Reprise: The Age of Aidans

May 12th 2008

Three years ago, I looked at American baby names and declared that we had entered "The Age of Aidans":

Looking at the most popular American baby names of 2004, one name leaps out at me....or rather, one sound. A whopping 33 different names rhyming with Aidan made the boys' top 1000 list. (And that doesn't even count the near misses, like Dayton-Payton-Layton-Clayton-Treyton.) That number is up from 28 Aidan-esque names in 2003, and just one 20 years ago.

It turns out that wave is still rising. The number of Aidan-rhymes on the boys' list reached 40 last year, accounting for more than 4% of all boys born. And even the formidable -aidan bloc is just a small part of a larger phenomenon: little Daytons, Casons, Kians, Landyns, etc. Almost a third of all boys born now receive a name ending in -n. Meanwhile the traditional, classic English boys' names are all plummeting because parents want their kids' names to be "distinctive." But how distinctive is Jaidyn in a class with Aydin, Bradyn, Kaeden, Raiden and Zayden? (Yes, those are all top-1000 names.)

What you have here is a story of two competing impulses. American parents love the idea of unusual names, but our tastes are still as much like our neighbors' as ever. The inevitable result is hundreds of tiny variations on a theme. We carve out tiny niches of uniqueness -- "that's Jaidyn, not Jadyn" -- and end up sounding more alike than ever.

The fastest rising baby names of the year

May 9th 2008

Looking for a hot baby name? Look for a hot babe -- preferably one who sings. The top five fastest rising baby names of 2007 were all inspired by attractive female celebrities, the top four of them singers. According the the official Baby Name Wizard Hotness Formula, the hottest rising names in America are:

#1: Miley
Unranked last year, Miley made an extraordinary debut at #278. It's no secret why: 2007 was the Year of Miley, as young Miley Cyrus and her Hannah Montana alter ego swept the nation. The outpouring of namesakes won't surprise regular readers of this blog, who made Miley their top pick as a hot name in the Baby Name Pool. Take a bow, gentle readers! That's two years in a row you've hit the bullseye on the #1 hottest name.

#2: Kingston
Celebrity baby names attract a lot of attention, but not so many namesakes. (It's usually the celebs themselves who do that.) Kingston is an exception. Singer Gwen Stefani's son was born in 2006 and squeaked onto the name charts that year, but in his first full year in the world his name truly took hold. The ingredients of Kingston's appeal: a place name, ending in the uber-popular letter n, with the ultimate power nickname of King. If Stefani would just have a few more kids, she might give Angelina Jolie a run for her money as America's queen of baby name style.

#3: Mylee
...and Mylie ranked #24 on the hot list. You get the picture.

#4: Jordin
At age 17, Jordin Sparks became the youngest ever champion of American Idol. A big part of her appeal was being just plain nice. It must have been easy for expectant parents to say "yeah, I'd like a daughter like that!" But there's another secret to her name's appeal. Sparks established her name as a feminine spelling of the androgynous Jordan. In fact, while the young singer sent Jordin soaring, Jordan-with-an-a declined as a girl's name--and rose for boys. Ah, the power of reality tv. Which brings us to #5:

#5. Jaslene
Ladies and gentlemen, another champion! Jaslene Gonzalez was the popular winner of America's Next Top Model, and has been gracing billboards and magazine covers ever since. As the first Puerto Rican winner of the contest, she surely inspired many Puerto Rican namesakes. But watch out, Jaslenes. Unusual names sparked by reality tv may rise fast, but they fall fast too...as you'll see when I introduce the top falling names of the year.

The top names of 2007

May 9th 2008

The Social Security Administration has announced the most popular American baby names of 2007. TKTK:

GIRLS BOYS
Emily Jacob
Isabella Michael
Emma Ethan
Ava Joshua
Madison Daniel
Sophia Christopher
Olivia Anthony
Abigail William
Hannah Matthew
Elizabeth Andrew

For comparison, the 2006 leaders:

2006

GIRLS BOYS
Emily Jacob
Emma Michael
Madison Joshua
Isabella Ethan
Ava Matthew
Abigail Daniel
Olivia Christopher
Hannah Andrew
Sophia Anthony
Samantha William