The 2011 Baby Name Pool: Meet the Champion!

May 29th 2012

Each year's Baby Name Pool has its own unique twists. This year, many of our savvy name watchers predicted the continuing ascent of hot tradesman surnames like Mason and Harper. Yet many were also lured in by the siren song of Pippa, the Royal Wedding favorite which turned out to be hotter as a discussion topic than a baby name. And not a one followed the "preppy cowboy" arrow from last year's hottest rising name Bentley to this year's, Brantley

One visionary competitor, though, did tab the #1 hottest girl's name, Aubree. She is this year's Baby Naming Champion. Please join me in a salute to Jennifer K., a 32-year-old surgeon from Seattle, who beat out all challengers with this slate of predictions:

RISING
Aubree
Adele
Pippa

FALLING
Aaden
Taraji
Mylee

Jennifer tells me that she made her choices by looking beyond Seattle's own quirky naming culture:

"I tried to imagine what might influence the average first-time mom in the US-- someone, by statistics, who would be in her mid-20s, married/partnered, living in a suburb or small city not on the coasts, and with some college...what would likely strike someone as fresh and 'cute,' or fresh and 'cool?'"

She looked to pop culture events during the year as potential sparks to new name trends -- or the fatal blows for past trends:

"The final death throes of the Jon & Kate franchise mean that their spelling of Aiden (Aaden) is no longer something people are likely to emulate. Taraji P Henson is a perfectly nice actress-- but her debut splash (and resultant namesakes) was a couple of years ago, and parents who are drawn to name their children after actresses are usually quite up-to-the-minute. Mylee is more obvious-- Miley Cyrus is getting more and more negative press, so I felt the people who were drawn to her name (particularly again the creative spellers looking for an even cutesier version of it) are looking elsewhere."

For her powerhouse choice of Aubree, Jennifer was inspired particularly by last year's fastest-rising girl's name, Maci. Aubree seemed an ideal choice to appeal to the same parents: "It fits in perfectly with the 'cute' phenomenon that is rapidly coming to dominate names for baby girls, is a fresh and obviously feminine take on a previously masculine name, [and] is easy to say and spell."

Jennifer is herself the mother of an infant son Antoine Raphael, whose names were inspired by specific individuals. "Antoine is his grandfather's name (originally from Syria), and Raphael is after someone called Raphael Hawaweeny (now known in the Eastern Orthodox Church as St Raphael of Brooklyn). Raphael the archangel also happens to be the patron saint of Seattle, and of physicians. :)"

Thank you to everyone who entered this year's pool, which was the closest-scoring ever. It's never too early to start your list for next year! I'll leave you with some final thoughts from our champion Jennifer, which echo some of the reasons all of us here love the subject of names.

"Naming is such a fascinating reflection of parents' values, culture and aspirations for their new child. I, like many of your readers, have been drawn to onomastics since I was a teenager. I like to learn about etymology and cultural sources, but even more like the sociological implications of names. I find that I can make relatively accurate snapshots of a family based purely on the names they choose for their children. Are they hoping their child will be popular, well-liked and friendly, or do they want their child to be on the fringes, trailblazing? Do they want to emphasize historical tradition and family continuity or do they want an innovator who breaks links with the past? What is their cultural/ethnic background, and how important is that to them?"

Comments

1
By Coll
May 29, 2012 1:19 PM

Great guesses! I'm really impressed with your powers of onamastic prognostication ;)

2
By J&H's mom (not verified)
May 29, 2012 3:12 PM

Pretty awesome, especially since you'd be unlikely to meet many baby Aubrees in a crowd of Seattle hipsters.

I live an hour to the south, so I say that with love. :)

Excellent reasoning and definitely more on the money than I would have been!

And, seriously-what does it say about our culture that the number one naming criteria seems to be, "Cute."

It does seem to be a shift from, "Unique..."

3
May 29, 2012 3:52 PM

Very impressive! 

 

4
By hwar
May 29, 2012 8:26 PM

Superb job, Jennifer! 

 

I think the "cute" names for girls are a natural evolution from the "lacey and lissome" names that have been popular for the last 10 years.  They're still feminine but they're less serious and cumbersome, so it makes sense that parents are choosing them. 

5
May 29, 2012 8:52 PM

I'm so impressed with the Aubree spotting! (and non-Taraji-spotting).

So...next year: Gannon, Nova, and Tinleigh?

6
May 30, 2012 11:10 AM

Isn't it interesting how the new "cute" girl's sound is typically built off of androgynous names? Hmm, I feel a future blog topic coming on. ;-)

7
May 31, 2012 12:00 AM

I guess that makes sense, if the 'cute' girl's sound is an 'ee' -- any surname that ends in ee would be a candidate, and there are a *lot* of English-language surnames/placenames that end in -ley that are candidates, plus a whole category of Gaelic-language names that typically end in -ie in English.

Is -in a cute sound? That is the other ending prominent in the androgynous girl's names.

Ending in -ee or -in covers most of the androgynous names I can spot in the top few hundred names. There are som -er ones: Taylor, Harper, Piper, Parker, Sawyer, a small handful that end in s, and some that don't fit (Kendall, Blake, Elliot, Blair), but they're overwhelmed by the -ees and-ins. Is  the appealing part of the 'cute' just a sound that at the moment, which happens to occur in surnames (which historically were used as forenames on boys), or is part of the 'cute' factor created by putting those historically vaguely masculine names on girls?

...I find it so very interesting that the 'ee' sound is firmly feminine now in the US, but still perfectly unisex in the UK. Just compare the endings of the top 100 names for both sexes in the two countries. 

 

 

8
By hyz
May 31, 2012 12:36 AM

Great job, Jennifer!  I was light years away from guessing most of these, so I'm always impressed with those who really have their finger on the pulse of the naming public. :)

9
By Beth the original (not verified)
May 31, 2012 9:21 AM

Wow, very impressive!  Unfortunately, to me, the -ee ending sounds like nails on a chalkboard, and in my head the name is Aubreeeeeeeee!

The cutesifying of male names for girls goes all the way back to the 70s.  I went to school with a ton of girls named Kelli, Traci, Staci, Jodi, and so on.  The 80s then brought us Ashlee, Brittni, and other such wonders.  Not sure about the 90s (maybe Baylee?), but the 2000 saw the -er names, which have the virtue, at least, of not ending in the long "e" sound and not being easily cutesified. (Harpre?  Parke'r?  Sawyee?).

10
By Beth the original (not verified)
May 31, 2012 9:22 AM

Dear Baby Names Blog,

Why is it that I write a paragraph-long, carefully thought out comment and then you eat it?

Love,

Beth the Frustrated

11
By AJ (not verified)
June 25, 2012 1:06 AM

Congrats, Jennifer K.

As mother to a Raphael, I love your son's name, of course, and even that his initials, assuming you and he share a surname, is A.R.K., another religious reference, if you like. :-)

12
By Baby Boy Name in UK (not verified)
July 18, 2012 7:11 AM

Aubree spotting is very impressive. Superb job Jennifer!

13
February 12, 2013 8:54 PM

Very superb. Parents need to think about the impact and longevity of a name, to consider family values and you like your child to be a valuable contributor to society.

14
November 13, 2013 1:59 AM

Excellent article! Aubree is a lovely name, and its popularity is somehow not surprising. - Charles Brennan

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She looked to pop culture events during the year as potential sparks to new name trends -- or the fatal blows for past trends:

 

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 Mylee is more obvious-- Miley Cyrus is getting more and more negative press, so I felt the people who were drawn to her name (particularly again the creative spellers looking for an even cutesier version of it) are looking elsewhere."

 

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