Obsessed with names? You're not alone.

Apr 5th 2012

I've been practicing Baby Name Wizardry for a decade now, and I've seen plenty of changes in name trends. One of the biggest trends isn't about the names themselves, but about the way we talk about them -- or rather, how much we talk about them. Name talk is everywhere. My peculiar obsession with names doesn't seem so peculiar any more.

That's the sense I've had, at least. But perhaps it's just my name's eye view talking? Let's take a look.

First stop: the New York Times archives. How many Times articles have used the phrase "baby names" in the past five years? Answer: 70. Looking ten years earlier (April 1997-April 2002), that number was just twelve.  "Baby naming" shows similar growth, while other baby phrases like "baby clothes" and "baby strollers" have held steady.

Next stop: Google's Ngram viewer, which allows historical searches of a massive collection of books. Check out the Ngram graph of the rate of occurrence of "baby names" and "baby naming" in English-language books in the 20th Century. A surge in both phrases started around 1980 and kept on growing. And their data only goes up to the year 2000. Anybody think that curve has gone anywhere but up since?

It makes sense that names are a hotter topic than ever before. After all, they're more diverse and more meaningful than ever before. But isn't it nice to know, for sure, that you're in good company? Welcome to the obsession, everyone.



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