Category: Baby Names Popularity
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.
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Now that Social Security has released the top names for every state, we can move beyond the broad nationwide picture and delve into the more regional patterns. As you’ll see below, far from every state was on board with newly crowned Noah—in fact he topped the lists of only three states. Also it’s interesting to see how various favorites spill over shared borders, such as which names were common primarily in New England (Benjamin!), the South (Brooklyn!) and the West (Harper!), as well as such idiosyncrasies as Paisley being a Top 5 name in Wyoming, Lincoln in the Utah Top 10 and Aria a top name in Hawaii.
TOP 5 GIRLS
Though Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella and Ava were the Top 5 nationwide, Sophia was at the top of the list in only 11 states, while Emma ruled in 27, Olivia in seven, Ava in three and Isabella in two. The one outlier? Charlotte was in the lead in the District of Columbia.
By Arika Okrent
Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon. Thanks to Arika for permission to reprint this article from The Week.
Like a lot of people, I was entranced recently by this animated map of the most popular baby names for girls by state over the past 52 years. It shows how the country shifted from Mary to Lisa before giving over completely to Jennifer, after which the Jessica/Ashley and Emily/Emma battles eventually resolved into the current dominance of Sophia. The map was created by Reuben Fischer-Baum of Deadspin using baby name data from the Social Security Administration. The SSA website gives the top 1,000 boy and girl names (as reported on social security card applications) for each year from 1880 onward.
Certain names seem as likely to be on children as on their parents, but are unimaginable on grandparents and great-grandparents.
These names are modern classics, names that have been highly ranked on the Social Security list for about 30-40 years, but were very uncommon or even obscure before then.
To me, modern classics can follow two different paths. There are:
- Former revival names and,
- Former modern names.
When people ask me what letter I would use if I had to name ten children with the same letter, my answer is S. But I also clarify that it is S and not Sh! To me, since they are different sounds they are different “letters” with which to begin a name. As my mind ran with this thought, I wondered how have the two sounds differed in terms of popularity?
To do this research, I used the S and Sh names with percentage of use above 0.01% since 1938*. This cutoff was chosen because the Top 1000 in 2012 include names with a percentage higher than 0.0131% for girls. Because the S and Sh sounds are not exclusive to the letters S and Sh, I also added the names that begin with the letters C and Ch that have the S and Sh sounds. This can be subjective as some of the names can be pronounced with either the S/Sh sound or the hard C/Ch sound, but I went with what I thought would be the mostly likely sound heard.