like the name...)
posted by trii at 10:03 AM on February 9, 2005


I saw this site posted this morning on the always cool Lifehacker (well, in it's 2-week existence at least). Thought I had an FPP, but looks like I'm about a day late.

I love creative visual displays of information like this. This and the State of the Union Parser are why I come to MeFi...
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:02 PM on February 9, 2005


mcstayinschool, you may like the information-design tag on del.icio.us.
posted by rafter at 12:34 PM on February 9, 2005


Bad. Naming your baby something that, despite the superlfluous apostrophe, looks like "Mackarel Nausea."

Worse. Having a link in your baby album that leads to self-proclaimed Bootylicious photos of yourself.
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:58 PM on February 9, 2005


WTF? "Raekwon"
People need to get out and breathe more than one kind of air...
[thankfully it peaked into existence in the 90s, then just as dramatically flatlined.]
posted by Al_Truist at 4:07 AM on February 10, 2005


oh, and...
this is good.
posted by Al_Truist at 4:08 AM on February 10, 2005


('Buffy' herself shows up briefly in the '70s, then disappears.)

From the character in the tv series Family Affair, no doubt.

It never fails to amaze me how many parents get names from tv shows. (I have one myself, but the show was only on for one season and almost no one remembers it.)
posted by litlnemo at 4:26 AM on February 10, 2005


rafter-- great link. thanks.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:29 AM on February 10, 2005


re canceled tv show names and that Kirk spike in the 60's:

Kirk Cameron was named after the Star Trek, but wasn't born until 16 months after the show was canceled.

Maybe it was piles of angry letters from parents saying, "Excuse me, I named my KID after that show," that brought it back.
posted by gregorg at 5:55 AM on February 11, 2005


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