In 2012, I identified Bella as one of the hot combining names of this generation -- a name that parents love to mix and match with other sounds to build new names. Traditional choices like Isabella and Annabella were just the tip of the iceberg. Creative combos like Elizabella and Bellarose were springing up by the dozen.
In the two years since I wrote that, the bell- creativity has only grown. Last year, 146 different "bell" names were chosen for at least five newborn American girls. I wanted to find a way to present that amazing flowering of style around a single sound.
While this site is known for data visualization and statistical analysis, this time I've decided to put aside graphs and summaries. Nothing can tell the tale of these names better than the names themselves. Below are all 146 names. Remember that these aren't isolated examples; each name represents a minimum of five babies born last year alone.
I live in a state where a baby girl is more likely to be named Margaret than Nevaeh.
Let me restate that: I live in the only state where a baby girl is more likely to be named Margaret than Nevaeh.
In the United States as a whole, newborn Nevaehs outpace Margarets by a factor of 3:1. In my home state of Massachusetts, though, the more traditional Margaret still holds the lead. Similarly, the boy's name John is still ahead of Jayden in these parts, and Massachusetts babies named Peter (#205 nationally) outnumber babies with the national top-100 names Hudson, Bryson and Easton all put together. Our Commonwealth may have a reputation for liberal politics, but when it comes to name style, conservatism reigns.
For a different stylistic extreme, consider New Mexico. Parents in that state flock to airy, melodic names -- creative and traditional alike. The names Elijah, Isaiah, Josiah, Jeremiah, Aaliyah, Nevaeh and Savannah all rank in New Mexico's top 20 for boys or girls. Nationwide, Elijah is the only 3+ syllable -h name in the top 20.
Not every state names so far from the national path. In names as in politics, Ohio is a pretty fair model of the nation's sentiment. Nevaeh and John alike rank about the same in Ohio as in the nation overall.
You can now check out the top 100 names in each state here, courtesy of our growing BabyNameWizard.com baby name atlas. We've also updated our lists of the most popular names in dozens of countries so you can track trends around the world. Does your state have a stylistic soulmate overseas? (For a starter, Wisconsin and New Zealand look mighty compatible to me!)
1957 was the peak of America's baby boom. The year's #1 song was Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up"; the top tv series was I Love Lucy; and the hottest baby name of the year was...unknown. National baby name statistics simply didn't exist back then.
Today we're going to right that old wrong. Thanks to today's wealth of name data, we can turn back the clock and calculate the hottest baby names of 1957.
What Names Go With These Outfits?
(1957 Vanity Fair, via Tumblr)
"Hotness" is more than just popularity. Mary was still the most common name for American girls in '57, but it was falling fast as a new generation of names took hold. To grasp the year's fashion zeitgeist, you have to look at popularity change. Based on the BNW Hotness formula, the fastest rising names of 1957 were:
Could there be any clearer sign of the sound of the times?
Elvis may have been music's King in 1957, but the rest of the top 40 featured the softer sounds of Pat Boone, Perry Como, and Debbie Reynolds. Reynolds' recording of "Tammy," the sweet, girlish theme song from her film Tammy and the Bachelor, was everywhere, and parents clearly loved the image it projected. The lone interloper in the Tammy-full name chart, Cindy, sticks to the same sunny, carefree style. Scanning down for the top boys' names, the cheeriness continues:
Fastest-Rising Boys' Names of 1957
Mike and Jeff weren't just stand-ins for Michael and Jeffrey; the popularity of the formal names was flat from the previous year. For a perfect illustration of the '57 mindset, consider Tammy-launcher Debbie Reynolds. The name Debbie rode the same wave, becoming the 15th hottest girls name. But the full name Deborah was the #1 fastest-falling name...and Debra was #2.
The celebrity effect of Debbie Reynolds wasn't a net increase in Debbies, but rather a jettisoning of formality. Her famous example freed parents to follow their hearts straight to the nickname, the part they really wanted.
Nicknames as a group are friendly, likeable, and approachable. In our "who would you rather have a beer with" era of politics, nicknames have also become de rigeur for office seekers. Running under a nickname signals that you're a man of the people: "You can trust me, I'm just like you."
The hot 1957 boys' names are a particular slice of the nickname spectrum. They're nicknames, but not diminutives; Tim and Tom rather than Timmy and Tommy. Those one-syllable names are the typical handles of salespeople. They project confidence and competence along with their friendly cheer. In 1957 Tim outpaced Timmy by a factor of 5:1...while Debbie outpaced Deb by a factor of 83:1.
Put it all together and the hottest names of 1957 suggest a cheerful outlook, easy confidence, and a desire to be liked and fit in. For boys that meant competence; for girls, cuteness. An age of optimism, security, and conformity, with a dash of gender inequality. At least that's what the names say.