"How do you make the NameVoyager do that?"

Dec 1st 2006

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.

How you finish, decade by decade

Nov 22nd 2006

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

...it's how you finish

Nov 17th 2006

Quick, what do these five girls' names have in common?


Not exactly subtle, is it? That opening Kay- makes them all peas in a pod. But the five Kays share another distinction too: they're all names from the 2004 top 1000 that didn't make the charts 15 years before. It's that kind of sound-based trend that makes the NameVoyager compelling. Type in KAY- and you're looking at last month; type in ED- and you're looking at a time gone by .

There's more to sound style than just openings, though. For a counterpart to the KAY- names, take a look at the -LEEs and -LEIGHs:

Name endings like these play a powerful role in defining the sound of the times. To demonstrate that power, here are three girls' names I just made up. I'll bet you can assign one of them to a birth year in the 1920s, one to the 1960s and one to the current decade.


So here's a challenge: can you think of different ending sounds to peg the style of each decade from the 1880s to today? (Hint: girls' names change the quickest, so they're usually the best place to look.) There are many possible answers...I'll give you one set next time.