New Year's Name Bites

Jan 1st 2010

Some quick thoughts to usher in 2010:

The Battle for #1: Emma? Emily? Or...

2008 marked the end of Emily's 12-year reign as America's top name for girls. Both Emma and Isabella narrowly beat out the old champion.

But "beat out" may be a misleading term here. If Emily had simply stayed still at its 2007 popularity, it would have kept the title handily. What really happened is that the number of Emilys dropped by thousands, while the other names held steadier. That makes the 2009 picture murky, but my money's on a new champ: Isabella.

The Mysterious Listmaker

A new Namipedia user recently went on a spree, submitting dozens of new name pages during a three-hour name-a-thon. She was mostly completing political lists: Namipedia is now the proud repository of every name of past Prime Ministers of Italy (e.g. Ivanoe, Ferruccio) and Presidents of Mexico (Plutarco, Venustiano). But one series left me scratching my head. Can anybody spot a pattern in this list of actor/actress names?













The Top Baby Names of the Decade Revealed!

Dec 23rd 2009

In my top secret Baby Name Cave, I've been crunching numbers, calculating formulas, and mixing potions. At last, I emerge with the revelation all of America has been waiting for, the top baby names of the 2000s decade! And the names were...umm...Emily and Jacob, the names that ranked #1 year after year after year. Obviously.

With Jacob in particular on a decade-long run, how could it be otherwise? Yet I felt compelled to bang the gong on this subject after reading a series of news reports with names like Aiden, Emma and Madeline crowned champions of the decade.

As usual, the problem is that reporters take a company's press release about the top names of its customers at face value. In one particularly egregious example, Reuters ran a whole story reporting name stats based on a press release of a personalized gift company. If you read the company's release carefully, they never even claimed the stats were about BABY names -- just the names that their customers chose to be printed on custom CDs.

So here are the facts. Even without knowing the 2009 numbers, I can report authoritatively that Jacob and Emily were the top names of the decade. They would win the honor easily, even if zero Jacobs and Emilys were born in 2009. What's more, Emma -- the top name of 2008 -- isn't even #2 for the decade.

The key to understanding the decade-long stats is that the top of the curve has continued to drop as parents try to avoid popular names.

 popularity of number 1 names over time

What Emma won in 2008 was a war of attrition. The number of Emmas born that year was down significantly from the name's peak, and would only have been enough to rank the name #4 back in 2000. Meanwhile Madison never reached the #1 spot, but hung around at #2-3 long enough in the earlier "fat" years to earn the second overall spot for the decade. Michael has been the steady #2 for boys.

It's too early to predict the name champions of the 2010s, but one forecast looks solid: whatever they are, they'll be less popular than Jacob and Emily were this decade, and an afterthought compared to the once-upon-a-time heights of John and Mary.


p.s. I'm still looking for name-locked parents to participate in a video project, pass it on!

Media Call: Are You Desperately Seeking Baby Name Advice?

Dec 22nd 2009

I’m working on a video project and need the help of a couple that can’t agree on a name! If you...

- Live in either the greater Boston or Philadelphia area

- Expect a child sometime between February and early April

- Are willing to allow a me (and a camera) into your home to film you as you discuss your naming dilemma

...please get in touch with me via the site contact form. Use "video project" as the subject line, and please include this background info in the message:

- Your email address

- Your names, ages, and due date

- Your existing children’s names and ages, if applicable

- Your city and state

- A summary of your naming disagreements


I'd love to hear from you as soon as possible; the deadline for consideration is January 15, 2010. And feel free to pass this request along to other expectant parents!