Baby Name Trends: The n-ending boys’ names epidemic

April 17, 2014 Linda Rosenkrantz

By David

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.

I was also interested in the trends for each letter; in the GIF above, there’s a rise and a fall of names ending in “d” (although the rise ends in the mid-1930s, which I’ve already explained is problematic due to the way data was collected). So here’s a grid of every letter; the scales are not the same (“n” is far more popular than “q”, for example) so I’ve shaded each one so that darker green goes along with most popularity, and the overall trends of each one can be seen:

There’s still more that can done with this data; only since 2011 have as many as four of the top ten boys’ names ended in ‘n’, so evidently this is a phenomenon that has carried through more than the top tier of popularity; it would be interesting to see the contributions of different names. I also wonder what some of the peaks and valleys for other names represent, and of course one could always do the same analysis to the last letters of girls’ names (let me guess: lots of “a”s), the first letters of either sex, and even middle letters or multi-letter patterns. More to come, unless some other shiny data bauble catches my eye first…

David Taylor is a biotechnologist who found himself the only person in his lab foolish enough to take on the task of creating visualizations of incredibly complex genomic data. Making a virtue of necessity, David started a website to showcase his skills with more down-to-earth data such as baby names, healthcare and censuses. In six months of operation, has had over 300,000 pageviews.


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