Quiz: America's Local Name Styles

Jul 19th 2012

If you meet kids named Abigail and Andrew, they could be from anywhere in the United States. But if you meet a little Maeve and Brendan...or Aspen and Colter...or Jakayla and Jamarion, their names might suggest a particular local style.

Behind our national baby name stats lies a patchwork quilt of local tastes. I've been working on a new map of regional name styles, and it's been fascinating to see the country's diverse styles, cultures and dreams laid out in baby name terms.

Below I've collected the top 3 most characteristic names for girls and boys from eight states. These aren't necessarily the most popular choice, but rather the names most disproportionately popular in that state compared to the rest of the country. To me, these names feel like a tour of eight distinct parts of the country. Can you match the names to the states?

The states:
Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Wisconsin

The most characteristic names (column 1 is girls' names, column 2 boys'):

1

  Aspen Colter
  Mckinley Ryker
  Harper Lane
     
2 Maeve Brendan
  Fiona Declan
  Lila Theodore
     
3 Jakayla Jamarion
  Londyn Braylen
  Kyleigh Braylon
     
4 Aria Damian
  Aurora Mateo
  Ximena Ivan
     
5 Aubree Braxton
  Maci Dalton
  Hadley Bentley
     
6 Valentina Nicolas
  Angelina Sebastian
  Gabriella Alejandro
     
7 Nora Clayton
  Cora Nolan
  Brynn Jameson
     
8 Olive Ezra
  Hazel Silas
  Ruby Ryder

 

Answers will be posted in Comments, below! 

Comments

1
July 19, 2012 11:48 AM

Whoa...I was JUST commenting on the Maeve thing on a message board earlier today.  #2 is definitely MA.

2
By KB1 (not verified)
July 19, 2012 12:02 PM

Oh this is a good one! I felt confident but now think I could have them all wrong.

1: Montana

2: Massachusetts

3: Mississippi

4: Nevada

5: Kentucky

6: Florida

7: Wisconsin

8: Oregon

3
July 19, 2012 12:10 PM

Beat me to the punch, KB -- I was going to guess those exactly as you did.

4
July 19, 2012 12:12 PM

A new post just in time for lunch, wayhey! I'm not American, but here goes:

Montana

Massachusetts

Mississippi

Florida

Kentucky

Nevada

Wisconsin

Oregon

5
July 19, 2012 12:19 PM

Blythe, looks like you agree with KB and me on everything except for Nevada and Florida. The Hispanic names in (4) and (6) do seem to suggest that one is Nevada and the other is Florida . The reason I thought (4) was Nevada because Western states tend to be a bit more creative in their choices; most of the names in (6) are fairly traditional.

6
By KB1 (not verified)
July 19, 2012 12:22 PM

I live in MA and  Maeve was one of my top girls names. I hardly ever hear it - wonder why it is so popular here!

7
July 19, 2012 12:30 PM

Maeve, Fiona, Brendan, and Declan are all Irish in origin. Hence: Massachusetts.

8
By AD (not verified)
July 19, 2012 12:41 PM

I wrote down my choices before opening the comments - and Blythe and I agree exactly on every one. The names in #4 feel more like Miami Spanish names to me than #6.

9
By Guest-2011 (not verified)
July 19, 2012 12:47 PM

Being from Europe, I can only guess three or 4 states ...

6 is Nevada

4 is Florida

3 is Mississippi

2 maybe Wisconsin?

The other 4 I cannot locate, the specific names look rather unspecific to an outsider.

10
By Saille (not verified)
July 19, 2012 12:48 PM

Oh no on Maeve! I would have put that one in Oregon. It's my 4 year old daughter's name, and she has a friend a day apart in age also named Maeve. It's not uncommon here in Oregon. But the rest of the names, not so Oregonian. #8 is definitely Oregon. 

11
July 19, 2012 12:57 PM

True story: A couple of years ago a friend of mine was considering the name Ruby for her daughter. She and her husband were also considering moving to Portland. Once she found out that Ruby was particularly popular in Oregon, she went with a different name.

I wonder if Hazel's popularity there (assuming that #8 is, indeed, Oregon) has anything to do with the fact that the state is responsible for the bulk of hazelnut production in the U.S.

12
By Chanella (not verified)
July 19, 2012 12:57 PM

1. Montana

2. Massachusetts

3. Mississippi

4. Nevada

5. Kentucky

6. Florida

7. Wisconsin

8. Oregon

 

13
By J&H's mom (not verified)
July 19, 2012 1:31 PM

Montana

MA

Mississippi

Nevada

Kentucky

Florida

Wisconsin

Oregon

Looks like I'm with the group here, although I have to say the only one I'm 100% confident on is Oregon. I'd recognize those hipster farmer's market shopper's kids anywhere! :)

14
By Janie (not verified)
July 19, 2012 1:37 PM

1. Montana

2. Massachusetts

3. Mississippi

4. Florida

5. Kentucky

6. Nevada

7. Wisconsin

8. Oregon

15
By Amy3
July 19, 2012 1:40 PM

I haven't read any of the other comments yet. Here are my answers:

1. Montana

2. Massachusetts

3. Mississippi

4. Nevada

5. Kentucky

6. Florida

7. Wisconsin

8. Oregon

Can't wait to see the results!

16
By Jordie (not verified)
July 19, 2012 2:00 PM

Here we go:

1. Montana

2. Oregon

3. Miss.

4. Nevada

5. Kentucky

6. Florida

7. Wisc.

8. Mass.

 

17
By Jordie (not verified)
July 19, 2012 2:01 PM

Here we go:

1. Montana

2. Oregon

3. Miss.

4. Nevada

5. Kentucky

6. Florida

7. Wisc.

8. Mass.

 

18
By Melissa Code (not verified)
July 19, 2012 3:00 PM

1. Montana

2. Massachutes

3. Mississippi

4. Nevada

5. Kentucky

6. Florida

7. Winsconsin

8. Oregon

19
By J&H's mom (not verified)
July 19, 2012 3:02 PM

Also, I'd be interested in hearing why these 8 states Are they the ones with the most outliers?

I'd think Utah and Minnesota would be two other candidates.

 

20
July 19, 2012 3:04 PM

@ Jaymc- I wasn't sure which way to go with Nevada and Florida, exactly- my first thought was the same as yours, but I'm not American and I've never really spent time in the states so I have no idea...however, there's a sizeable Cuban community in Toronto (and Canadians love to holiday at Cuban resorts), and I realised that Damian, Ivan, Ximena, and Aurora all sounded really, really Cuban while the others sounded traditional-in-Spanish, glam/adventurous-in-English, which seemed to suit Nevada as much as  Florida :) 

I should have left that explanation to AD, who put it much more concisely, calling it 'Miami Spanish'. Can't wait to see what Laura says!

21
By Aniela (not verified)
July 19, 2012 3:41 PM

1. Kentucky

2. Massachusetts

3. Mississippi

4, Nevada

5, Wisconsin

6. Florida

7. Montana

8. Oregon

22
By GuestA (not verified)
July 19, 2012 3:47 PM

1. Montana
2. Massachusetts
3. Mississippi
4. Florida
5. Kentucky
6. Nevada
7. Wisconsin
8. Oregon

Made my list before looking at others and I'm surprised there's so much agreement. #2 was the only one I felt really sure about.

23
July 19, 2012 3:49 PM

I love this -- you're all dead on! The answers are, indeed:

1. Montana

2. Massachusetts

3. Mississippi

4. Nevada

5. Kentucky

6. Florida

7. Wisconsin

8. Oregon

I had a feeling the local color would totally leap out of these name lists. It's a great example of the way baby name choices encapsulate culture.

To those who asked why I chose those 8, I just wanted a manageable number that would show off some of the country's taste diversity. There are plenty of other interesting sets, though. I've identified about a dozen distinct naming themes for each sex, and I'm working on the best way to present them on a map.

For the intrepid, here are a couple of bonus states to guess:

9.

GIRLS: Harper, Violet, Piper

BOYS: Asher, Axel, Oliver

10.

GIRLS: Brynn, Alaina, Aubree

BOYS: Bentley, Jaxson, Grant

(I think #10 is particularly revealing, in a subtle way....)

24
By nora47 (not verified)
July 19, 2012 3:51 PM

i have a lot of agreement too, but i had 3 as kentucky and 5 as mississippi. how did you decide about those states?

25
July 19, 2012 4:47 PM

The African-American population is much higher in Mississippi than in Kentucky; hence Jakayla and Jamarion. That was a dead giveaway for me.

26
By Angela Dawn (not verified)
July 19, 2012 5:06 PM

OK, I'm from Massachusetts and I fear I could get it wrong. I'm guessing Massachusetts is either 2. or 7. I tried to avoid reading the comments so I wouldn't be influenced, but I couldn't help myself. The other commenters seem sure 2. is Massachusetts, but I know for a fact Nora was recently in the top 100 in my state because I considered it had my second been a girl. He was a boy; it was not meant to be. But I must admit the boy names for 2. seem more like Massachusetts than the boy names for 7.

What makes this hard is that different parts of different states have different styles, even a tiny state like Massachusetts. For example, I live in Western Mass, an area that is culturally not like the rest of the state. Most people outside of Massachusetts probably envision Massachusetts as being like the Eastern part of the state. (most people think of Cape Cod, Plymouth, Salem, Boston). 

For the rest of the lists, I haven't a clue : (

27
By Angela Dawn (not verified)
July 19, 2012 5:07 PM

OK, I'm from Massachusetts and I fear I could get it wrong. I'm guessing Massachusetts is either 2. or 7. I tried to avoid reading the comments so I wouldn't be influenced, but I couldn't help myself. The other commenters seem sure 2. is Massachusetts, but I know for a fact Nora was recently in the top 100 in my state because I considered it had my second been a girl. He was a boy; it was not meant to be. But I must admit the boy names for 2. seem more like Massachusetts than the boy names for 7.

What makes this hard is that different parts of different states have different styles, even a tiny state like Massachusetts. For example, I live in Western Mass, an area that is culturally not like the rest of the state. Most people outside of Massachusetts probably envision Massachusetts as being like the Eastern part of the state. (most people think of Cape Cod, Plymouth, Salem, Boston). 

28
By Angela Dawn (not verified)
July 19, 2012 5:07 PM

OK, I'm from Massachusetts and I fear I could get it wrong. I'm guessing Massachusetts is either 2. or 7. I tried to avoid reading the comments so I wouldn't be influenced, but I couldn't help myself. The other commenters seem sure 2. is Massachusetts, but I know for a fact Nora was recently in the top 100 in my state because I considered it had my second been a girl. He was a boy; it was not meant to be. But I must admit the boy names for 2. seem more like Massachusetts than the boy names for 7.

What makes this hard is that different parts of different states have different styles, even a tiny state like Massachusetts. For example, I live in Western Mass, an area that is culturally not like the rest of the state. Most people outside of Massachusetts probably envision Massachusetts as being like the Eastern part of the state. (most people think of Cape Cod, Plymouth, Salem, Boston). 

29
July 19, 2012 5:55 PM

Angela Dawn, you are so right about Massachusetts! I grew up in Western Mass, and it is completely different from the Boston area. Absolutely no "chowdah" accent, more Polish heritage than Irish, etc. And it's not just the rest of the country that assumes the Boston area is the whole state. Folks in the Boston area really have no clue that there's anything between Worcester and Tanglewood. :-)

To me, a key giveaway in the Massachusetts list is Theodore. That hints at the second style that runs through Mass. names -- the one that points to a high percentage of PhDs in the population.

30
By TamaraR (not verified)
July 19, 2012 6:24 PM

Regarding the extra sets 9 & 10,  I'll make a wild stab at #9 south dakota and # 10 north dakota, based on baby name mapper  (though oddly #9 most had Montana as a connection, but I'm guessing Laura wouldn't repeat Montana). 

my earlier thought for #9 was NE somewhere or Utah, and my initial thought for #10 was Tennessee or somewhere thereabouts for a presidential / wartime link to Grant and Jackson (Jaxson).  They aren't on Mt Rushmore, but if they were, I'd argue again for a dakota connection, ha ha.  Ahem, never mind..... 

 

 

 

 

 

31
By Teddy Ballgame (not verified)
July 19, 2012 6:29 PM

Re: Theodore in MA - Baseball player Theodore Williams has some admirers in Massachusetts.

 

32
By J&H's mom (not verified)
July 19, 2012 7:55 PM

No hints for the bonus sets? I'm not going to peak at Name Mapper, so I'd like to be graded on a curve, please. :)

9 Could be my home state of Washington, but I'm thinking it's east coast. Those boys' names are throwing me for a loop. I need a hint!

10 is so spot-on trend wise but feels Southern, too. But then there is that cowboy thing. I'm torn between Ohio and Wyoming and West Virginia. I think I'll commit to Wyoming.

 

 

 

33
July 19, 2012 8:37 PM

I think 10 is Tennessee because Andrew Jackson was from TN and Grant commanded the so-called Army of Tennessee. Set no. 9 strikes me as being something from Seattle or the Northeast, so I'll go with New Hampshire.

34
July 19, 2012 10:03 PM

"Re: Theodore in MA - Baseball player Theodore Williams has some admirers in Massachusetts."

A good point, yet every little Theodore I've met in Massachusetts answers to Theo rather than Ted. I think Theodore is much like another Roosevelt name, Eleanor -- its siren song lures in the over-educated. :-)

35
July 19, 2012 10:12 PM

Clues on bonus states #9 & 10 (see post 23):

- #9 is an interior state, bordering neither an ocean nor another country.

- #10 may look at first glance like a normal name set, but no two of those names fall in the same taste group in my categorization. It's almost like a national sampler.

36
July 19, 2012 10:34 PM

of the earlier 8, i only got the  Mass. name set correct. for the 9+10, i am so curious as to what the correct answers are, without even harboring a guess. i live in Ct. and actually had Grant as my boy's pick, until the doc said we are most likely expecting a girl at my last appointment. i didn't realize any southern connection with that name, as i have seen written in some of the replies. it is interesting though, because i have spent a great deal of time in fla, and other southeast states. looking forward to these answers!

37
July 19, 2012 10:45 PM

FYI, Grant is NOT a southern name (he was a Union general, after all!) The name doesn't even crack the top 100 in any state South of the Mason-Dixon line.

38
By Coll
July 19, 2012 10:53 PM

With these clues I'm going with Illinois for #9. Something about that list says Chicago.

I'm stumped with #10. The naming styles sampler aspect makes me think it's a big, populous, diverse state, but California and Texas would have more hispanic names and these names don't read New York to me. So Virginia? or Maryland?

39
By Coll
July 19, 2012 10:56 PM

Oh, just read the Mason-Dixon line comment. So scratch Virginia and I'll go with Ohio or PA for #10-- which I guess goes along with their perpetual swing state status. I can't choose between them, not even having grown up in Pennsylvania.

40
July 19, 2012 11:39 PM

Ohio is usually framed as a synecdoche for the nation. So I'd pick it for the 'national sampler' list.

41
By MLacey (not verified)
July 20, 2012 12:31 AM

I know #8 is Oregon and all the girls names are nature names which fit the Pacific NW stereotype...BUT, I live in Portland OR and have a one year old and I haven't met any baby with any of those six names over the past year. The names of the toddlers in my daughter's class are: Dashiell, Zander, Jasper, George, Celeste and Miranda.

#9 - Was going to say Minnesota because Minneapolis/St Paul is pretty cosmopoltan and Axel is a Scandanavian name but it borders Canada. So I'm going to go with Illinois for #9

#10 - For the national sampler, I'm going to go with California, the most populous state in the Union!

42
By MLacey (not verified)
July 20, 2012 12:35 AM

I know #8 is Oregon because the nature theme fits the Pacific NW stereotype butI live in Portland OR and have a one year old and I've never met any babies with any of those names. Oh well...

#9 Illinois - With Axel in the mix I think of populations that have Scandanavian heritage

#10 California - The most populous state in the Union and perhaps the best national sampler!

43
July 20, 2012 12:41 AM

#10: At first I thought of the Missouri's bellwether status in elections ("As Missouri goes, so goes the nation"), but I think the big swing state now is Ohio. Bentley's popularity in Kentucky spills over here, I reckon.

#9: The name Axel is what I noticed first. Northern Europeans who like the idea of giving their kids northern European names? Gotta be Minnesota.

44
July 20, 2012 12:49 AM

Oh wait, I forgot the interior state hint!

Hm, I'd go with Illinois, except I live in Chicago and the only name I've heard here is Oliver. Then again, I'm a childless dude.

 

45
By J&H's mom (not verified)
July 20, 2012 12:59 AM

Oh, but style wise the Oregon set mixes in perfectly with the names in your daughter's class.

They're eclectic/artsy and clearly trying to be interesting.

I don't mean any of that derisively-we're in Washington, and Oregon is my 2nd favorite state, but it is so very Portlandia!

46
By Amy3
July 20, 2012 10:16 AM

Ok, based on the clues I'm guessing 9 is Iowa, but I'm still stumped on 10. 

ETA - Now that I've read the other comments, I like Ohio for 10. 

47
By elleireland (not verified)
July 20, 2012 11:09 AM

I got three wrong....#s 4, 5 and 8.  Now I want to know the answers to 9 and 10!  I'm guessing 9 is West Coast, maybe CA.

48
By GuestA (not verified)
July 20, 2012 11:53 AM

I'll guess Colorado for #9. My first thought for #10 was Washington, DC, but since it is state I'll guess New York.

49
By Guest222 (not verified)
July 20, 2012 12:53 PM

I just wanted to say that as a Manhattan mom, I encounter tons of little boys and babies named Hudson.  It's gotten to the point that I sort of roll my eyes when I hear of a new one.  ;)

50
July 20, 2012 2:25 PM

"dorit

July 19, 2012 11:39 PM

Ohio is usually framed as a synecdoche for the nation. So I'd pick it for the 'national sampler' list."

Bingo! Ohio it is. The one and only state where Jaxson and Braxton, Colin and Liam, Grant and Blake, Maxwell  and Owen, Vincent and Dominic are all trendy for boys.