Laura Wattenberg

Name

Laura Wattenberg

About Me

I'm the creator of BabyNameWizard.com and author of The Baby Name Wizard, the in-depth "field guide to baby names." I've spent the past decade studying the names we give our children -- to help parents find their perfect names, and to understand what name trends tell us about our society. If you've come to this page looking for a way to contact me, please use the "contact" link at the very bottom of the page. Thanks!

My Favorite Names
My Recent Blog Comments
1
July 21, 2017 09:17 AM

@RosieMac, Scarlett/Letty would be a perfect pairing today! In the early 1900s when Letty was at its peak, though, it wouldn't have been likely. The name Scarlett was essentially unknown before Gone With the Wind.

2
July 16, 2017 06:01 PM

@sarasmirks, thanks for your insights! I absolutely agree that there's a Greg/Todd/Kyle set of male comedy names, but I have the impression that they'reused someone differently from the everywoman Linda and Karen. Todd is a particular kind of guy -- probably a guy who wears polo shirts and has worked in sales. Note that the popularity of the name Todd peaked at #28, Linda was the #1 name of an entire decade and thus much more of an everywoman.

One other pattern I noticed is that when the comic foil is referred to as a girlfriend rather than wife she instantly loses a generation off her age and becomes Jessica, or occasionally Jen.

 

 

 

3
July 7, 2017 10:20 AM

Thanks for the head's up -- obviously the string "sex" has to be accepted on a discussion of names! Something must have changed behind the scenes, I'll try to track it down. (But as for text filters not helping, you'd be astonished at what this comment section would look like without some pretty draconian anti-spam controls. The press of spammers is vast and relentless, and they're a moving target!)

4

@Miriam, consider the sibling naming case. If parents already have a son named Miles and are looking for a second boy's name, they're likely to look for "more names like Miles" -- but they'll want to match the style and NOT the sound. A name like Jules will usually be rejected as too close or "matchy-matchy," whereas a non -s name like Graeme could be a better fit.

When I put together match/sibling/"more like this" lists I purposely try to include a range of options that match different aspects of the starter name. It may make the list look less thematically pure, but it's more helpful for these real-life family situations. (For example, my current computer model says that the best matches for Jayden are Brayden, Kayden, Jaylen, Cayden and Aiden. That may be accurate, but not very helpful in terms of idea generation!)

5

Miriam, the target isn't a category per se so much as a style/feeling match.

In general, categories are easier for parents to research. If you know that you're looking for, say, an Irish saint's name, you can just look up a list of Irish saints. The search for "more names like X" is trickier, especially since people have a lot of trouble articulating exactly what appeals to them about a name. (Inevitably they fall back on "it sounds strong.")

6
June 1, 2017 07:06 AM

@Emily.ei, I don't doubt that these choices are intended as bold statements of faith by some parents, but there are a lot of signs that overall, the assertively biblical style is mostly about fashion. For instance, names of biblical villains (Delilah, Jezebel, Judas, etc.) are rising fast too, along with "biblicized" names that tack Bible-styled endings onto new roots. And a lot of the bible-forward names like Ezekiel are most popular in areas with notably low church attendance.

7
May 12, 2017 12:46 PM

Sure, it's square root of the absolute change in frequency, times the percentage change

i.e.

(sqrt |2016-2015|) * (2016-2015)/2015N

For posts on the top risers and fallers, I only include name with top-1000 impact.

8
April 3, 2017 11:25 AM

novemberrember, Rosemary was definitely on the list but somehow disappeared in the cut-and-paste process! Thanks for mentioning it, I've put the name back in.

9
March 22, 2017 10:55 AM

Definitely -- there are lots of ways that a person's appearance can reflect their culture and background without subconscious self-transformation is required.

I'm thinking more and more that I should write this column!

10
March 22, 2017 08:05 AM

That's interesting about JPSP -- I guess nobody's immune to the desire to make headlines.

The good news is that the two proposed mechanisms to explain the result should be testable. Scrub the faces of hair, clothes etc. and try again? Or how about this: repeat the experiment using faces of military personnel who are issued regulation clothing and haircuts. That would let you retain natural photos as stimuli but eliminate the confounding variables. 

 

 

11
March 20, 2017 11:35 AM

I was thinking of writing about that study! The mechanism the researchers propose as an explanation -- that we subconsciously transform our very faces to conform to stereotypes about our names -- strikes me as rather a stretch.

If you look at the sample image in their paper, it's a full headshot packed with cultural signifiers: hairstyle, facial hair, clothing. Similarly, every name is packed with social signifiers. IMO it's likelier that we're matching that meta-information than that we're, say, gaining weight to conform to our "round" names.

(FWIW, the authors heavily reference this study I wrote about some years ago: http://www.babynamewizard.com/archives/2007/6/funny-he-doesnt-look-like-a-methuselah )

12
January 26, 2017 04:28 PM

Zaxton does double up the power, but it has a long way to go. Here's the full tally of -axton boys born last year:

Braxton3,278
Paxton1,662
Daxton847
Jaxton755
Axton358
Maxton283
Saxton28
Zaxton17
Traxton14
Thaxton10
Baxton5
Praxton5

13
December 15, 2016 08:17 AM

First off, thank you for the kind words!

On the spam filter, I believe the tech folks did just implement a stricter filter to try to deal with a recent flood of spam comments. I don't think political content should be a problem (I sometimes post on political name issues, after all) but there might have been another trigger -- a blacklisted word, or a link?

If you have a chance, please do try again to post a comment to the blog. I'd hate to think that we're blocking our real readers, and we should figure out what's going on.

Thanks again!

14
December 1, 2016 03:48 PM

Wow. I am so grateful to all of you for this amazing discussion. Your arguments have persuaded me that there are several thoroughly worthy contenders. (I'd be tempted to put it up for a vote, but Boaty McBoatface argues otherwise.)

15
December 1, 2016 07:42 AM

Hi, this is Laura. I really appreciate the thoughtful commentary here, and I wanted to clarify something about the criteria.

"Name" can be a broad term in different contexts, and the NOTY hasn't always been a traditional personal name. "The Situation," for instance, was a nickname; Siri was the name of a non-person. But it's always a proper noun, and one that in some way reflects personal naming. (I'll edit the post to make this clearer.)

In the past we've ruled out nominees like Arab Spring on this basis, as more of a "term of the year." I believe that alt-right pretty clearly falls into this category as well. Brexit is right on the edge -- thoughts?

16
September 1, 2016 09:50 AM

Yep -- naming for live politicians is incredibly rare today. Some more background: http://www.babynamewizard.com/archives/2011/6/when-names-were-heroes

17
August 19, 2016 10:34 AM

Karyn, you definitely see the "Jean phenomenon" for names from a variety of languages (e.g. Jaime, Ali). Arguably they should even be considered different names since the male and female versions are commonly pronounced differently, but it's hard to confirm that statistically.

On Kendall, that's a great point -- the girl's name took two separate leaps post-1990, first from the All My Children character and only later from Kardashian fever.

18
August 13, 2016 02:54 PM

I'm not happy about the lack of female scientists on the list either. Believe me, I did look hard for examples.

Remember, this isn't just a list of ideas for scientist-inspired names -- it's tracking a trend, names **that are measurably rising in popularity** and are strongly linked to scientists. Franklin and Ada aren't specific enough to Rosalind Franklin and Ada Lovelace. Meitner, Margulis, and (remarkably) Curie have never shown up in the stats. I came close to including Hopper for Grace Hopper, but when I asked people what comes to mind when they hear that name, most said "painter" and the rest said "frog."

If any of you can come up with an example that fills the bill, I'll be delighted to edit the post and include it!

Thanks,
Laura

19
July 10, 2016 08:23 AM

"By Camilla
July 7, 2016 9:31 AM

They are still around, it's just a different set of them:

Ben

Max

Jack

Jake

Sam"

Camilla, I really don't believe that the stats bear out the "changing of the guard" theory. Those nicknames may be the most popular today, but they don't come close to past generations.

For instance, Jake is the current #1 nickname by far. But even if you assume that 100% of Jacobs answer to Jake, which is not nearly the case, it's only one-fifth as popular as Mike and Dave both were -- and far behind Tom, Jim, Bill, etc. etc as well. (And you may be surprised to hear that Ben/Benjamin was actually far more common in 1960 than it is today!)

20
May 6, 2016 11:50 AM

Miriam, in this case liquid doesn't refer to the linguistic category of consonants-- it's a stylistic descriptor of a name fashion group with no hard edges. In the past, I've defined "raindrop names" as containing two or more syllables in just four or fewer letters, with no consonant sounds other than M, L, N, R and Y.