Category: baby name popularity
For many name nerds there are two things that are usually pretty high on their want list when choosing names. One is that the name isn’t too “trendy” – so that it won’t seem too dated in years to come and instantly mark someone as a child of a particular decade. Another is that it’s not “too” popular.
In the 1930′s, one name that completely broke both of these rules was Shirley, thanks largely to child mega-star Shirley Temple. The name was already very well recognised, positioned at #9 in America, when Shirley Temple‘s first films were made. The attention this young girl brought to the name gave it such a boost that Nancy of popular blog Nancy‘s Baby Names points out that Shirley had the second biggest jump (in numbers of girls given the name) ever from 1934 to 1935, which saw it go from #4 to #2 when 42,353 American girls were given the name. That’s a lot of Shirleys.
Legions of expectant parents search for that “underused classic” name each year.
But what exactly is an “underused classic” name? Do underused classic names even exist? Are they some impossible standard like names that are universally appealing and forever-guaranteed-to-stay-unique?
“Classic” can be interpreted differently by different people. Instead of describing a name as “classic” I usually use “traditional” or “timeless” instead.
Semantics aside, a working definition of how I decide what makes a name “classic” might be useful. And in my world there is more than one type of classic name:
Authentic Classics – Evergreen names like Elizabeth and James. Ideally these names have never left the top 50 since 1880, the earliest year name rankings are available from the Social Security Administration.
These names could be your middle-aged neighbor or a kid in your child’s class. These names are all familiar. Most are traditional. Most are likable. Most are timeless.
And not one has ever made the top 10 on the Social Security list since 1880.
To me, this seems remarkable.
These names seem like they should have hit the top 10 by now. Take a look at the list and tell me if you agree:
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Once a year, we like to stop and turn the calendar back a hundred years to see what parents were naming their babes a century ago and whether we might find some undiscovered treasures that, following the hundred-year rule, might be ready to be revived.
What was the world like in 1913? Trouble was fomenting abroad in the year preceding World War I, but in the US it was a time of new beginnings, with the election of Woodrow Wilson, the births of future Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, women marching to gain the vote– and, for better or worse, it was the year that saw the introduction of the Federal income tax, the first cigarette pack, stainless steel and the zipper.
Things were quiet at the top end of the baby name popularity list as well, headed by the expected classics for boys: John, William, James, Robert, Joseph, George, Charles, Edward, Frank and Thomas (not dissimilar to the royal baby list), while for the girls there were period favorites Mary (36,000+ of them), Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth, Mildred, Anna, Elizabeth, Frances and Marie. Of these Top 10 boys and girls, only William and Elizabeth survive on the current Top 10, with James and Joseph still in the Top 20.
The 2012 Popular Baby Names list was released in May to a lot of excited name enthusiasts. Of course we were all interested in the Top 10 and Top 100, but I also loved seeing what fell out of and what made its way into the Top 1000. What’s the new name on the block? Finding out was like Christmas in May.
On my blog back in January, I made my own predictions and suggested 6 girl names and 6 boy names that would crack into the Top 1000. It’s always hard to say what will make the jump into the published list and what will not. In 2011, for example, Hattie reentered the Top 1000 at #993 with 253 births, up from 157 births in 2010 (which would have put it at #1444). It could take a lot of births, or just a few depending on the activity of the other thousand names throughout the year. To help me make these predictions, I went through the 100 names below the Top 1000 to see what jumped out at me.