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R Names Then and Now: Ralph vs. Ryder

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By Kelli Brady of NameFreak!

A couple of months ago, I attended a Sock Hop with my daughter. It was loads of fun and inspired me to delve into the 1950s and, of course, its most popular names.

As I looked at the Top 100 names of the decade, the thing that stuck out the most to me was the amount of baby names that began with R. Thirteen of the Top 100 boy names of the decade began with an R; nineteen of the Top 100 boy and girl names together began with an R. There were actually more J names in the Top 100 for both genders, but the amount of R boy names outnumbered the amount of J boy names. As a comparison, while J names are just as popular if not moreso nowadays, there were only three boy names that started with R in the Top 100 for the 2000s decade and six boy and girl names combined. What is it about R names that made them less popular? Let’s take a look at the names themselves:

1950s Top 100 (Rank for the decade)

Ralph (66)
Randall (58)
Randy (33)
Raymond (38)
Richard (7)
Ricky (47)
Robert (3)
Rodney (71)
Roger (37)
Ronald (15)
Ronnie (78)
Roy (63)
Russell (60)

Rebecca (28)
Rhonda (74)
Rita (73)
Robin (53)
Rose (66)
Ruth (69)

2000s Top 100

Richard (90)
Robert (36)
Ryan (15)

Rachel (33)
Rebecca (71)
Riley (67)

And because the new data is out, here is a look at the R names in the 2012 Top 100:
Robert (61)
Ryan (26)
Ryder (100)

Reagan (97)
Riley (47)

Out of the entire group, Richard, Robert and Rebecca are the only names that stuck around the top after fifty years, and Richard and Rebecca have fallen since. While the R names may have fallen out of the top tier, none of the boys names have dropped out of the Top 1000. The girl names, however, have suffered a different fate: Rhonda fell out of the rankings after 1994, Rita after 2002, and Robin after 2004.

Another interesting observation: Look at the names that begin with Ro (or Rho). Whether the sound is “row” or “raw”, it seemed to be the most popular beginning combination for R names in the 1950s but over time it has almost disappeared from the top. And the R names that are at the top in the 2000s but were not in the 1950s (Ryan, Rachel and Riley, and now the addition of Ryder for the boys and Reagan for the girls) have a completely different beginning sound than their older counterparts. So, is it a sound thing? Or have other names just overtaken the Rs?

What do you think? Are there any R names from the 1950s that you would like to see at the top again? Or do you think the R name is going to continue to fall?

Originally posted at NameFreak! on March 13, 2013 and revised for Nameberry.

Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.