The official top names of 2006

May 11th 2007

The Social Security Administration has announced the most popular American baby names of 2006. The top 3 names for boys and girls are unchanged from 2005:

GIRLSBOYSEmily Jacob Emma Michael Madison Joshua Isabella EthanAva MatthewAbigail DanielOlivia ChristopherHannah AndrewSophiaAnthonySamanthaWilliam

For comparison, the 2005 leader board:

GIRLSBOYSEmily Jacob Emma Michael Madison Joshua Abigail Matthew Olivia Ethan Isabella Andrew Hannah Daniel Samantha AnthonyAvaChristopherAshleyJoseph

I'll be crunching the numbers and looking for interesting trends over the next few weeks. Look for announcements here of the NameVoyager update, and the results of the Baby Name Pool.

An idle challenge

May 4th 2007

What does a Baby Name Wizard dwell on, lying awake in the wee hours before dawn? How about finding the name with the highest total Scrabble value. (Sorry, make that the highest point value in the Scrabble® Brand Crossword Game. There, having gotten that out of the way we can get on with our little fun.)

By my scoring system you only look at the face value of the letters, no double-word or triple-letter scores (let alone a 50-point bonus for 7-letter names!) Only names appearing in the NameVoyager count. A cheat-sheet of letter values is here. My high score is 30, have I missed any higher?

And on that uber-namegeek note, we head into the busiest weeks of the baby naming year. The 2006 U.S. name statistics are due out at the end of next week. As usual I'll be reporting on trends and surprises, updating the NameVoyager, and tabulating scores in the Baby Name Pool. And this year, I expect to have something entirely new to announce as well. Stay tuned...

The last shall be first: the tale of K

Apr 26th 2007

Today we're taking style down to its barest elements. This is a portrait of a single letter, the popular, powerful K. If any letter defines modern American name style, K is it. With a handful of traditional exceptions -- Katherine, Kenneth -- K names share an aggressively contemporary spirit.

It's a letter that can establish a name's style all by itself, and parents know it. For instance, I've found K to be the #1 choice for sibling alliteration. You're more likely to meet a family of Kyle, Kaitlyn and Kayla than Mason, Mackenzie and Morgan. The letter also lures parents who like to modernize traditional names. Compare Christina and Kristina; Caleb and Kaleb; Casey and Kasey.

The K names naturally hang together. When I type Kayla and Kaitlyn into my NameMatchmaker half of the results start with that same letter. Love it or hate it, K is a marker of modernity. (And I bet you do love it or hate it, don't you? Quick gut check: Caleb or Kaleb? That one choice will tell you a lot about your name style.)

K's modern touch leaps out in the popularity numbers:

In fact, the change in K names is even bigger than it looks. That graph shows names with a K anywhere inside them. In the early years of the graph, two thirds of the names end in K; in the later years, two thirds start with the letter. What's more, until the 1950s the K-starts consisted of nothing but Kenneth and various forms of Katherine. The K names as we know know them didn't exist.

K's movement from ending to initial is a total cultural transformation of the letter. As an ending, K isn't kontemporary or kreative -- it's gruffly masculine. Take a look at all -K names over time:

Beyond the stats, K endings are staples of my "macho swagger" name list: Rock, Dirk, Buck, Hawk. And they're at an all-time low.

Today's K-namers like to start names with a bang then taper off gently. Not surprisingly, quite a few of the names are used for boys and girls alike: Kristian, Kayden, Kamren. It's a glossy style Rock and Buck would have nothing to do with. But Rock and Buck haven't been heard from in decades. Today's parents are named Kevin and Krista themselves.