30th name reunion: where are they now?
I'm going to look deep into your eyes, dear reader, and tell your fortune:
Your name is going out of style.
Oooh, uncanny, isn't it? Ok, it's not really such a bold prediction. Chances are, if you're old enough to be interested in articles on baby name statistics you're old enough to have seen a few fashion waves come and go. Most of us grownups have tried out some different hairstyles along the way, and worn some clothes we'd rather forget. But long after the MC Hammer pants are forgotten, we still carry one frozen moment of style with us every day: our names.
This single most lasting fashion statement isn't even one we picked out ourselves. Your momma may not pick out your clothes any more, but she still lays claim to your name. As a momma myself now, I'm not about to call this a bad thing. It's good to have an anchor of continuity as we move through our changing lives. But it does have some disconcerting side effects. Most of us, day by day, are watching ourselves fall deeper and deeper out of style. (A select few, of course, are experiencing the opposite phenomenon. After a lifetime of having to spell "Aidan" for everyone you meet, suddenly you find your head whipping around every time a mom calls the name out in the grocery store. But that's a story for another day.)
Just how deep is the style trench? It depends on your sex. Let's take a look at the valedictorians of the name class of 1975. Here are the top 10 baby boys' names of that year:
It appears that a typical 30-year-old man's name has lost 2/3 of its popularity over his lifespan. But it's hardly a dire situation -- every one of those names still ranks among the top 60 boys' names today, and four of them remain in the top 10. As a group, they were classics long before 1975 and remain so to a lesser extent today.
Now, the top 10 girls of 1975:
Gulp. The current highest-ranking name of the group is Jennifer at #38, the lowest Lisa at #431. Freefall. The reason, presumably, is found in the the sharp up-slope on the graph 50 years ago. While parents' conservatism in boys' names has given those names a gentle landing, their fashionable creativity with girls' names has left the trendiest choices zooming back to earth.
In a previous post, I discussed how parents of boys are starting to abandon their conservatism and follow fashion more with their name choices. That's creating a much more diverse name pool for the class of 2005. But 30 years from now, we may see more men spiralling out of style the same way that women do today.