Perhaps it's the hot new name that seemed to rise up out of nowhere, like Nevaeh in 2003 or Cadence/Kadence/Kaydence in 2004. Or maybe it's a name that dominated the headlines, like Monica in 1998, or that came and went in a flash like Liberty in '76 and Farrah in '77. Maybe it's not even the name of a person -- 2005 was surely the year of Katrina.
The name of the year is a cultural time capsule. It captures some part of the zeitgeist in such a visceral way that the name never sounds quite the same again. Maybe it rose, maybe it fell, but a generation later it still conjures up an echo of the year when it made its mark.
What name do you think captures the spirit of '06? Do you suddenly know half a dozen babies named Atticus? Do you hear Akon songs everywhere you turn? Are you considering naming your first born after Nancy Pelosi? Please post your nominations here, and feel free to second others. The oh-so-official Name of the Year will be announced in this very space in two weeks' time.
I often illustrate my posts here with graphs that look like they came from the NameVoyager. (Check out last week's graph-laden post.) You may have noticed, though, that the blog graphs show collections of names that the NameVoyager just can't show. You may even have written to me in frustration to find out how the heck I made those images!
The answer is that the blog graphs aren't from the NameVoyager at all. They're created by a separate program that lives on my desktop and happens to graph in the NameVoyager style. My personal name-grapher, alas, isn't likely to find its way to the public web site. It's a quirky contraption that requires scripted queries. Part of the NameVoyager's magic is its ease of use--I want people to be able to leap into the program without instructions.
I do add new NameVoyager features from time to time, though. (Old-timers here may still think of the single-sex searching option as a newfangled trick.) If you'd like to put in a vote for a feature you'd particularly appreciate in the next version of the NameVoyager, this is a great time to do it. Feel free to post a comment below or send me email.
But while I'm at it, a note on email:
I get great mail. Parents around the world write with a fascinating range of baby naming dilemmas, from the silly to the deeply serious. It's always been a point of pride for me to answer the mail as faithfully and thoughtfully as I can. But the volume of messages has increased every month. The sad fact is that I am now behind, way behind, and I'm never going to catch up. So I've had to abandon the goal of answering every message that comes in.
Please do keep writing! I want to know what's on everybody's minds, and I'll do my best to respond. But if I can't, I hope you'll cut me some slack. It's a busy, busy baby naming world.
Last time I gave out a little challenge: can you find a distinctive name ending tied to each decade from the 1880s to today? Ok, maybe that challenge isn't SO little. Not many of us today can tell the trendy names of 1890 from the hot new creations of 1910. But even back then, 20 years was a long time in fashion terms--and a lot of the fashion action came at the end of names. In the 1870s-80s for instance, about a fifth of all American girls were given "-IE" names. By the 1910s the number of -IEs was cut in half, replaced by the likes of -LMA.
Today's trends work both ends of the name. Our Mc/Mac/Mak- and Kay/Kai/Kae- names are more than matched by our -Lee/Leighs and our...well, you'll see.
120 years of trendy name endings:
1880s: Girls named -TTIE
1890s: Girls named -LDA
1900s: Girls named -OLA
1910s: Boys names -STER
1920s: Boys named -AND
1930s: Girls named -LENE
1940s: Boys and girls named -ONNIE
1950s: Girls named -EEN
1960s: Girls named -RI
1970s: Girls named -NYA
1980s: Girls named -ANY/ANIE
1990s: Girls named -TNEY/DNEY
2000s: Boys named -DEN/DYN/DIN