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Friday, May 9, 2014

Top Name? Don't Despair!

The 2013 SSA baby name data has been released! This is very exciting news in the naming community. I of course ran to share the news on Facebook and other places. A few of my friends responded with either a sad tone of "oh, the name I like is more popular than I thought" or "is it really bad to choose a popular name?"

The point of this blog post is to say - don't despair if you love a popular name. For starters, popularity is only one fact about a name, a fact people should be aware of but doesn't necessarily dictate name choice, it is entirely up to the parents. But more significantly, baby names are much more diverse than they used to be. A name being ranked #1 doesn't have the same punch it used to have, because even though its the MOST popular, its less popular than #1 from decades past - significantly so.

I know other bloggers have looked at this, but it can be said again and again, and demonstrated in many ways, so here are some numbers.

In 2013, the number one girls name is Sophia. There were 21,075 babies born named Sophia in 2013, or 1.1% of all girls.

Lets compare that to the year 1980. In 1980, Jennifer was the #1 name, representing 58,385 births (3.2%). So, despite both being #1 names, Jennifer was effectively 3x more common than Sophia is.

If there were 21,075 Sophia's born in 1980, the name would have been ranked 6th overall. By percentage, it would have been ranked 8th. It would be about as popular as Amy. Yes,  a common 1980 name, but not an issue where you have a bunch in the same classroom usually.

The #20 name in 2013 was Evelyn, with 7616 births and .39%. That percentage in 1980 would make it be ranked 42nd (it would be about as popular as the name Brandy or Christine. Do you know a 34 yr old Christine or Brandy? Maybe, but I doubt you think of either name being overly popular.

This new distribution, with people choosing a wider variety of names, means it is also harder to have a truly "rare' name. The 500th name in 2013 is Emersyn, with .0312%. The 500th name in 1980 was Alaina and represented .0229% of the girls born. Alaina at 500 was less common than Emersyn at 500. If Emersyn had this frequency in 1980, it would have been ranked 402, about as popular as Penny.

The take away from all these numbers?
- Unless you rank popularity as very important in your personal naming criteria, don't worry too much if a name you love is popular. It doesn't mean your kid will be "Evelyn K." or "Evelyn J." in her classroom. Names are less common.
- Don't try too hard to be unique, its nearly impossible in the current naming atmosphere, and growing more difficulty every year as more parents try. The more parents want to be unique, the less unique options there are.

The Disclaimers
- All the above calculations? Doesn't account for name spellings and variations! If you are particularly concerned with how popular a name you use, you can't just count Sophia. You probably want to count Sofia, Sofie, and Sophie as well.
- And, as usual, don't forget shared nicknames. Evelyn might not be all that common (even at #20), but you might run into a lot of girls named "Evie" as this nickname can be derived from many other names as well.
- There is extreme local variance in name popularity. You might choose the #20 name only to find out its #1 in your state or community. State level data is available for download from the SSA baby name site (link on the right). 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What Makes a Name Trendy?

I have been frequenting a baby name message board recently, and people frequently are surprised when a name they like is called "trendy" by other users. When I have time, I like to bother answering them. Today I had a lot of time, and thought, hey I did so much research on this, surely it is worthy of a blog post.
Question: I don't understand what makes a name trendy? I have not heard the name Kenzie anywhere around me and I've lived in 3 states and worked in a pre-k class for 2 years before my daughter was born. Is it super common now or something or is it just common around where you all live?

Answer:  Many factors go into determining if a name is "trendy", and in this case, the label is very apt. 

(Rapidly) Increasing Popularity: If a name was not popular, and then rises very quickly, that is a sign that its trending. Kenzie has risen from 871 to 270 in the last 20 years. That isn't insanely quick, but its a good pace. 

General Style: Even if a specific name isn't popular, it may have the feel of many popular names. Kenzie is not top 100, but it has the same feel to it (cute, "ee" sound ending, casual sound) as the top 100 names Hailey, Kaylee, Riley, Kylie, Bailey, as well as other "trending" names like Paisley (104), Rylee (109), Sadie (120).. .etc. The list could go on. On top of this stylistic match, there is the fact Kenzie has both a "z" and "k", both "sought after" letters that are drawing parents in.

Name Family: A single name that rises quickly but stays out of the top 100 isn't really trending... but if it is part of a name family, all of which are gaining in popularity, it is definitely trendy. This is the strongest argument for Kenzie's trendiness. It is actually a nickname for the longer name Mackenzie, so we have to consider the popularity of this name as well. Mackenzie is ranked 71st, then add in Makenzie (150), and McKenzie (152). These four names combined make up .4756% of all girls born in 2012, that is as popular as Ella, the #12 name for the year. Also, all of these names are on the rise, along with the very similar McKenna (226), Makenna (229), Kendall (116), Kendra (387) and Kenley (449). 

All in all, yes, Kenzie is definitely trendy. That is a piece of information expectant parents should have, but its not necessarily a bad thing. There are all sorts of reasons for why trendy names are good, but that would require its own post.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Harry Potter Alphabet: J is for Janus

When I was younger, J was one of my favorite naming letters. It is the reason I love the name Benjamin. Now, a bit older, and I actually find J to be a challenge for naming, and it appears that I am not alone - JK Rowling only used six "J" names in her books, and some of these are a stretch - one is a surname, and one is a middle name.

Justin - Justin is an old Latin name, related to the name Justus, and the word Justice. It means "just, upright, and righteous". Most popular in the late 80s/early 90s, the name is still in the top 100, but on the decline.  (Justin Finch-Fletchley)

Jack - American is no stranger to Jack. This exact variant has been in the top 100 since 1996, and other versions (Jackson, Jax, Jaxon, etc) also all have had recent popularity. Jack is originally a nickname for John, but broke off on its own a long time ago. (Jack Sloper)

Jane (Deloris Jane Umbridge) - Jane is very popular as a middle name currently. (So popular I have feared when making my own name decisions that it is this generation's version of Lynn. You would be astounded by how many women my age have the middle name Lynn). Despite its middle name popularity, it is ranked rather low (mid 300s) as a first name. The saying tied to the name is "Plain Jane", and I have seen several women worry that they "like the name, but is it too boring?". I don't think its boring at all. I think its classy, and sometimes, simple is exactly what we need.

Jordan (Lee Jordan) - So, Jordan is actually used as a surname in Harry Potter, but fans now that this character rarely goes by his first name Lee. The voice of Professor McGonnagal shouting Jordan still echoes in my ears. Jordan is one of my favorite gender-neutral names. (OK... it actually might be one of the only gender-neutral names I like!). It has been in the top 1000 for awhile, but really took off as a boy's name in the 80s (right around the time Michael Jordan entered the scene... coincidence? I think not...).

James (James Potter) - Regal, Biblical, and overall, classic. James reached its all time low of popularity in 2010... when it hit 19th. That's right, since 1880, James has never fallen out of the top 100. Talk about a perennial.

Janus (Janus Thickey) - This boys name Janus is an old Latin name, also the Roman god of doors. It means "gateway". Similar sound female names, like Janet, Janice, and Janelle are a bit out of fashion. Does that mean Janus is outdated, or due for a comeback? (Janus Thickey)

So what do you think? Is there a James or Jane in your future? What about the more unique Janus? Did Rowling do "J" justice?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to Get Your Nickname: Carlie

In 2012, 2287 girls in the US were named some version of Carlie. The most popular spelling is Carly, followed by Carlee, Carlie, Carley, and Carleigh in that order. A similar name, Carla, is also ranked in the top 1000. Love the sound of Carlie but want to give your kid a more formal option? Try on the names below for size...

Charlotte - Growing in popularity, and most recently coming at 19th, many mom's are choosing this with the nicknames of Charlie or Lottie in mind, but Carlie is just as fitting!

Charletta - If Charlotte is getting too popular for your taste, you could try this variation.

Caroline - Carlie is a more updated nickname for this old classic then Carol. Just as with Charlotte and Charlette, Carolina is also an option (or Carolin).

Carabella - Belle names are all the vogue, (in fact this blog at Baby Name Wizard lists 146 Belle names that made it into the public SSA records in 2012), so why not Carabelle? It could have a great meaning too - beloved beauty.

Carlicia - This is probably one of the most direct routes to Carlie, along with the slight variations of Carlisa and Caralisa.

Charlene - I am not sure this name is quite ready for a comeback. It was most popular in 1949, when it reached the rank of 100th, but has declined since then and fell entirely out of the top 1000 in the 2000. But if you want to use it as an honor name, Carlie could be a great nickname.

Carmella - A more feminine frilly version of Carmen.

Caraliesa - This is especially good for people who love the sound of Carlie but want something more formal! A similar option is Caralie.

Scarlett/Scarletta - It is always hard to identify the names that have the nickname in the middle, but this one is obvious. Currently ranked 61st, it is a trendy choice, but the nickname Carlie could offer another twist.

So what do you think? Any of these worth considering?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Northern Minnesota Real Names (January 2014)

Dom Kenneth
Luca Christopher
Orlando John
Robert Allert-Nordman
Dominic Robert
Fisher Kelvin
Jacob Benjamin
Morrison Lawrence
Jaden Elias
Jaxon Timothy
Bennett Robert
Caleb Joseph
Lucas Stephen
Damasio Tony
Cohen Robert
Roman Cameron
Rhett James
Parker Joseph
Ward William
Eirik Harold William

Olivia Genevieve
IraRose Reign
Riley Marie
Maizie Mae
Isla Denise
McKinlee Anne Marie
Willow Barbara-Kit
Chelsea Fay
Isla Kathleen
Karly Kathleen

Any comments? Two Isla's in one month. I knew this name was on the rise, maybe is climbing faster then we would have suspected!! Also, a lot of double middle names - and hyphenated middle names, something I hadn't really considered. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Nickname Myth

I have blogged before about using nicknames as given names. Its an ongoing controvery in the naming world. Many people would say its a current trend. Often, when it is discussed, it is treated as a new phenomenon - something to be compared to the classic tradition of giving full names on the birth certificate. This characterization, however, doesn't hold up to some basic research. Even if using nicknames as given names IS a trend, which I also question, it is certainly a recurring trend, not a brand new dilemma.

I discovered this rarely-known piece of information when I was looking for new baby name inspiration (Yes, despite my blog-silence, my name obsession has continued). Tired of looking at the 2012 SSA records and thinking "none of these names are CLASSIC enough for me", I pulled up the oldest records the SSA has available for babynames - 1880. What I found surprised me.

The following names were all in the top 100 in 1880: Minnie, Annie, Nellie, Carrie, Jennie, Hattie, Mattie, Lula, Fannie, Mamie, Effie, Sallie, Nettie, Lizzie, Susie, Etta, Kate, Addie, Lulu, Lottie, Nannie, Lottie, Katie, Leo, Dan, Ray, Alex, Charlie, Jack, Ben, Ed, Jim, Tom, Sam, Will, Joe, Fred, and Frank. And those are just the OBVIOUS nicknames I didn't include things like Harry, Mollie, Elsie, or Lillie, which could be viewed as stand alone names depending on the definition. Thats 38 names out of 200 that were very common given names, but would be considered nicknames today. (On an entirely seperate note, holy -ie endings batman!!! Seriously, I am not sure they believed in the letter "y" at all!!)

So, in 1880, 14% of top 100 given names were obvious nicknames. Let's compare that to today. The following names are currently in the top 100 (as of 2012... I can't wait for the 2013 data!!) - Kayla, Ellie, Alex, Eli, and Liam. A measly 5 name, or 2.5% are nicknames, and thats counting Liam as a nickname, which at this point could be considered a stand alone name as much as Mollie and Harry are.

Is 2% really a trend? I don't think so. I can't go through every year to gather statistics on that, I don't have time. But, it wouldn't suprise me to find out that having ONLY 5 of the Top 100 names be nicknames is actually quite low.

Conclusion?? There is not a "epidemic" of using nicknames as given names, and even if this was a current popular trend, it wouldn't be a new trend, but rather just cycling back to the past as we always do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Northern Minnesota Real Names (Oct 13 and 20th)

Louis H
Thomas John
Tallon Raining
Benjamin Theodore
Bryton Phoenix
Bryson James
Ernest Leroy

Sophia Joyce
Piper June
Rowan Marie
Berit Emily
Freya Vivianna
Aria Lynn Marie
Charlotte Nancy
Mila Kaelynn Sam
Lanie Beth
Janaya Jo

Emily Rae and Elise Marie

Funny that two names that Nameberry recently listed as on the rise appeared this week (Freya and Louis). What do you think of a little girl named Berit?