Baby names by popularity, gender, and year
December 14, 2016 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Interactive Baby Name map! On Emma, on Ava, on William and Mason! / On Ashley, on Hannah, on Michael and Jason!
posted by Greg Nog (116 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
The 70s belong to Jennifer.
And some of the 80s too.
posted by chillmost at 6:33 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


The 70s belong to Jennifer.

1973-1978! Now that's what I call a fucking dynasty!
posted by Greg Nog at 6:34 AM on December 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


You didn't go back far enough. Past 1946, it's Mary by a long shot. Then Linda takes over in a big way and holds for about 5 years.
posted by Liesl at 6:38 AM on December 14, 2016


So now why was "Jennifer" such a popular name for so long? Was there a particular famous Jennifer or source of Jennifers? If you look at it for a while - Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer - it's actually a sort of odd name for a mid-late 20th century US pick. It ends in "er" rather than a vowel sound like Mary or Dorothy or Olivia or Ava, and it doesn't have a lot of classical or biblical resonance like Helen or Mary. It's related to Guinevere, but I (born in the Jennifer years) never got the sense that it had any hippie, Celtic or Arthurian resonance - rather, it was sort of a cosily aspirational/yuppie name.

We all think of "Jennifer" as a sort of obvious American name, but it doesn't really seem as obvious as all that.
posted by Frowner at 6:38 AM on December 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


2014 is very interesting. You have Sophia as the leading contender in places like New York and California, and states contiguous to those...and West Virginia.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:41 AM on December 14, 2016


1969: Peak Michael?
posted by jeremias at 6:46 AM on December 14, 2016


L I N D A
W A V E

posted by Itaxpica at 6:55 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


As a oldster who misses the pop culture these days, where did the South's sudden love for Ava came from?
posted by selfnoise at 7:00 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


My name has never done better than 225th place (says the Name Voyager), and that was more than 100 years ago.
posted by pracowity at 7:04 AM on December 14, 2016


I never crack the top 1000, so am resigned to a life of coffee mugs with one letter on them (although the "They didn't have your name" mug did give me a chuckle)
posted by Mogur at 7:06 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


The astounding multi-decade reign of James across the South only truly ends in the early 1980s: it was the number-one male name in South Carolina and Mississippi, with perhaps one year off in the 1970s, from 1910 to 1981.

Even given what we know about who was moving to and out of the South over that time - James really only leaves the region during World War II and the decade afterward - the multi-generational scale of this preference is hard to fathom.

Do naming conventions for boys in the South differ from those in the rest of the US? Are many people named James Othername Surname and go by Othername while formally remaining James?
posted by mdonley at 7:06 AM on December 14, 2016


As a oldster who misses the pop culture these days, where did the South's sudden love for Ava came from?

"Justified," maybe?

Also, Ava Gardner was actually from the south (Smithfield, NC, as a matter of fact), but I'm sure not that's all that relevant, unless great swathes of Dixie have been watching only the classic movie stations.
posted by thivaia at 7:09 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why did everyone in the South suddenly start going with ... Noah? Is the original Phantasy Star experiencing a resurgence on ROM sites? Or "ER" is available on Netflix in its entirety? Or perhaps, thinking of the Flood and the return of Christ Jesus, they remembered Charlotte Bronte writing on that same inevitability of the universe or of the Millennium, equally reductive whether directed by God or quantum forces--

Man cannot prophesy. Love is no oracle. Fear sometimes imagines a vain thing. Those years of absence! How had I sickened over their anticipation! The woe they must bring seemed certain as death. I knew the nature of their course: I never had doubt how it would harrow as it went. The juggernaut on his car towered there a grim load. Seeing him draw nigh, burying his broad wheels in the oppressed soil—I, the prostrate votary—felt beforehand the annihilating craunch.

Strange to say—strange, yet true, and owning many parallels in life's experience—that anticipatory craunch proved all—yes—nearly all the torture. The great Juggernaut, in his great chariot, drew on lofty, loud, and sullen. He passed quietly, like a shadow sweeping the sky, at noon. Nothing but a chilling dimness was seen or felt. I looked up. Chariot and demon charioteer were gone by; the votary still lived.


Just a theory tho. Names are funny!
posted by radicalawyer at 7:17 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


In 1965 and '66 the entire country called their daughters Lisa.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:17 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Where are all the Cathys? I always had at least two, if not three Cathy's in my classes at school.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:20 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, Ava Gardner was actually from the south (Smithfield, NC, as a matter of fact), but I'm sure not that's all that relevant, unless great swathes of Dixie have been watching only the classic movie stations.

I'm enjoying imaging her digging into a big plate of barbecue.

The Wikipedia claims the popularity may come from it being the name Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon and Heather Locklear and Ritchie Sambora chose for their kids. That seems plausible at least. Ava was also popular in the 50s, so it may be people naming children after grandparents?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:22 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wonder if there's some data somewhere showing diversity magnitude of name choices over time. My sense had always been that we have been moving towards the idea that giving your kids totally unique names is desirable.
posted by selfnoise at 7:26 AM on December 14, 2016


I have no idea why the name Dorothy hasn't had a popular resurgence like other names from that era. It's such a lovely name, and Dot is a fantastic nickname--bold, one syllable, and not cutesy-sounding.

If any of you have any daughters in the works, name them Dorothy for me pls.

Sincerely,
Jennifer
posted by phunniemee at 7:30 AM on December 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


In the dark years of 199X you where either a Michael or a Christopher. Those were the only two things you could be.
posted by The Whelk at 7:30 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Do naming conventions for boys in the South differ from those in the rest of the US?

Sure, but not in ways that obviously lead to James, or at least not directly. Multigenerational names are pretty common (if still rare absolutely), so once Jameses get going they might persist longer in the south though lots of them would go by Junior or Trey or (one of) their middle names. And assigning boys family names as given names is common-ish, but that explains the Jeffersons and Carters and Shelbys, not Jameses.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:32 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is a nifty app.

PS: I wanna second phunniemee. I have a good friend (in her 30s) named Dot (Doroth), and just lost a great grandmother by the same name. It's a good name!
posted by DigDoug at 7:33 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tl;dr

David, Michael, James --> Noah, Liam, Jacob
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:33 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


So now why was "Jennifer" such a popular name for so long? Was there a particular famous Jennifer or source of Jennifers?

Never saw the movie Love Story? That's the original Jennifer.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:36 AM on December 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


But there's no corresponding wave of Olivers.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:38 AM on December 14, 2016


Curious how New Mexico is José through much of the '20s. It flips to Joe for a year, then back to José, and then decidedly to Joe for the next decade. No other surrounding states were Joe (or José) during that era.

I wonder if we seeing the statistical remnants of a battle at the registrar's office (or wherever these things are arbitrated) over assimilation. Parents: "his given name is José." Registrar: "okay, another Joe..."
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 7:40 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


James had a pretty solid hold in the south until about 1970 or so. I would have thought Robert would be the dominant name after the Civil war.

I was born in 1969 in Mass. and named James. Growing up there were always about six other Jims or James in my class. There's so many of us when I got married we had a "Jim Dance" where seven of us, all named Jim, danced with my wife to Jim Croce's Don't Mess Around With Jim. It was a very Jim thing to do.
posted by bondcliff at 7:43 AM on December 14, 2016 [19 favorites]


Where are all the Cathys? I always had at least two, if not three Cathy's in my classes at school.

You can search by name here. Cathy seems to have peaked in 1958 as the 34th most popular name but Kathleen had a crushing top-25 run almost every year throughout the 40s and 50s.
posted by ghharr at 7:46 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Watching the whole map go "Emily" reminds me of when I just stopped even answering to my name any more.

(The year I was born was Jennifer AF.)
posted by louche mustachio at 7:47 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Jennifer (nicknamed Jenny) was Ali MacGraw's character in Love Story (1970). Beautiful, brilliant, working-class-yet-attending-Radcliffe-studying-classical-music, she caught the attention of not just the male lead but also millions of impressionable young women who stowed that name away for their daughters born 5-15 years later.

Madison came from Splash, Victorian names abounded after Titanic, the Twilight names, etc. etc.... so many names are picked by movie-watching young women who fall in love with a character and use the names for their children a few years later.

The blog at Baby Name Wizard is fun to follow if you like the overall trend of names. "Liquid" names have been on trend for awhile, but she recently talked about "one-syllable meaning names" on the rise.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:48 AM on December 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think Oliver was tainted by Oliver! the 1968 musical film, so there was no corresponding rise in the name Oliver along with Jennifer from Love Story.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:51 AM on December 14, 2016


I hope you guys are ready for some long, hungry years of "Donald."
posted by klanawa at 8:08 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


My name hovers around in the #800-850 range for most of the graph, with a strange sudden peak at 54 in the 1950s.... weird. But all the map shows for my birth year is wall-to-wall Debbies and Susans and Marys --- which was expected, considering how many of my cousins, classmates, and others I know from that era all carry those same three names.

Wonder where the currently-popular 'Nevaeh' is gonna rank in the future?
posted by easily confused at 8:18 AM on December 14, 2016


The connection between pop culture and names is fun. In year 1935 there was an explosion of Shirleys. This corresponds with Shirley Temple being "Hollywood's number one box-office star from 1935 to 1938."

Also, explosion of Lindas in 1947, but it had been somewhat popular in prior years. Perhaps because of this : '"Linda" is a popular song written taking its name from then one year old future star Linda McCartney. It was written by Jack Lawrence, and published in 1946.'

If you click on the sides of the map it steps through the years which is fun to watch.
posted by acheekymonkey at 8:19 AM on December 14, 2016


What the hell happened between 1946 and 1947? Was there a notorious serial killer named Mary or something?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:21 AM on December 14, 2016


Do naming conventions for boys in the South differ from those in the rest of the US?

These maps plot the "most regional"* names throughout the years, so you can get a sense of which regions of the country favor idiosyncratic names.

The Southeast used to be a hotspot for locally popular names: Willie, Charlie, Emma, and Gladys in 1950; Willie, Ruby, Timmy, and Rickey in 1960. Willie remained a cult Southern name through 1990, but the overall charts become more scattered and diffuse after 1970, with a bit of a westward trend.

As of 2012, the new center of gravity for regional naming practices is California and the Southwest, home to a disproportionate number of Santiagos, Delilahs, Nicolases, Josiahs, Stephanies, Julianas, Eliases, and Joses. The Southeast, however, still makes a respectable showing with Braylon and Dalton.

*ie, outliers that were popular in individual states without placing particularly high in the national rankings
posted by Iridic at 8:27 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wave of Olivers just went on my band name list.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:32 AM on December 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's neat to see how a lot of these names start out as the most popular in one state and then bloom into all the states around them. Based on this we can predict a major uptick in Henrys and Olivers, as well as Harpers and Mias.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:32 AM on December 14, 2016


And- wherefore all the LISA love? Lisa was the Jennifer of the 60's!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:32 AM on December 14, 2016


Wonder where the currently-popular 'Nevaeh' is gonna rank in the future?

Let's hope at the mottob fo eht tsil.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:33 AM on December 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm reminded of a friend who complained to her father why in the world was she named Jennifer, in a sea of Jennifers. He said: "I picked it because it's the most beautiful name I ever heard." Stopped her in her tracks. Just because a name isn't unique doesn't mean it wasn't bestowed with love.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:34 AM on December 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


So now why was "Jennifer" such a popular name for so long? Was there a particular famous Jennifer or source of Jennifers? If you look at it for a while - Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer - it's actually a sort of odd name for a mid-late 20th century US pick. It ends in "er" rather than a vowel sound like Mary or Dorothy or Olivia or Ava, and it doesn't have a lot of classical or biblical resonance like Helen or Mary. It's related to Guinevere, but I (born in the Jennifer years) never got the sense that it had any hippie, Celtic or Arthurian resonance - rather, it was sort of a cosily aspirational/yuppie name.

It also surged out of nowhere to become an overnight sensation. Seriously, step from 1966 to 1972... Lisa is winning every state in the union, until there's a crack in the dam in Utah, and then suddenly this previously-unknown name dominates the country for close to a decade. "Love Story" can't have been THAT popular.
posted by Mayor West at 8:34 AM on December 14, 2016


Can we attribute Lisa to Zsa Zsa Gabor's character on Green Acres??
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:36 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


About the name Mary: I surmise that it might have been perceived as "too ethnic" and/or "too commonplace" for post-World-War-II parents moving up in the world. Girls' names tend to go in and out of fashion, and have more variety, than boy's names, so while "John" might have been fine for a boy, newly minted suburbanites wanted something more fresh and shiny for a girl - hence all the Lindas, Karens, Debbies, Patricias and Susans in postwar suburban America. And this was still an era when (white) people wanted to "be American" and not emphasize their ethnic backgrounds. Mary might have sounded old-fashioned and "old country" to them.

About Jennifer: I read somewhere that, besides Love Story, it tied into the 1980's Laura Ashley-type craze for frills, lace and pastels, only in the form of a name. Jennifer sounded romantic and Victorian to 80's ears. Jessica and Amanda were in the same vein. Love Story gave Jennifer its start, but a fit with the spirit of the times sustained it. It could also be used to translate the grandma name "Jenny" which was actually a nickname for Jane.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:38 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


The last interview question, when hired for my current job: "Are you willing to go by Jenny? We have 5 Jennifers working in this department already"
posted by JennyJupiter at 8:42 AM on December 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


The blog at Baby Name Wizard is fun to follow if you like the overall trend of names. "Liquid" names have been on trend for awhile, but she recently talked about "one-syllable meaning names" on the rise.

I'm pretty sure that if you name your kid 'Rage' or 'Rogue' you will come to regret your choice
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:52 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


So now why was "Jennifer" such a popular name for so long? Was there a particular famous Jennifer or source of Jennifers?

I also remember being told when I was young that Jennifer was a modern version of Guinevere, and weren't we all just obsessed with Camelot for a long time? It made sense to my romantic, 12-yo self.
posted by greermahoney at 8:53 AM on December 14, 2016


> Wave of Olivers just went on my band name list

A recent snowball fight on my block turned into "Olivers vs Everybody Else" -- maybe that can be the opening band at your show?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:54 AM on December 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


Michelle had a moment, but it was squashed by the wave of Jennifers. I still feel like you can't swing a cat without hitting a Michelle that was born in the 60's or 70's.

Fun fact: you can walk into just about any Library in the United States and say, "Is Linda here?". The response will invariably be "Which Linda?"
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:58 AM on December 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


I always find American naming customs interesting. I got stuck with a name that is medieval Persian, I like to say it is comparable to naming your child Brunhilde in the modern age. It seems like 50% of the population has a difficult time pronouncing it, even though it is phonetic. In fact, when I google myself, I am the only person with my name (first + last) in this country!

I wonder if there are charts for these kinds of trends in other linguistic/ethnic groups. I know that in the Islamic world, popular girl's names don't change as frequently; there are still lots of Ayshas, Fatimas, and Yasmines being born. Although, there was a run on Russian-esque names for a while (entirely due to Dr. Zhivago), so you have tons of Sonyas, Nadias, Tanyas, etc.
posted by nikitabot at 8:59 AM on December 14, 2016


A recent snowball fight on my block turned into "Olivers vs Everybody Else"

Robbie Rist always packs rocks in his snowballs.
posted by bondcliff at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


A+ above the fold rhyming.
posted by maryr at 9:02 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I_Love_Bananas: "Can we attribute Lisa to Zsa Zsa Gabor's character on Green Acres??"

No, I was born a year before Green Acres and there were always a ton of Lisas my age.

My sister is a Lisa born in the late fifties and my parents insist that they'd never heard the name when they picked it out of a novel. Ten years later every third girl was named Lisa.
posted by octothorpe at 9:07 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the dark years of 199X you where either a Michael or a Christopher. Those were the only two things you could be.

That's not true, The Whelk.

There have always been Daves. There will always be Daves. The Daves are Dude Eternal.
posted by maryr at 9:09 AM on December 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yes, my daughter's classroom is awash with Olivias, Sophias and Avas. Her first 5 years of life she spent with a Madison and two Isabellas nearly every day. Daughter's name (Madeleine) is definitely in the same vein as those (except Madison) old fashioned names, but happily has never risen to their popularity.

Don't know any Emmas, though.
posted by gaspode at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am (obviously) a Mary and my sister is a Dorothy and I remain surprised that neither name came back with the Isabellas and Adas and such. Especially since neither name has been popular for a while, so there's a good chance of a great- or great-great-grandmother Dot, but fewer chances of racist-Grandma-Mary. Both names dropped off so long ago that they are Golden Girls, but didn't come back with Rose and Sophia.

The -a ending seems to have been very important - I wonder if it seems more cross-lingually compatible? worldly? I admit, Mary is a dead boring name.
posted by maryr at 9:16 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dave, Mike, Steve, and Eric. Any man in my age cohort who doesn't have one of those names, has older brothers who already used them up.
posted by elizilla at 9:18 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know a young (less than a month old) Dorothy, but she's called Dori, not Dot. Her sister is Bea, and somehow this is NOT an extended tribute to Bea Arthur's Golden Girls character, but that would have been excellent.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


My mom, a Linda, was born the year the Lindafication of the US took hold, and my wife, a Jennifer, was born right on the cusp of the Jenniferpocalypse.

What's interesting (to me) is that I know a colossal shit-ton of Jennifers from my wife's generation, but I can literally count on my fingers the number of Lindas I've known, in my mom's generation or any other. Might not even need both hands.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:20 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Both of our dads fell in line with the Great Jamesplosion of the 1940s.)
posted by middleclasstool at 9:23 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


honestly a little surprised not to see my own name (megan) on there at all - in my third grade class, there were three megans, and we all had the same middle name too
posted by burgerrr at 9:23 AM on December 14, 2016


The most popular boys' name listed in New Mexico for almost all of the first 25 years of the list is "Jose" (well, probably "José"). But after that, it's pretty much just "Joe" until 1940 – "Joe" being, of course, the English equivalent of "José." Was this a reflection of New Mexico's new status as a state, as of 1912, such that parents were switching over to the English version? Was there a huge influx of white people? – that seems unlikely to be the cause, since I can't really see a huge influx of white people just stumbling on the same name their new neighbors used for their kids. Or was it some census-taker's idea of "proper" management of the census data to translate names into English, which somehow seems most likely to me? Also, the girls' name in New Mexico during this time is the same as for almost every other state – "Mary." Why not "María," if the boys were getting Spanish names? Odd.
posted by koeselitz at 9:25 AM on December 14, 2016


"Seriously, step from 1966 to 1972... Lisa is winning every state in the union, until there's a crack in the dam in Utah, and then suddenly this previously-unknown name dominates the country for close to a decade."

I find it interesting that a lot of popularity waves start out in Utah. I wonder why that is?
posted by howling fantods at 9:27 AM on December 14, 2016


My family tree is confined to about 4 or 5 male names due mainly to adherence to the Scottish naming convention. I was the first eldest son in about 8 or 9 generations to break the alternating pattern of Andrew and James, but I did continue it with my eldest son. Throw in a few Davids and the odd Alexander and Robert and you have the whole set.
posted by rocket88 at 9:36 AM on December 14, 2016


"There have always been Daves. There will always be Daves. The Daves are Dude Eternal."

These are the Daves I know.
posted by howling fantods at 9:44 AM on December 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I am a 30something Asian-American woman named Nancy. I swear all of the other Nancys that I've met are either white women of my parents' generation or other Asian-American women in their 30s. I get "Oh that's my mother's name!" a lot.

I found a site that maps out popularity by state as well as year. If you look, it turns out that Nancy was extremely popular from the 30s through the 60s but pretty much falls off the map by the 1975 EXCEPT in California, where it sticks around well into the 90s. My working hypothesis is that it was a side effect of Nancy Reagan as FLOCali and FLOTUS, maybe encouraged by a tendency for immigrants of a certain time and place to go for safe respectable names. I have a few other naming hypotheses floating around, someday I'll find the right dataset to dig into them...

My boyfriend also has a name that peaked in popularity in the Dakotas in the 1940s. We sound like we should be extras on the Lawrence Welk Show.
posted by yeahlikethat at 9:48 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Where are all the Cathys? I always had at least two, if not three Cathy's in my classes at school.


Cathy is one of those names that's tough for systems that let you search by name. First, it's frequently spelled in multiple different manners. Second, it's often short for Catherine (or Katherine).

At one point, I had 3 Cathy's at work (Cathy, Cathi, and Kathy), and one at home (Cathy).

I'd be curious in a system that pools name variants together so they're all considered one name, and how that affects the ranking of various names.
posted by piper28 at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


An old friend when young named.her twin sons Malachi and Jarvis. In their teen years, or so my understanding is, they became something like Michael and Robert.
posted by y2karl at 9:59 AM on December 14, 2016


I was just reading a thread in an author fan site where people were talking about what fictional characters they named their children after and I was being secretly horrified. You have to make at least a pretense of the name being plausible for a modern American (in this case). Like Danaerys, okay, but Khaleesi is too far.

But what was killing me was people naming their children after TERRIBLE BOOKS, so that little Belgarion (I shit you not) will have to go through life with a name impossible to submerge in general Americanism AND explaining why his parents were SO into a book now widely seen as having problematic race and gender issues AND revealed by the author's later work to be completely formulaic. I mean I still comfort-read the Belgariad but WHO NAMES A CHILD THAT?

There was another poster who was trying to get the author's attention and tagging the author repeatedly and saying, "I've named all four of my children after your characters!" and I think if I were the author that would make me very uncomfortable. (And all very fantasy-sounding names, no plausible deniability.) Which I assume is why the often quite chatty author in fact did not respond.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:17 AM on December 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I know a young (less than a month old) Dorothy, but she's called Dori, not Dot. Her sister is Bea, and somehow this is NOT an extended tribute to Bea Arthur's Golden Girls character, but that would have been excellent.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:19 AM on December 14 [+] [!]

That's funny, because I know a couple who has two kids whose names rhyme with Rilo and Kiley, and I have never asked them if that was intentional.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:23 AM on December 14, 2016


(Omg update from just checking back at that thread, where people are now complaining bitterly about Starbucks baristas misspelling their kids' non-phonetic totally unique fantasy novel names. You can't have it both ways!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:23 AM on December 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


WHO NAMES A CHILD THAT?

I'll see your Belgarion and raise you my highschool friend's son, Anakin
posted by Greg Nog at 10:29 AM on December 14, 2016 [6 favorites]



I was just reading a thread in an author fan site where people were talking about what fictional characters they named their children after and I was being secretly horrified. You have to make at least a pretense of the name being plausible for a modern American (in this case). Like Danaerys, okay, but Khaleesi is too far.

But what was killing me was people naming their children after TERRIBLE BOOKS, so that little Belgarion (I shit you not) will have to go through life with a name impossible to submerge in general Americanism AND explaining why his parents were SO into a book now widely seen as having problematic race and gender issues AND revealed by the author's later work to be completely formulaic. I mean I still comfort-read the Belgariad but WHO NAMES A CHILD THAT?


That's why I have cats! You can name a cat anything you like and, no matter what thought you put into its name, it will still howl to be fed at 4 AM. But it won't resent you for being one of five Maxes or Lucys in the vet's waiting room. One of my cats, btw, is a Daenerys, and another is a Neville.

I've run into a few people named after Embarrassing Books or Embarrassing Movies. I recall running into a Jondalar, poor kid. I love the Earth's Children books, but I hated Jondalar. Whose most well-known attributes were being a whiny dick with a big dick. I don't know why you'd want to name your child after someone like that.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:31 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Dorothy and Mary are coming back in popularity. I personally know two toddler girls named Mary and know of at least one little Dorothy (which I agree is a fantastic name).
I think it's cute when kids hear a new name and gauging their reaction to it. Most names are new to them the first time they meet someone. My daughter has expressed tremendous love for the names Dawn (like the morning, mom!) and Tammy.
posted by areaperson at 10:31 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know a young (less than a month old) Dorothy, but she's called Dori, not Dot.

I'd love to name a girl after my godmother, but her name was Doris and that has distinctly not come back into fashion. (Of course, in ten years it may be ultra-hip, who knows.) I figured I would go with Dori as a nickname too! But Dot would also work.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:39 AM on December 14, 2016


it's actually a sort of odd name for a mid-late 20th century US pick. It ends in "er" rather than a vowel sound like Mary or Dorothy or Olivia or Ava

I get the impression that girls' names that ended in vowels were on a bit of a downswing around this time; in the 80s I went to school with a ton of girls named Heather, Kristen, Megan, Allison, Erin, Morgan, Lauren, etc. Not to mention scores of Elizabeths and Katherines that chose to go by their full names or "Beth" or "Kate," rather than "Betsy" or "Kathy."
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:40 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


But what was killing me was people naming their children after TERRIBLE BOOKS, so that little Belgarion (I shit you not) will have to go through life with a name impossible to submerge in general Americanism AND explaining why his parents were SO into a book now widely seen as having problematic race and gender issues AND revealed by the author's later work to be completely formulaic. I mean I still comfort-read the Belgariad but WHO NAMES A CHILD THAT?

One of my mom's friend's grandkids was named Rand, but for Rand al-Thor. That one strikes me as especially brutal because I'd spend my whole life praying that people thought I was named for an awful character in a mediocre fantasy series and not anything to do with Objectivism or Kentucky politics.
posted by Copronymus at 10:42 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I'd love to name a girl after my godmother, but her name was Doris and that has distinctly not come back into fashion"

If it's a name you like and it has meaning why not?
posted by howling fantods at 10:50 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Despite my girls all having names in the fat part of the popularity curves (we weren't paying attention to popularity, honest!) there are surprisingly few kids in their class/school that share their names. I guess it's a regional thing and we got lucky.
posted by howling fantods at 10:52 AM on December 14, 2016


I like Doris. We named a child Ada and she seems OK so far. I also know an Evelyn which is an older name but lovely.
posted by selfnoise at 10:52 AM on December 14, 2016


I've been checking the Baby Name Wizard Voyager out of fear that the old-fashioned baby names I like are currently undergoing a huge spike in popularity, but so far they've been good. (Pitt The Elder for a boy, Pitt The Younger for a girl)
posted by Greg Nog at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


For a similar map of specific names (that is, you pick the name, it shows prevalence by state over time), see http://nametrends.net/

Interesting to see how names start in one region and spread to others.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:14 AM on December 14, 2016


My sister is a Lisa born in the late fifties and my parents insist that they'd never heard the name when they picked it out of a novel.

In 1957, my grandparents named my aunt Lisa. They say they thought of that name because of the Nat King Cole song "Mona Lisa."

I'll see your Belgarion and raise you my highschool friend's son, Anakin


I know an adorable toddler Atreyu.

The name that has most surprised me recently is the little baby Kevin at our church. Kevin are all supposed to be in their mid-40s and worried about their retirement accounts.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:32 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'll see your Belgarion, Anakin and Atreyu, and give you Latreena, the daughter of a not-particularly-bright lady I used to work with. Back when the mom was pregnant, she was active-duty Army; she came up with that Latreena based on a sign she saw on her Army base.

Honestly, wouldn't you rather be Anakin than have to admit your mother named you after the latrine?!?
posted by easily confused at 11:53 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


On the Midwives board where my wife teaches Xavier was the most popular name this month (4 of them) and the 2 most unusual boys names were Cotton and Linen (sadly they were not twins).

I know an Atreyu

We know a family where all the kids are named after characters from the Neverending Story.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:54 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


WHO NAMES A CHILD THAT?

I'll see your Belgarion and raise you my highschool friend's son, Anakin


Well, at least he gets to grow up to be Darth Vader. That'll show 'em.
posted by y2karl at 11:59 AM on December 14, 2016


I am a 30something Asian-American woman named Nancy. I swear all of the other Nancys that I've met are either white women of my parents' generation or other Asian-American women in their 30s. I get "Oh that's my mother's name!" a lot.

I am this age and feel like I know a bunch of Esthers and Dianas in this group as well.
posted by maryr at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2016


I know a young (less than a month old) Dorothy, but she's called Dori, not Dot. Her sister is Bea, and somehow this is NOT an extended tribute to Bea Arthur's Golden Girls character, but that would have been excellent.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:19 AM on December 14 [+] [!]

That's funny, because I know a couple who has two kids whose names rhyme with Rilo and Kiley, and I have never asked them if that was intentional.


I can't quite remember the order, but friends named one of their children Davis and were considering naming the second Kendall, until they realized they couldn't keep naming their kids after Red Line stops.

But you can!
  • Stops that definitely work as names: Davis, Porter, Kendall, Charles, Park, Andrew, Milton, Quincy.
  • Stops that might work as names: Ashmont, Shawmut, Broadway, Wollaston.
  • Stops that definitely do not work as names: Alewife, Central, Downtown Crossing, Braintree.

  • posted by maryr at 12:20 PM on December 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


    Maryr, you should meet my daughters, Riverside and Back Bay.
    posted by bondcliff at 12:29 PM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


    Not gonna lie, I half-seriously considered naming my kid after a Red Line stop.
    posted by Metroid Baby at 12:52 PM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


    I've decided to name all my kids after CTA stops, which is how come I have five children named Kedzie.
    posted by phunniemee at 12:52 PM on December 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


    We intentionally chose to name our son by selecting from a list of baby names that had never been among the 1000 most popular names in the US.

    So far, so good.
    posted by caution live frogs at 1:13 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


    I've decided to name all my kids after CTA stops

    "Do you mean your grandchild?"
    "No, I mean my child: Grand."
    posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:18 PM on December 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


    Oh, man, that would be the ultimate dad joke:

    "This is Howard--"
    "Hi Howa--"
    "--Doors open on the right at Howard."

    Every damn time!
    posted by coppermoss at 2:05 PM on December 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


    Another source of Lisa's popularity may have been Grace Kelly's character in Rear Window, which came out in 1954. Then "Mona Lisa" a few years later kicked it up a notch. By the time I got it in the '70s it was crushing all other girl names, but about to be dethroned by Jennifer. Still, my suburban-Midwest parents said they hadn't thought Lisa was too common. (Even though my mom was an Elvis fan and knew he'd named his daughter Lisa too a few years earlier.) The yearly name lists weren't as easy to check back then.
    posted by lisa g at 2:41 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


    I know a young (less than a month old) Dorothy, but she's called Dori, not Dot.

    dori is the nickname for the hebrew version of dorothy, which is devorah.
    posted by poffin boffin at 2:44 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Are many people named James Othername Surname and go by Othername while formally remaining James?

    I'm a James Othername Surname and I go by Othername.
    posted by kirkaracha at 3:08 PM on December 14, 2016


    Don't pick a name just for its unpopularity because you can't predict what will happen in the future. It's almost certain that you'll see another kid with your kid's unique name someday, and you don't want your response to that to be possessiveness or disappointment. Meanwhile, your kid with the unique name may wish they had something more common.

    I was named after a great-grandmother, a name that had not been in the top 1000 since 1948 (I was born in 1977). I never knew anyone else with the name when I was young. But all of a sudden in 2005, the name appeared on the list. Since then, the popularity has increased every year. It was #273 on the 2015 list. Now I know multiple little girls with that name, all under the age of 10. My husband's ex-wife used it for their daughter. She was going for something unique and almost immediately learned that it was my real name too, and I think she was pretty disappointed about that.

    On the other hand, choosing a popular name today doesn't mean that your kid will be the equivalent of the 8th Jennifer or Jason in a 1980s classroom, because popular names today are far less popular overall than they used to be. For instance, the top boy name is Liam. The peak for Liam was 4245 per million babies in 2012. The peak for Jason in the 1970s was 13,803 per million babies. So even though Liam is the most popular boy's name for 2015, it's not near on par with the name waves that some of us knew in the 1970s and 1980s. Just from those maps in the OP, you can see that we're much more fractured on name popularity.

    The name we chose for our kiddo is very popular because it's a classic name. I feel like the popularity is a good thing, but maybe that's because I'm someone whose name always stuck out as unique. No one could ever pronounce my name, and I regularly give a fake name to baristas now to avoid the hassle of spelling it. So maybe I wanted something well known that people could easily spell and pronounce. We didn't just choose a name popular in the US (though it is, #14 in his birth year and still rising), but it's popular internationally in the West among people of many races. I think that kind of recognition might be really helpful to him in the future, almost a passport of sorts. And of course I love the name- I'm one of those moms calling her son by his full first name even as everyone else uses the shortened version.
    posted by aabbbiee at 3:14 PM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


    I'm an Alison, born deep in the heart of the Jennifer years. My classes were full of Alisons/Allisons/Allysons/etc so we often went by "With One L" or "With a Y" to our teachers. Though my mother denies it fervently, I always figured that Alison was also a "Love Story" nod because of Ali McGraw. Mom was also a big Elvis Costello fan, but that song was released after I was born.

    Semi-related: I know three baby/toddler Dashiells and two baby Almas at present. Baby-naming trends are weird.
    posted by thivaia at 3:32 PM on December 14, 2016


    The Wikipedia claims the popularity may come from it being the name Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon and Heather Locklear and Ritchie Sambora chose for their kids

    I'm not sure why I "know" this, but I definitely attribute it to Reese Witherspoon (who is from the South.)
    posted by Room 641-A at 4:57 PM on December 14, 2016


    And a vision of the future: the most obnoxious, gaudy, tax-evading, and jail-going couple on The Real Housewives of New Jersey already has seven- or eight-year old named Melania.
    posted by Room 641-A at 5:01 PM on December 14, 2016


    Although, there was a run on Russian-esque names for a while (entirely due to Dr. Zhivago), so you have tons of Sonyas, Nadias, Tanyas, etc.

    Ooooohhhh, is that why one of my cousins is named Sonya? I always thought that name choice was a bit one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others among the names picked by that generation of my aunts and uncles, since all the rest of the girls in the family have nature based names (me, one of the ubiquitous-in-the-Islamic-world Yasmins), religious names, or virtue names.
    posted by yasaman at 5:47 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


    "Don't pick a name just for its unpopularity because you can't predict what will happen in the future. "

    My sole piece of baby-naming advice (well, I suppose "don't name your kids after obviously terrible fictional characters unless there's plausible deniability" would be my second one) is not to name your kids based on what you think is a rare, unusual, or unique name. Pick something that's beautiful to you or meaningful to you or has family history or has religious significance or sturdiness or mellifluousness or durability or how it will look on a doctor's prescription pad or ANYTHING, but not rarity. Picking based on rarity so your kid will have a unique name is an ABSOLUTE GUARANTEE your child will be one of six Xyzzy's in his kindergarten class and spend his life as Xyzzy K.

    (We have amongst our friends "the only Cecily we've ever met!" and "We've never heard of anyone named Amelia!" and "Lacon is just so unique!" who all arrived in kindergarten with a name-mate, much to their parents' chagrin.)

    We also know a family who have three little boys named Ranger, Hunter, and Archer (and their middle names are Danger, Bullet, and some shit I forget; I forget which name goes with which kid). Then they had a daughter they named Bella. The boys wear nothing but camo and the girl is 24/7 pink. Now they're pregnant with another boy and I'm curious if they'll just straight up name him "Murder" or something, SO MUCH FRAGILE MASCULINITY.

    I'm anti-obvious-theme-names in general, though. We had some acquaintances who named their first son "Griffin" and we were like, Hey, that's cool, that's a real name and kinda unusual, we like it! But then they had a second son and named him Dragon and we were like WE CAN NOT BE FRIENDS ANYMORE. Last we heard they were pregnant with a girl and we were betting on whether or not they'd name her "Harpy." (Or Phoenix or Siren or Sphinx, there's so many options!)
    posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:44 PM on December 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


    From the SSA site:

    The year when the name Wendy was most popular is 1970. In that year, the number of births is 11099, which represents 0.606 percent of total female births in 1970

    I was born in 1970, but it's rare that I meet another Wendy. I guess .61% is still not that many name-friends.
    posted by bendy at 9:03 PM on December 14, 2016


    I am a 30something Asian-American woman named Nancy. I swear all of the other Nancys that I've met are either white women of my parents' generation or other Asian-American women in their 30s. I get "Oh that's my mother's name!" a lot.

    There is a subset of names that hit this category, it's so true. All the Williams, Charles, Irises, etc that I've known fit this bill.
    posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:43 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Oh man, I can't believe a baby name thread almost went by where I forgot to share this...

    There was a guy who went to my college a year ahead of me, lived in my dorm his freshman year so he was a known quantity on our floor. He had an unusual name. He had older brothers who also went to our school who also had unusual names. Turns out it was actually a family with five kids, all with unusual names. (They're deep into ultimate frisbee, so if you're a frisbee person you probably know of them.) Anyway, their names are:

    Zahlen
    Xtehn
    Vehro
    Rohre
    Qxhna

    Since I know folks who know them, I know how to pronounce that last one, but for now I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader.
    posted by phunniemee at 4:36 AM on December 15, 2016


    We also know a family who have three little boys named Ranger, Hunter, and Archer (and their middle names are Danger, Bullet, and some shit I forget; I forget which name goes with which kid).

    It's Ranger Danger. There's no way it's not Ranger Danger. Don't tell me it's not Ranger Danger.
    posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:42 AM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


    "Archer Bullet" is just nonsense projectile-wise so that one can't be right either. What a fun logic puzzle this is!
    posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:51 AM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


    We also know a family who have three little boys named Ranger, Hunter, and Archer

    Sounds like they need a Mage. Oh, oh! No! You know what works? Bard.
    posted by maryr at 8:50 AM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Two of these different name families can intermarry, because kids named 'Archer Qxhna' would be a thing of true beauty.
    posted by spinifex23 at 11:03 AM on December 15, 2016


    My sole piece of baby-naming advice (well, I suppose "don't name your kids after obviously terrible fictional characters unless there's plausible deniability" would be my second one) is not to name your kids based on what you think is a rare, unusual, or unique name.

    what about naming your kids after a dead family pet
    posted by poffin boffin at 12:13 PM on December 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


    I was in an Attic Greek class with a statistics major whose given name was Random.
    posted by coppermoss at 1:40 PM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


    I knew a baby named Random around 25 years ago. I wonder if it's the same person. Is the age right?
    posted by The corpse in the library at 2:25 PM on December 15, 2016


    The corpse in the library, I would estimate this Random to be 29 this year. So maybe?
    posted by coppermoss at 6:04 PM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


    As a teacher, none of these trends surprise me. Though last year, in a class of 28, I had 20 kids whose name started with A and not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE versions of Alex (Alexandria, Alexander, Alexis, Alejandra, etc.).

    Also, my partner, who is from the South and whose family has lived in the South long enough that they have actual heirloom varieties of various plants and vegetables, has James as his first name (and when the switch to Michael happened, his parents had another kid, named, wait for it, Michael). He does go by his middle name though, as did many of the Jameses before him.
    posted by guster4lovers at 9:23 PM on December 16, 2016


    There was, back when it was across Republican from the Broadway Market and in front of the putative steps to the Obeebo on the sidewalk, a customer service clerk at QFC on Broadway whose name tag read:
    To
    and who, when asked what that short for, answered
    My parents' last name is Morrow.
    posted by y2karl at 9:58 AM on December 22, 2016


    aabbbiee: "Don't pick a name just for its unpopularity because you can't predict what will happen in the future. It's almost certain that you'll see another kid with your kid's unique name someday, and you don't want your response to that to be possessiveness or disappointment. Meanwhile, your kid with the unique name may wish they had something more common.
    "

    Well to be fair we named him Finian - and call him Finn for short - so it's an unusual name, in full, but a pretty normal name in most daily use. And we have already met at least one or two other kids with the same name, but it still remains unique enough for us to be happy.
    posted by caution live frogs at 2:42 PM on December 22, 2016


    « Older Christmas Songs You Won't Hear At The Mall   |   "I remember being impressed with myself." Newer »


    This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments