The fastest rising baby names of the year

May 9th 2008

Looking for a hot baby name? Look for a hot babe -- preferably one who sings. The top five fastest rising baby names of 2007 were all inspired by attractive female celebrities, the top four of them singers. According the the official Baby Name Wizard Hotness Formula, the hottest rising names in America are:

#1: Miley
Unranked last year, Miley made an extraordinary debut at #278. It's no secret why: 2007 was the Year of Miley, as young Miley Cyrus and her Hannah Montana alter ego swept the nation. The outpouring of namesakes won't surprise regular readers of this blog, who made Miley their top pick as a hot name in the Baby Name Pool. Take a bow, gentle readers! That's two years in a row you've hit the bullseye on the #1 hottest name.

#2: Kingston
Celebrity baby names attract a lot of attention, but not so many namesakes. (It's usually the celebs themselves who do that.) Kingston is an exception. Singer Gwen Stefani's son was born in 2006 and squeaked onto the name charts that year, but in his first full year in the world his name truly took hold. The ingredients of Kingston's appeal: a place name, ending in the uber-popular letter n, with the ultimate power nickname of King. If Stefani would just have a few more kids, she might give Angelina Jolie a run for her money as America's queen of baby name style.

#3: Mylee
...and Mylie ranked #24 on the hot list. You get the picture.

#4: Jordin
At age 17, Jordin Sparks became the youngest ever champion of American Idol. A big part of her appeal was being just plain nice. It must have been easy for expectant parents to say "yeah, I'd like a daughter like that!" But there's another secret to her name's appeal. Sparks established her name as a feminine spelling of the androgynous Jordan. In fact, while the young singer sent Jordin soaring, Jordan-with-an-a declined as a girl's name--and rose for boys. Ah, the power of reality tv. Which brings us to #5:

#5. Jaslene
Ladies and gentlemen, another champion! Jaslene Gonzalez was the popular winner of America's Next Top Model, and has been gracing billboards and magazine covers ever since. As the first Puerto Rican winner of the contest, she surely inspired many Puerto Rican namesakes. But watch out, Jaslenes. Unusual names sparked by reality tv may rise fast, but they fall fast too...as you'll see when I introduce the top falling names of the year.

The top names of 2007

May 9th 2008

The Social Security Administration has announced the most popular American baby names of 2007. TKTK:

GIRLS BOYS
Emily Jacob
Isabella Michael
Emma Ethan
Ava Joshua
Madison Daniel
Sophia Christopher
Olivia Anthony
Abigail William
Hannah Matthew
Elizabeth Andrew

For comparison, the 2006 leaders:

2006

GIRLS BOYS
Emily Jacob
Emma Michael
Madison Joshua
Isabella Ethan
Ava Matthew
Abigail Daniel
Olivia Christopher
Hannah Andrew
Sophia Anthony
Samantha William

Looking out for number one

May 4th 2008

In just a few days, news outlets across the country will report on the ultimate expression of our nation's tastes: the most popular names for babies. The number one names for boys and girls will begin a year's reign as a symbol of what we have in common, the sound of the times. But are they really the signifiers they're made out to be?

In past generations, being a number one name meant a great deal. Back in 1880, the first year for which Social Security Administration statistics are available, the #1 name John accounted for 8% of all boys born. For perspective, that was 13 times as many boys as the #20 name, Joe. But the #1 name of 2006, Jacob, accounted for a mere 1% of boys -- just 1.6 times that year's #20 name, John (how the mighty have fallen). In other words, being #1 used to mean you were king of the hill, but now you're just one of the pack.

In the graph below the top blue line shows the percentage of newborn American boys bearing a #1 name, taken at 5 year intervals through 2005. The orange line shows the frequency of use of the #20 name, and the gray reference line indicates the level of the most recent #1.

Yes, the 20th most popular name of 1965 was bigger than today's big cheese.

So should we stop paying attention to the announcement of the top names? Of course not. (What self-respecting Name Wizard is going to tell you to stop paying attention to names?) I think we should pay more attention -- looking beyond whatever name happens to land in the top slot. The whole sweep of names, and the way they're changing, is every bit as compelling as the war of attrition to be #1. I'm rolling up my sleeves...join me for "name week."