Research followup: what goes up (fast) must come down
A year ago, I invited you all to participate in a study on name trends. (I had provided some baby-name expertise to the research team, from the Wharton School of Business.) If you're curious what came of your input, I'm happy to report that their results have been published -- you can read the original scholarly paper (pdf), or get Wired magazine's thoughts on the subject. Or if your click finger's tired, here's my brief take:
Names that rise in popularity fast tend to fall fast as well. This in itself isn't a surprise. In fact, I've been blithely saying so for years -- though having rigorous research to back up my reckless claims is awfully nice. But the meatier part of the study comes from the opinions of research subjects like you. It suggests that parents are attuned to the rate of adoption of a name and that it affects their perception of the name. Enough of the public is trying to actively avoid short-lived naming fads that they help make those fads short lived.
Or to put it another way, there's a big difference between a popular name and a trendy name. Elizabeth and Addison may be close in current usage rates, but that identical popularity comes across very differently.
This reminds me of another study I talked about a couple of years back. In that case, I suggested that the researchers had made a mistake by choosing "equivalent" names based on popularity at a particular time, ignoring the historical ebb and flow that helps shape our perceptions.
Which is why tools like the NameVoyager so revealing. They don't just tell us where a name is today, they show us where it's been...and as the new study demonstrates, help us guess where it's going.