The Pool is my annual contest that rewards canny observers of names, style and culture. Perhaps you've taken note of the attractive name of a hot new singer. Or you've met three different babies who share a formerly unusual name. Or maybe you just have a hunch that Madison's days are numbered, while Madigan is the next big thing. See how your guesses stack up against those of hundreds of other name watchers.
Basic ground rules: choose six names, three you think rose sharply in in popularity in the USA last year and three you think fell sharply . Submit your entry by April 1 2008, and await the results after the Social Security Administration releases the official name popularity figures in May. (I bumped this year's pool back a bit to get closer to the official release date.) The top composite score wins a year's worth of bragging rights as the country's #1 namie.
For some ideas on what works, check out the 2006 and 2005 winners. Then fill out your ballot at babynamepool.com!
In December, I tapped Barack as my official Baby Name of the Year. But there's another significant name story in the Democratic race. Hillary Clinton has already swayed the naming of thousands of American babies.
In the late 1980s, Hillary was a fashionable contemporary name for girls. Two spellings (Hillary, Hilary) were equally popular, both ranking around #250 in national popularity. Then Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail, and see what happened:
If you contemplate that graph, you'll see three separate phenomena. First, Hillary Clinton's new national visibility gave her name a huge boost. Second, once she actually became first lady her name plummeted. And third, she took such complete ownership of the name that the single-L spelling became irrelevant. All of Hilary Swank's Oscars and Hilary Duff's omnipresence haven't made a dent...and that was before Ms. Clinton started running a presidential campaign on a first-name-only basis. This is now Hillary Clinton's name, like it or lump it.
Punditry alert: I'll be talking about political names on MSNBC this Sunday morning (2/24).