Caitlyn at the Crossroads: The Fastest-Falling Baby Names of the Year
It's easy to think of celebrities who made their names suddenly popular. It's much harder to think of celebrities who made their names suddenly unpopular. This year, though, we have such an example.
In 2016, the first full year after the star formerly known as Bruce Jenner was reintroduced as Caitlyn Jenner, the three fastest-falling names in America were all versions of Caitlyn:
And then there's #5 Caitlyn, #9 Katelynn, etc. At first glance, this wholesale retreat from a familiar name may seem to be a rejection of Jenner's new public identity. Certainly, parents do shy away from controversy in names, as we've seen in the decline of political homages. But I think the real story on Caitlyn is complicated, and as much about names as about gender.
First off, it's important to realize that the name was going to fall in popularity even if Jenner hadn't existed. Take a look at the popularity trend of all 57 (!) varieties of Caitlyn over the previous two decades:
The name was sliding out of fashion, and it's easiest to move the public in a direction it's already heading. Next, consider that this wasn't just another new celebrity name. The name itself was the story, announced with a flourish in a "Call Me Caitlyn" magazine cover, the choice of name debated and analyzed.
The result was inevitable Caitlyn fatigue. With the year-long media blitz it became hard to hear the name in its own right, as just a nice baby name. Jenner had staked her claim to it.
Finally, consider that the Caitlyn gazing out of that famous magazine cover was 65 years old. Caitlyn became popular as a fresh, youthful twist on Catherine and Kathleen. The new standard-bearer for the name helped age it in a hurry.
The rest of the fastest-falling names:
#4 Jase (M)
#6. Alexa (F)
#7. Blake (M)
#8. Brandon (M)
#10. Alexis (F)