Fast-rising and fast-falling names are not just two sides of the same coin. They have fundamentally different characters.
Names tend to rise in a burst of glory, and fall in a slow, quiet drift. The hottest names may shoot up by 500%, but the fastest fallers seldom lose more than a quarter of their popularity in a year. In terms of storytelling, too, the drama tends to be on the rising side. (Check out this year's hottest names for boys and girls.) The falling names list often feels more wistful than dramatic, with a nostalgia for past glory days.
The fastest-falling names of 2011:
Brisa: OK, this one's a stumper. Brisa is Spanish for breeze, and with the wildly trendy "bree" sound should be a strong option for non-Spanish speakers, too. It was especially popular in 2009 & 2010, but tumbled in 2011. Why? Readers, can you help? UPDATE: Many thanks to reader Hwar, who tracked the brief rise of Brisa to the 2009 telenovela Verano de Amor. I missed it in my annual telenovela name sweep because the Brisa in question wasn't one of the lead characters, but rather a baby born in the show!
Isabella: That big fall is just from #1 to #2, in a year without a lot of "Twilight" action. In fact, Isabella is still more popular at #2 today than Emma was at #1 a few years ago.
Tyler, Joshua, Alexis, Makayla, Brianna et al: A whole generation of names is starting to turn the corner. For the next edition of the Baby Name Wizard book, I'm creating a new demographic category -- the sound of the 1990s & 2000s.
Miley: Here's my rule of thumb on negative publicity and baby names. A celebrity's press will seldom seldom torpedo their name...unless it was that celebrity who inspired the name's publicity to begin with. The sharp drop in Mileys can be directly attributed to the shifting public image of Miley Cyrus, given that alternate spellings like Mylee barely fell at all.
Braden & Jaden: Is the end of the Age of Aidans nigh? Maybe, but it's not as dramatic as it seems. Both of those names are settling in on "y" spellings (Brayden, Jayden) as standard.
Brett: Quarterback Brett Favre retired in 2011. It appears he took his name with him.
Want to watch the 2011 baby names dance? The animated NameVoyager grapher is now up-to-date with the latest data!
BR for a trend that has lasted half a century
AU and selecting "Girls," then ask yourself why there aren't more baby Aurelias
MILEY to see Miley Cyrus's career trajectory
It's okay, don't be scared. I'm just reading the hottest girls' names in America out loud. That long "e" sound figures in most of them. In particular, the syllable "bree" looks like the sound of the year for girls. (You might recognize it as one of the new combo-name roots I discussed recently.) Bree power fuels 4 of the top 10 risers:
# 6 Briella
Aubrey is an old Norman French name, a form of Alberic/Oberon, the fairy king. The best known male Aubrey was illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. But the name's sound, so very close to the classic female name Audrey, made it a natural to move to the girls' column. 2011 saw the debut of the reality tv show "All About Aubrey," following pop singer/reality tv lifer Aubrey O'Day.
Briella/Brielle, meanwhile, is:
- A trimming of the hit names Gabriella/Gabrielle
- A combo of the hit name elements Bree and Ella
- An update on the turn-of-the-millennium favorites Brianna/Brianne
The rest of the hottest, as calculated by the Baby Name Wizard Hotness Formula, which takes into account both the percentage change and the impact in terms of number of babies:
If you've read the fantasy novel Game of Thrones, you were probably swept up in the struggles of tough young Arya Stark. If you've only watched the fantasy tv series Game of Thrones, though, you might well have thought her name was Aria. Or maybe you knew, but just preferred Aria, with its musical associations. Both spellings rose fast, but Aria is dominant.
You called this one, Baby Name Pool participants. Harper hits a rare baby name sweet spot: it's an androgynous tradesman name that literary traditionalists can get on board with, thanks to beloved author Harper Lee. Already one of the fastest-rising names of the decade, Harper got an extra turboboost in 2011 when David and Victoria Beckham chose it for their daughter.
Another top choice in the Baby Name Pool. 2011 wa a breakout year for Friends with Benefits star Mila Kunis. And oh, that name: two long vowels in two short syllables. Mila is a Slavic nickname for various names built around the element mir ("dear"); in the case of Ukrainian-born actress Kunis, the source is Milena. Which brings us to...
Milana is an alternate form of Milena, traditional in several languages. Melania is a form of Melanie, also traditional in several languages. But the #5 hottest girl's name, Milania, is...a little girl on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." Hey, I'm just the messenger.
Other notables: Along with Harper, the top Baby Name Pool picks were Adele (thanks to the singer) and Pippa (England's new royal sister). Adele was indeed a fast riser, the #12 hottest girl's name. But Pippa, surprisingly, remains extremely rare.