And Baby Name Nation says...

Apr 4th 2008
You've made your guesses of the hottest and coldest names in America in the Baby Name Pool.  Now it's time to learn from your collective wisdom.  When dozens of name lovers pick the same name as a best bet for popularity, you know that name has something going on: the zeitgeist is with it.  This year, the winds of change seem to be blowing for these names...

Most popular "Rising" choices
1. Miley
2. Max
3. Addison
4. Ava
5. Lila

Most popular "Falling" choices
1. Madison
2. Britney
3. Ashley
4. Emma
5. Emily

Let's take a closer look.

1. Miley - No mystery here.  2007 was the year of Hannah Montana, and star Miley Cyrus appears to have a hit name in the making.  In fact, Cyrus herself has filed to legally change her name to Miley from her birth name, Destiny.

2. Max - The only boy's name on either list, Max is also the most surprising.  This name has been perfectly steady for years: ranked from #161-165 every year since 1999.  But maybe you know something that I don't?

3. Addison
4. Ava - These two look like smart bets as two of the hottest rising names of the previous year.

5. Lila - Nice one, name watchers!  I think Lila's going to soar in the next few years (and special kudos to the handful of entrants who picked the variant spelling Lilah).

1. Madison - This was the runaway winner, named on almost a fifth of all ballots...for the second year in a row!  Madison has always been a stylistically polarizing name, and I suspect that a certain number of entrants are simply trying to will it away.

2. Britney - Remember that awesome, world-beating year that Miley Cyrus had?  Take the opposite and you have Britney Spears in 2007.  The name Brittany was #7 in falling votes, based on guilt by association.

3. Ashley - A practical choice, Ashley has already begun its inevitable decline after a long run as baby name royalty.

4. Emma
5. Emily - These have been the top two names in America for several years running, so I guess the thinking is that there's nowhere to go but down.

Advance the cause of name science!

Mar 27th 2008
I've been talking with a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania who are interested in people's attitudes toward different names.  They have a new survey they're running online that's open for public participation, and I thought we might lend them a hand.  It should only take a few minutes to complete...and since you're a reader of this blog, I suspect you'll rather enjoy answering questions about baby names!

Here's the survey:
If you frequent any expectant-parent messageboards, feel free to post the link there, too.

A plug, and a coincidence

Mar 25th 2008

First, the plug:  Have you entered your predictions in the Baby Name Pool?  If not, here's why you should bother.  Remember that time you joined in an Academy Awards prediction pool with your friends, and suddenly the Oscar telecast was soooo much more interesting because you really cared who won best sound editing?  Take two minutes to enter the Name Pool and the announcement of the most popular names in America will be a surprising lot of fun, as you rush to check whether Shiloh broke through or if Jennifer really did take a nosedive.

And now the coincidence.  I wrote a column on weird names in U.S. Census records well in advance and scheduled it for publishing last week.  Then I got a call from NPR's "On Point" to join in a show that same week, about...weird names in U.S. Census records!  It turns out that some enterprising folks at, the website that has taken on the gargantuan Census digitization project, had a smart idea. They put together a book of the strangest names they encountered in the records.  If you'd like to listen in to our discussion, here's the archive:

On Point: "Bad Baby Names," March 21 2008