I always feel a little bad for the fast-falling names. Sometimes they point to a celebrity's decline from the spotlight. Sometimes they paint a picture of generational changeover that seems all too fast. And somebody -- often tens of thousands of somebodies -- loves these names.
This year's list has an especially sad edge due to the presence of two names linked with specific real-life children.
Fastest-falling boys' names
These three longtime favorites are in different stages of popularity decline. Kevin peaked all the way back in the '60s and has spent the past half century slowly coming to earth. (It's still a top-100 name, though!) Joshua hit its peak in the '80s -- a even higher peak than Kevin ever managed -- and after this year's fall remains a very popular name. Eduardo is at an oxymoronic point: a spiky plateau. A hot year for an Eduardo like top telenovela star Eduardo Yáñez can bump the name up by hundreds of babies, while an off year sends it back down.
This most traditional spelling of the name continues a rapid decline. The kind of parents who were drawn to Aidan as an old Celtic saint's name tend to be discouraged by the many similar "creative" names floating around. (Liam and Declan are helping to pick up the slack.)
The #1 fastest-rising name of 2008 is the #1 fastest-falling of 2010. Aaden is one of the Gosselin family sextuplets featured in the reality series "Jon & Kate Plus 8." That wholesome entertainment went sadly awry as the Gosselin parents' marriage dissolved in very public fashion. The tv show was retooled as "Kate Plus 8" but much of the audience turned away.
Fastest-falling girls' names
Here's a perfect example of the complicated relationship between baby names and fame. What celebrity of the past five years seems more err...tailor-made to launch a thousand names than Taylor Swift? But the name Taylor had already started to decline when Swift had her first hit song in 2006, and it has kept on dropping.
The rapid decline of the Obama daughter's name may look at first glance like a political statement, but Malia is just settling back in after a one-year publicity spike. This name is still more popular than it was before the Obamas hit the national scene.
Marley enjoyed a huge 2-year boom thanks to the film "Marley & Me." This year it retreated. Yes, I realize that the Marley in the film was a badly behaved male dog; I told you the relationship between baby names and fame was complicated.
Caylee was top rising name in 2008 in response to the tragic death of toddler Caylee Anthony. (More background on this name and the general phenomenon of naming after crime victims can be found in this column from last year.)
Telenovelas are one of the top sources of one-year wonder names. "El Rostro de Analía" made this name the top rising girl's name just last year, and now it's the top faller.
Remember the Freakonomics theory that baby names "trickle down" the economic ladder, as strivers try to emulate the upper classes? I wonder how they'd account for the fact that an unwed pregnant teenager from Chattanooga, Tennessee is America's top baby name stylemaker.
Since mid-2008, the MTV reality shows "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" have followed young Maci Bookout through her pregnancy, the birth of her son Bentley, and her subsequent struggles to balance school and parenthood. In 2010 Maci was America's fastest-rising girl's name...and Bentley was tops for boys.
Here's the full list of top risers:
Hottest Boy's Names
The big story in boy's names was uber-preppy surnames going country.
A generation ago, Jason established a new all-American masculine sound. Grayson updates that sound with a fashionable surname spin. The 2010 jump comes courtesy of young YouTube singing sensation Greyson Chance. (The spelling Greyson was also a top-10 riser.) Props to NameCandy.com blogger Lane for pegging this name a year ago!
Last year's top rising boy's name keeps on chugging. Here's what I wrote last time around: "Twilight alert: vampire Emmett Cullen is played in the movies by actor Kellan Lutz. Mr. Lutz has also signed on as a Calvin Klein underwear model. Need I say more?"
Reality tv personality Kourtney Kardashian gave birth to a son Mason in December 2009. It was already a name on the upswing -- a surname with a classic feeling. And what did I just say about the sound of Grayson?
Country singer Easton Corbin's hit debut album came out in Spring 2010. Note that Easton is a perfect blend of the already popular names Ethan and Austin, making it an easy sell to parents.
Bentley was the #4 riser in 2009 with the help of "16 and Pregnant," and was the 2010 champ as sequel "Teen Mom" became a phenomenon. For many years the name was a non-starter, as parents saw Bentley as either a stuffed-shirt name or a luxury brand name. But that was before country music star Dierks Bentley came along.
Hottest girl's names
What's the surest recipe for a celebrity name boost? Take a name that's already hot and give it a little twist.
Giuliana Rancic, E! Network celebrity news anchor, crossed the line from reporter to subject last year as the star of the reality series "Giuliana and Bill." Her Italian name offered a fresh take on the popular Juliana.
Ooh, intriguing! No major media events, no updates on a classic name...looks like we may have a genuine, organic style phenomenon brewing here. Rhyming names Finley, Brinley and McKinley also rose, but Kinley really soared.
Incredibly, this name has made the hottest-rising list three years running on the reality-tv coattails of Khloe Kardashian. Four years ago Khloe was just a fringe "kreative" spelling of the hit traditional name Chloe. Now it's a top-50 hit.
This year the number of female Quinns leaped to catch up with the boys. A character on the much talked-about tv series Glee helped parents see the name as a feminine option.
A soap-opera heroine and a singer led the name Macy up the charts for years, but the name had hit a plateau. Last year Teen Mom Maci Bookout gave it new juice, and a new top spelling.
The full top-1000 baby names list
The Social Security Administration has released the official rankings of the most popular baby names in America for 2010, The new top 10:
For convenient reference, I've posted the full list of the top 1000 baby names, with the current rank, number of babies and previous year's rank. I'll be analyzing the data throughout the days to come, here and on Twitter -- follow @BabyNameWizard!