Easy come, easy go: the fastest falling names of the year

May 14th 2008

When I tallied up the hottest rising baby names of the year, it looked like a small-screen triumph. Tv star names led the charge, including two reality tv champions: Jordin (Sparks, of "American Idol") and Jaslene (Gonzalez, of "America's Next Top Model"). It's not the first time reality shows have launched hot baby names. Two years ago, the #1 fastest-rising name was straight from realityville. Let's roll back the clock...

It's 2005. MTV has just wrapped up the first season of "Laguna Beach," trailing a pack of attractive high school students through their sun-drenched seaside lives. Most of them -- being "real," rather than soap characters -- have familiar, ordinary names. But then there's one. Talan Torriero wasn't even a focal point of the show, but his previously obscure first name becomes a star. 446 young Talans are born in 2005, making Talan the #1 hottest name in America.

Fast forward. By season three of "Laguna Beach," Torriero is nowhere to be found. Out of sight, out of mind...at least where baby-naming parents are concerned. In a perfect U-turn, Talan was last year's #1 fastest-falling baby name.

Two other reality tv names made the top 10 falling list: Trista ("The Bachelorette") and Sheyla ("Cantando por un sueño"). This baby name evidence suggests that reality shows really do deliver the proverbial 15 minutes of fame. The reality spotlight shines brightly, but once it dims most of its "stars" are quickly forgotton.

The rest of the falling five:

#2: Akeelah
With the movie Akeelah and the Bee out of theaters, the name dropped out of nurseries. This name looks like a good bet to enter the rolls of one-hit wonders, names that appeared for a single year, never to be heard from again.

#3: Betsy
The real story here isn't the disappearance of Betsy in 2007. It's the appearance of Betsy in 2006 -- the only time in over a decade that this classic made the charts. Any ideas why, Baby Name Nation?

#4: Sherlyn
Names of Spanish-language tv stars are a mercurial niche, and none more so than Sherlyn. Track the up-and-down prominence of Mexican actress Sherlyn through six years of baby naming:

#5: Nathalia
Nathalia appeared suddenly in 2006 then disappeared just as suddenly the following year. The full story, though, is a little more complicated. The spike wasn't specific to that spelling -- names like Natalia and Natalya rose too. In fact, the entire Natalie family of names has experienced a volatile surge in the past half-dozen years. Contemplate the NATAL- names in the NameVoyager. (Yes, you can now link to specific search results in the NameVoyager! We're full of good tricks here at babynamewizard.com.) 2005 & 2006 were particular peak years, presumably encouraged by intense media coverage of the disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway. As usual, publicity -- even of a tragic event -- makes a name rise. For a close parallel, see the name Laci in 2003.

Reprise: The Age of Aidans

May 12th 2008

Three years ago, I looked at American baby names and declared that we had entered "The Age of Aidans":

Looking at the most popular American baby names of 2004, one name leaps out at me....or rather, one sound. A whopping 33 different names rhyming with Aidan made the boys' top 1000 list. (And that doesn't even count the near misses, like Dayton-Payton-Layton-Clayton-Treyton.) That number is up from 28 Aidan-esque names in 2003, and just one 20 years ago.

It turns out that wave is still rising. The number of Aidan-rhymes on the boys' list reached 40 last year, accounting for more than 4% of all boys born. And even the formidable -aidan bloc is just a small part of a larger phenomenon: little Daytons, Casons, Kians, Landyns, etc. Almost a third of all boys born now receive a name ending in -n. Meanwhile the traditional, classic English boys' names are all plummeting because parents want their kids' names to be "distinctive." But how distinctive is Jaidyn in a class with Aydin, Bradyn, Kaeden, Raiden and Zayden? (Yes, those are all top-1000 names.)

What you have here is a story of two competing impulses. American parents love the idea of unusual names, but our tastes are still as much like our neighbors' as ever. The inevitable result is hundreds of tiny variations on a theme. We carve out tiny niches of uniqueness -- "that's Jaidyn, not Jadyn" -- and end up sounding more alike than ever.

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.