The Rise of Liquid Names
A new class of girls' names has taken hold in the past generation. I call them the Liquid Names: they flow smoothly, like water down a glass streambed with no rocks or branches to impede its path. You can speak names like Anaya, Aliya, and Eliana with every sound drawn out long, and without visibly moving your mouth. Pure flow.
A generation ago, such names were rare. Today they seem to be everywhere, the boldest weapons in our generation's "war on consonants."
I wanted to quantify this trend I've been seeing, so I had to define criteria for a liquid name. First, I decided to require three or more syllables. A name like Anna or Ella is perfectly smooth, but too compact to suggest a fluid flow. Next I restricted the number of consonants. There should be fewer consonant sounds than syllables, allowing the vowels to set the mood. (Note that's consonant sounds, not letters; in Arianna, for instance, the two n's make a single sound.)
Finally, I restricted the specific consonants permitted. L and R were obvious choices, since they belong to the linguistic category called "liquid consonants." I also allowed N, Y and H, since they can be made with an open mouth (unlike m or sh), without involvement of lips or teeth (unlike f or s), and without hard throat sounds (unlike g or kh).
Here are the liquid names that ranked in the top 500 for American girls 50 years ago:
Here's that story again, in graph form via the Expert NameVoyager:
When was the last time you saw water flow uphill like that?