Category: baby name trends
In 1970, the novel Love Story captured America‘s imagination with the tale of a wealthy Harvard jock who meets a girl from the other side of the tracks. It was soon followed by a movie of the same name — a tear-jerker that became the top box-office draw of the year. The American Film Institute has named Love Story one of the ten most romantic movies of all time, but its biggest legacy may be solidifying Jennifer‘s status as the top girl’s name of the 1970s and early-’80s.
The heroine of the book and movie (played by Ali McGraw) was named Jennifer “Jenny” Cavalleri. And in addition to being a wisecracking beauty, she had terminal leukemia. (I’m not spoiling anything here. The very first line of the movie is: “What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?”) .
Apparently America‘s response to watching a tragic girl fall in love and die was, “Hey, cool name.” Jennifer supplanted Lisa as the most popular name in the United States in 1970 and didn’t relinquish its grip until 1985.
By Abby Sandel, Appelation Mountain
Both new arrivals names’ are definitely distinctive, and at first glance, it might seem that they wouldn’t have much impact on what the rest of us name our children.
But high profile birth announcements – even the most extreme examples – do change the way that we think about possible names, often for the better.
Here’s the thing about baby name data: the Top 20 is actually kind of dull.
Not the names themselves, necessarily. In order to become one of the 20 most popular given names in the US for any particular year, a name has to be pretty great. Versatile. They’ve usually been worn by some high profile types, be they Biblical patriarchs or borrowings from the silver screen.
But we can see them coming.
By the time a name reaches such lofty heights, we’ve watched it gain for ten, twenty, forty years or more, right? Former #1 Isabella climbed every year from 1990 through 2009 before reaching the top spot. Even newcomers like Jayden don’t debut in the Top 100. Others – think William, James, Elizabeth – are frequent members of the club, as likely to be there in the 1880s or 1940s as they are today.
Investors often rely on charts and technical analysis to decide whether to buy or sell a stock. That means they focus less on the fundamental qualities of the company (say, whether sales are growing or it has a good CEO), and instead concentrate on the movements of its share price. If the chart is displaying a certain pattern — one that has been historically shown to foreshadow a rise in value — the investor will buy the stock.
Having spent my career deciphering stock charts as a financial journalist, I suppose it seemed natural to apply the same techniques when coming up with baby names. After all, the popularity of names tends to move in hundred-year cycles, and the same patterns repeat over and over again. That means you can spot a good name based on its chart alone.
It’s been noted before that one of the most striking trends when analyzing American baby names is the rise in popularity of boys’ names ending with the letter ‘n’ over the past few decades. What I haven’t seen is a visualization that truly demonstrates the scale of this phenomenon. And for a good reason; it’s difficult to show trends over time in 26 variables. So I made this animated GIF of bar graphs; pay attention to the ‘n’ after the mid-70s.