Reprise: The Age of Aidans
Three years ago, I looked at American baby names and declared that we had entered "The Age of Aidans":
Looking at the most popular American baby names of 2004, one name leaps out at me....or rather, one sound. A whopping 33 different names rhyming with Aidan made the boys' top 1000 list. (And that doesn't even count the near misses, like Dayton-Payton-Layton-Clayton-Treyton.) That number is up from 28 Aidan-esque names in 2003, and just one 20 years ago.
It turns out that wave is still rising. The number of Aidan-rhymes on the boys' list reached 40 last year, accounting for more than 4% of all boys born. And even the formidable -aidan bloc is just a small part of a larger phenomenon: little Daytons, Casons, Kians, Landyns, etc. Almost a third of all boys born now receive a name ending in -n. Meanwhile the traditional, classic English boys' names are all plummeting because parents want their kids' names to be "distinctive." But how distinctive is Jaidyn in a class with Aydin, Bradyn, Kaeden, Raiden and Zayden? (Yes, those are all top-1000 names.)
What you have here is a story of two competing impulses. American parents love the idea of unusual names, but our tastes are still as much like our neighbors' as ever. The inevitable result is hundreds of tiny variations on a theme. We carve out tiny niches of uniqueness -- "that's Jaidyn, not Jadyn" -- and end up sounding more alike than ever.