Celebrity vs. Fashion: The Kate Middleton Baby Name Effect
The upcoming royal wedding in England has stirred up flurries of talk around the classic nickname Kate. The first headline-grabber was Kate Middleton's prenuptial shift to Catherine. (Good luck making that change stick, Ms. Middleton.) Now, the name speculation has moved to the broader English name landscape.
Genealogy website Ancestry.co.uk analyzed U.K. birth records from past royal wedding years and found consistent popularity spikes for the princess names. This makes plenty of sense. What better public platform could a baby name have? The Ancestry team felt so confident in the power of the princess effect that they made a bold prediction. Based on the historical trend, Kate is "likely to be [Britain's] number one girl’s name in 2011."
The prediction has history, celebrity and the global media industry on its side. Putting an attractive name on the news 24/7 generally makes it rise, as we've seen with hurricane names.
But facing off in the opposite corner is a formidable foe: fashion. The problem is that in England, Kate has already come and gone. The given name Kate was a steady, top-100 English favorite in the early 1900s. It fell out of fashion for several decades then reemerged in the 1970s, peaked in the '80s and began a slow fade in the '90s. By now Kate's been out of the U.K. top 100 list for years.
That makes 28-year-old Kate Middleton the typical Kate. In other words, the name may be a classic, but it's a mom name.
If you're American, you probably can't hear the mom-ness because Kate is more current on this side of the pond -- it hit its U.S. peak in 2007. For an American name with a curve similar to the U.K. Kate, think Amy or Angela. Or for a celebrity parallel, think Michelle. Michelle Obama becoming First Lady of the United States had zero effect on the name Michelle; her name says "First Mom." Is Britain's royalty culture strong enough to chart a different path?
p.s. Look for the Name of the Year announcement next week! It's shaping up to be a doozy.