Name Teaser: Add-a-Letter

Mar 17th 2010

Lots of names can morph into variants just by adding a letter to the end. Sometimes the extra letter changes the sex: Robert expands to Roberta, Julia to Julian. Sometimes the letter changes the ethnicity, turning Carl into the Italian Carlo, then Carlo into the Spanish Carlos. You can make diminutives with a single letter, too -- just ask Mikey.

But when you add a consonant other than n or s, funny things happen. If you manage to make a new name at all, it's likely to be completely unrelated to the name you started with.

Here's an example from the top of the alphabet. Ada is a name that goes back about 250 years and is believed to come from the Germanic name element adal ("noble"). Add an m, though, and you have the Biblical Hebrew name Adam.

Can you find more?


Flash goes the NameVoyager

Mar 12th 2010

If you click over to the NameVoyager today, you might notice something a wee bit different. At least, the techies amongst you will. The original NameVoyager was a Java applet, a technology that sadly isn't supported well by a lot of today's browsers. I decided it was time for a do-over, in the more widely supported Flash format. (Yeah, I know, those new little Apple gizmos won't support Flash. Or Java, or any format that we could possibly build a NameVoyager in. Such is life.)

I wasn't willing to make the switch until we could get it absolutely right, preserving the NameVoyager's unique magic. It took a heroic effort -- Flash really isn't designed to crunch through the volume of data that the NameVoyager throws at it. I think we got there, though: see for yourself. And if you agree, go and tell all those people who said they wanted to look at the cool name graph you talked about but all they got was a little red X!


Enter the 2009 Baby Name Pool!

Mar 4th 2010

Do you have some Baby Name Wizardry in you?

The 5th Annual Baby Name Pool is your chance to show off your keen sense of name style. Match wits with hundreds of other name enthusiasts, predicting the top rising and falling names of 2009. If you win, I'll extoll your brilliance and grant you a year's worth of worldwide bragging rights! And if your predictions are total clunkers, nobody ever has to know that you entered at all. Good deal, huh?

The rules are simple. List three names that you think rose the fastest in the United States in 2009, and three you think fell. When the U.S. government releases its official name stats in May, I'll tally the results using the official Baby Name Wizard Hotness Formula. The top total scorer gets the glory.

So it's simple...but not easy. Top entrants spot trends everywhere from neighborhood playgrounds to reality tv shows. And despite all of our best efforts, last year nobody tabbed the year's #1 hottest rising name, Aaden.

If you haven't played before, you can read more details and check out the fastest rising and falling names of the previous year to get a sense of how name fashions operate. Then convince your friends and coworkers to enter and compete against you. This is an equal-opportunity contest, by the way; we've had male and female winners.

All entries must be received by April 15. Think of it as a fun antidote to tax filing.

Ready to go? Fill out your ballot now!