30th name reunion: where are they now?

Dec 16th 2005

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.

Comments

1
By Abby (not verified)
December 16, 2005 11:58 PM

Actually, with my name I think it's the opposite. I'm a 1979 Abby - not Abigail, mind you. And it's not an Eight is Enough thing, either.I don't know many Abbys my age, but I sure know a lot of them 5 and younger ...

2
By Anonymous (not verified)
December 17, 2005 4:30 AM

Yeah, it's the same with me too. My parents named me Matilda about a decade too early. These years I hear about a lot of baby girls named Matilda, not least Heath Ledger's daughter! And what's even stranger is that my sister's name is Abby (Abigail though)! She also just missed out on the trend by a couple of years.

3
By Anonymous (not verified)
December 17, 2005 5:43 AM

I'm a 1975 Nicola. There were lots of us (in the UK). Now, parents are using Nicole instead.

4
By Psyche (not verified)
December 17, 2005 3:32 PM

My name started being top 10 in 1984 or so, and it's still there! I'm still meeting babies with my name, and I've always been one of 2 or 3 in my classroom at school. (I don't live in the US, by the way. Maybe name trends move slower where I live).

5
By catz (not verified)
December 17, 2005 4:32 PM

My daughter was born in 1969. I named her Kaitlin, because I figured it was a celtic form of Katherine and it was not known by most people. I had only seen it spelled Caitlin, so I changed the first letter. Now it is too common and spelled a variety of ways. It was my tribute to Katharine Hepburn with using her name.

6
By oliviacw (not verified)
December 17, 2005 7:21 PM

ooh, talk about that whipping-the-head around thing! I was a 1968 Olivia, and I never met another Olivia until I was 20. Now, it seems like every time I'm in the mall I hear at least one mom calling her daughter to "stop that, Olivia" or "come over here, Olivia."

7
By Camilla (not verified)
December 17, 2005 11:32 PM

Thanks - this was a very good illustration of something that is very hard to describe in words, when trying to explain to someone that they are risking too heavy a date-stamp with some names.

8
By Anonymous (not verified)
December 18, 2005 3:00 AM

I'm a 1975 Jennifer, and the phenomenon of which you described is the very reason that we chose date-proof names for our children. I always hated my name because it was always appended with the last initial, there were always at least 3 in a room at the same time, and you can guess my age without ever meeting me in person. I really hate it.The childrens' names are Elliot, Miranda and Nathaniel, incidentally.

9
By Claire (not verified)
December 19, 2005 2:47 PM

I'm another head-whipper -- born in 1961 with the name of Claire. I never met another Claire until I was an adult. Now there's plenty of them on the playground.I liked growing up with a simple, not-popular, old-fashioned name, though, so I named my girls Rose and...uh-oh...Emma. Little did I know that that one was going to take off like a rocket!

10
By Array (not verified)
December 19, 2005 7:14 PM

As a 1987 Amy, I feel rather young, ha! My name is definitely going out of style, and I like it that way. It doesn't matter much either way, though--up until this year (my first year of college), I never knew another Amy my age. All the other Amys were friends of my mother.My little sister, a 1993 Ruby, is having the opposite problem. She's always been the only Ruby, and she gets mad when she sees a birth announcement for a Ruby in the paper! Poor thing likes having an individual name.

11
By Anonymous (not verified)
December 19, 2005 7:22 PM

I'm a mid-sixties Lisa, and I've made every effort to choose era neutral names for my children. By "era neutral", I mean names that don't have wild swings in popularity, names that could just as easily belong to a seventy-year-old as a thirty-year-old as a three-year-old.I hate being one of so many 40ish women called Lisa.

12
By Anonymous (not verified)
December 19, 2005 8:48 PM

My Hubby is a 1969 Grant suddenly surrounded by young Grants in the work he does with schools.

13
By Jan (not verified)
December 19, 2005 11:21 PM

I'm a 1975 baby. According to Baby Name Voyager my name actually peaked in the 50s but it certainly has a 70s association with "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!"

14
By Anonymous (not verified)
December 21, 2005 5:16 AM

I see it most at the gym -- me and all the other aging Amys and Jennifers panting away in spin class. Terribly sad, we'll be the Ethels of our time. I think we nameproofed our daughter as well as we could w/o going WASP: Dutch name with a German nickname, and if both those fail she's got a Yiddish name too. Goes by all three, she's pretty flexible. Otoh, my husband's family's genealogy shows a girl named Experience in the 1700s. I was all for it, but he said no.

15
By Denise (not verified)
December 21, 2005 8:02 PM

Maybe you could analyze the relation between pet names and people names in a future column if you have that data available. I understand Abby and Ginger are two really common pet names.

16
By Antoinette (not verified)
December 22, 2005 10:45 PM

Oddly enough, my name is rising in popularity. It was really unusual when I was in school but now I meet lots of little kids with my name. (It's Alanna)I always liked being unusual, it's a bit odd to look up when someone is calling their kid.

17
By Anonymous (not verified)
December 31, 2005 5:14 PM

I was named "Janet" about two decades after the name peaked, and my sister was named "Ruth" about 5 decades after its peak. People often say to me, "oh, I have an aunt named Janet" (and for my sister it's "a great-aunt named Ruth"). But neither name is weird or exotic, so it's never really been a problem to be out of fashion. I named my daughter Alice, which is uncommon (though probably on the upswing) but also a name that everyone recognizes and nobody thinks is strange.

18
By Anonymous (not verified)
January 3, 2006 12:37 AM

Denise said:"Maybe you could analyze the relation between pet names and people names in a future column if you have that data available. I understand Abby and Ginger are two really common pet names."My eldest cat's name is Abby but it has an interesting derivation. Her name at the shelter was Tricky, which I hated (reminded me of Tricky Dick Nixon). I rechristened her Abracadabra, which sort of captures the essence of Tricky (you say Abracadabra when you do a trick, get it?). Abby for short. I've gotten into the habit of calling her AbbyCat, and occasionally slip into that when addressing my friend's DOG named Abby. Hope I don't give her a complex!I think Molly is even more common as a pet name, particularly for dogs. I have met many!

19
By Anonymous (not verified)
January 6, 2006 9:59 PM

I'm a 1973 Kristen Nicole. Talk about date-stamped.I got the latest issue of my alumni newsletter last week, and in the births section was a new baby named Kristen Nicole. I don't think I'm overstating it to say I was astounded. I'll bet fifty bucks that baby is named for its mother's sisters or dear friends. A Kristen Nicole in 2005? Almost unheard of!In fact, it would be interesting to read something on the effect of namesakes on the lifespan of a name.-Kristen

20
By Kristin (not verified)
January 11, 2006 5:01 PM

I was going to say the same thing as Kristen Nicole. I'm Kristin Michelle - pretty much in the same boat! :) And I, too, am seeing lots of new babies named Kristin/Kristen. Every time I think, "ewww, don't you people know that name is out of fashion?"

21
By Molly (not verified)
January 16, 2006 1:09 AM

On pet names: the ratio of dogs I've met with my name to humans with my name is probably 2:1. My head whips around constantly...in dog parks.

22
By Anonymous (not verified)
January 19, 2006 7:04 PM

Im a 1970 Julianne - like a lot of you - I never met another Julie or Julianne (except for a 1st older cousin Julie-Ann) until I was older & even still the name isnt very common I think - I personally never was too crazy about it - I think because not too many people have the name - and to me the funniest thing is when I get a card or letter and they spell it JULY or JUILE!!!!

23
By Lara (not verified)
January 22, 2006 8:21 PM

Ha! This post is weeks old but I had to comment. It's a little surprising (and sad) that my name is gaining in popularity. Like Amy's little sister, Ruby, I like(d) having a not-so-common name.Somehow it's still almost always mispronounced! It DOES NOT rhyme with Sarah! That host of "Extra" doesn't do me any favors...

24
By Kelli J. (not verified)
February 26, 2006 4:27 AM

I am a 1969 Kelli---WITH AN "I"!!! I knew "Kelly" was a popular name then, but I didn't realize the spelling was as popular with an "i" until I was an adult & found several Kelly's with i's & ie's. Here I thought I was special because of the spelling, but I liked being an individual when I was a kid. Names of my kids...Julia (didn't know how popular it was--oops!) and Antony. We wised up & used a popular name with a different twist. There are hardly any "Antony's" & he can always fall back on "Tony" if he doesn't want to stand out.

25
By Laila (not verified)
March 2, 2006 7:14 AM

My name, Laila (1978), has never been in the top 1000 untill 2004. I always loved having a unique name. I hear it has always been popular in middle eastern countries because of its Arabic roots.

26
By megan (not verified)
March 4, 2006 4:52 PM

I'm a Megan, born in 1976 and no one ever had my name.
Whenever I said my name to anyone, they didn't know what I was saying, they were like, Maggie?
Throughout the 80's, I could never get any of those personalized license plates, pens, paper... etc.
Now I constantly hear mom's calling their kids

27
By Angela (not verified)
March 12, 2006 11:40 AM

I'm a 1975 Angela, and only 1/2 Italian. I was born in Illinois, and now live in the NY suburbs and rarely hear my name, although it seems to have been more popular in my birth state.
My daughter is a July 2005 Charlotte Rose, Dillan McDermot didn't get on board until September! But now the name is all over TV and movies. Everytime we hear it my husband and I cringe. We were not going for a pop culture name. And Rose is for both her Grandma's MaryRose(NY-1952) and Rosemary(IL-1949).

28
By Josh (not verified)
August 30, 2006 7:11 AM

Fall in popularity? Not if you're a Josh. But the naming rate seems to have plumetted.

29
By Lana (not verified)
September 13, 2006 11:31 PM

My name's popularity peaked in the 1940's and it's still pretty uncommon, although I guess it's on the rise. I never met anyone with my name who wasn't my mom's age or older, until just this past year when I worked with another Lana who was about my age. It was pretty shocking. I hated my name when I was a kid and I was actually jealous of the "name twins" in my class, but I'd say I'm pretty proud of it now. Good job, Mom.

30
By Kathee (not verified)
September 24, 2006 11:10 PM

I'm a 1977 Kathleen, so, I don't have this problem. But my sister is a 1979 Melissa....name stamp!

I gave my daughter a classic name (Katherine) to guard against any name-stamp

31
By Connie (not verified)
December 16, 2006 4:57 AM

It's interesting how names go in and out of popularity. I've been fortunate, though, as I was born in the 50s, and my name has always been somewhat unique . . .

Thank God my Mom didn't go with Kimberly!

32
By Sheila (not verified)
April 13, 2007 6:01 AM

My name is Sheila and I've always loved my name. It's uncommon but not something people have never heard of. I did get alot of mis-spellings as a kid though. People have trouble with the i-before-e thing. I don't meet many people with my name, so my head snaps around when I hear it.

33
By lisa (not verified)
May 22, 2007 9:40 PM

mid forties you bet talk about everyone knowing about how old you are! I was suppose to be Liza (German) but the nurse didn't get the translation so elvis, and lisa stuck but thank goodness i have my aunts middle name Lila another name stamp...I always know when someone is a Lisa she's probabley around forty!

34
By Nadeine (not verified)
January 15, 2008 10:58 PM

i was graced with the name Nadeine (1969). do not hear of any other nadeine's. any out there??????

35
By Corinne (not verified)
February 23, 2008 2:57 AM

I'm a 1992 Corinne (ages younger than the rest of everyone!) and I've been fortunate to have only encountered being "Corinne O." once. This past season I was Corinne O. in dance class (versus Corinne W.). Never happened before. I'm 15, only ever met two other Corinnes, and I am most fortunate for it.

36
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