Deregulation

The Decentralization Revolution Proceeds Apace (Changing Baby Names Edition)

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Here are the top 10 most-popular baby names for boys and girls in 1950:

1. James / Linda
2. Robert / Mary
3. John / Patricia
4. Michael / Barbara
5. David / Susan
6. William / Nancy
7. Richard / Deborah
8. Thomas / Sandra
9. Charles / Carol
10. Gary / Kathleen

Here's the same list, updated in 2007:

1. Jacob / Emily
2. Michael / Isabella
3. Ethan / Emma
4. Joshua / Ava
5. Daniel / Madison
6. Christopher / Sophia
7. Anthony / Olivia
8. William / Abigail
9. Matthew / Hannah
10. Andrew / Elizabeth

What's most impressive is how the top baby names, like the top-selling records or most-watched TV shows or you-name-it, command less and less in terms of market share:

The diversity in U.S. baby names has exploded since the 1950s. Back then, a quarter of all boys and girls got one of the top 10 baby names, according to Laura Wattenberg, author of "The Baby Name Wizard" (Broadway, 2005). In recent times, the top 10 names account for only one tenth of all baby names, Wattenberg writes. Her blog has an interactive tool that displays the historical popularity of thousands of names from the 1880s to now.

More here.

My favorite, probably misheard, baby name: In the late 1990s, in a park in Huntsville, Texas I swear I heard a mother call her son Darvon. Given that Huntsville is a prison town (indeed, a death-chamber town) filled with a large substance-abuse community, that made some sense to me.

reason on the glorious and liberating proliferation of just about everything here.

Update: Commenter Kevrob points the way to the Bad Baby Name Site.

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  1. I heard a mother calling to her little girl named “Norlander” once. That has to be the least feminine name I’ve ever heard.

  2. I have a pediatrician friend who treats twin girls – first generation, mother from Africa – with the names Gana and Rea.

    I swear.

  3. It’s pronounced “Sha- TEED!”

  4. Nick, did you live in Huntsville? My mom worked at the paper there. Our preacher was also the prison chaplain – kind of a creepy job.

  5. Just goes to show how bad we are about predicting the future.

    As late as the 80’s one read teeth gnashing rants about how industrialization homogenized culture and drove everyone to be bland clones of some archetype. Now diversity reigns in every facet of culture. and minor subcultures proliferate.

    Futurist tend to take short term trends and extrapolate them without taking into account the negative feedbacks to the trend they’re projecting. It’s something to keep in mind when reading this or that contemporary dire warning of the future.

  6. The three best names ever, all for females:

    Chianti
    Chablis
    Pajama (pronounced pajaMAY).

  7. Trinity peaked as a girls name at #48 in 2004/2005. In 1998 it was at #527 and then something happened and it rocketed into the top 100?

  8. Very biblical for the boys in 2007. Interesting.

    I’ve got a name to pick for a new child arriving in December, and while I’m inclined to pick a traditional name (e.g., Thor, the Hammer Wielder or Jessica of the Weirding), I will be avoiding any Top 10 names. Just what a kid needs, the same name as 10% of his peers.

  9. I grew up with twins in my neighborhood with first names Nolan and Ryan, and middle names Wilson and Spalding.

    They weren’t very athletic.

  10. “Madison”? The others seem fine, but “Madison”? Good god.

  11. Trinity peaked as a girls name at #48 in 2004/2005. In 1998 it was at #527 and then something happened and it rocketed into the top 100?

    The Matrix happened.

  12. Trinity peaked as a girls name at #48 in 2004/2005. In 1998 it was at #527 and then something happened and it rocketed into the top 100?

    You’re joking, right?

  13. My cousin named her kid Anakin. ugh

  14. squarooticus, sage,

    I just picked Trinity at random. I clearly had no idea why it happened. Good God, can people not read obvious sarcasm?

  15. ProLib,

    Jessica of the Weirding

    I will pitch in $20 towards your daughters eventual psychotherapy if you go with this one.

  16. norlander sounds like a badass viking who decided to don some some chargrilled armour and, sans shield, take down the dragon.

  17. For some snarky fun, check out the bad baby names site.

    Kevin

  18. Trinity peaked as a girls name at #48 in 2004/2005.

    That’s my niece’s name. F’real.

    My cousin named her kid Anakin. ugh

    My midi-chlorians tell me his teenage years will be awkwardly rebellious.

  19. My favorite name story is about Marijuana Pepsi. My buddy briefly worked for DCFS (or some similar government agency) and claimed he came across the name then. Years later he mentioned it to somebody and they claimed they attended a college graduation in Wisconsin in which Marijuana Pepsi was one of the graduates. My buddy was shocked that somebody else knew of Marijuana Pepsi, but was even more shocked that she graduated college despite seemingly having the deck stacked against her.

    Despite the fact that it wasn’t even a friend of a friend story (since my friend is the one with direct knowledge of Marijuana Pepsi) I was still suspicious. However, I did a little googling and came up with this blog post. Sure, it’s not 100% reliable, but it’s consistent with my buddy’s story.

  20. Yeah, but Leia didn’t make the top 1000 until 2005. Damn lazy people, outsourcing their baby names to sci-fi movies. At least there were 3 good Star Wars movies as opposed to 1 good Matrix.

  21. My sister wants to name her first daughter “Symphony.”

  22. ProLib,

    Just what a kid needs, the same name as 10% of his peers.

    Unless you name him Jacob Michael Ethan Joshua Daniel Christopher Anthony William Matthew Anderw Libertate, you dont have to worry about 10%. Those 10 account for only 10% total. Robert was #5 the year I was born (down to #47 now) and it wasnt really any problem. There was always exactly one other Robert in my classes, it seemed like.

    If I had a kid and had the power of naming them (both seem unlikely in the next 8 months) I would go with:
    Robert (#47) Alexander (#11) or
    Ann (#786!!!) Elise (#225)

    All #s courtesy of http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/

  23. robc,

    Make fun all you want, but you’re toast when she uses the Voice on you.

    Is Libertaria available?

  24. Reinmoose,

    I would prefer Symphony to Madison (which I loathe as a name)

  25. When my e-x wife was doing her clinicals for her RN, a woman in materinty named her twins Oranjelo (or-aan ja-lo), and Lemonjelo (la-mon-ja-lo), after her favorite hospital treats. Orange Jello and Lemon Jello. She swears its true.

  26. Very biblical for the boys in 2007.

    I think it’s been that way for a while, although that may just be my own observation.

    My boy is named Jacob but that’s because we named him Jake (nobody named Jake can get their ass kicked in school). Had to have a formal name to go with that, so we picked Jacob.

    And, of course, Michael is a perennial fave. I have many, many children named after me.

  27. For some snarky fun, check out the bad baby names site.

    My dad showed me in his yearbook the boy he went to high school with whose name was:

    Harold Balls.

  28. Make fun all you want

    I wasnt making fun, I was hoping the $20 would encourage it. 🙂

  29. So did you hear that George Lipschutz had his name changed?

    To Richard.

  30. Kevin S,

    I was going to post the orangejello, lemonjello story as urban myth at the beginning of this thread to prevent anyone else from doing it.

    I guess I should have.

  31. Also note that the girl names have gone old fashioned for a number of years. When I was a yoot most of those names could only be found in recent obits.

  32. $10 says “Obama” will make the top 10 within eight years.

  33. For a list of names unlikely to appear on the top 1000 anytime soon, I give thee The East Alabama Medical Center. Click on a month at the top and enjoy.

  34. I was going to post the orangejello, lemonjello story as urban myth

    Like the twins named Ima and Ura Hogg?

    Or Major Major Major? Wait, that one was fictional.

  35. Harold Balls.

    And I thought Dick Trickle was bad.

  36. Like the twins named Ima and Ura Hogg?

    Or Major Major Major? Wait, that one was fictional.

    So is Ura Hogg.

  37. I still think Penn Jillette’s daughter’s name “Moxie CrimeFighter” is among the best I’ve ever heard.

  38. robc –
    that site is fantastic.

    I like the boy’s name “Jar’Tavious”

  39. Or Major Major Major? Wait, that one was fictional.

    Along with military men Major Minor and General Specific?

  40. “Madison”? The others seem fine, but “Madison”? Good god.

    Supposedly, the name took off in popularity after “Splash” was released.

  41. I like the boy’s name “Jar’Tavious”

    Makes me want to have a son and name him Ken’takular.

  42. squarooticus | July 9, 2008, 12:51pm | #

    Trinity peaked as a girls name at #48 in 2004/2005. In 1998 it was at #527 and then something happened and it rocketed into the top 100?

    The Matrix happened.

    Not a chance…..that would mean the nerds were getting laid! I’ll need proof!

  43. Names for kids you hate:
    Boy / Girl

    1) Throckmorton / Griselda
    2) Hudibras / Chloris
    3) Praisegod / Montsho
    4) Povitamun / Wanyecha
    5) Aziturias / Jezebel
    6) Moroni / Demeter
    7) Watusi / Adelheid
    8) Tumenah / Nivtitti
    9) Beauregard / Lalawethika
    10) Icnoyotl / Syshe

  44. If its a boy, I’ll name him Mister so they’ll always have to respect him;

    If its a girl, I think Aida Byrd is pretty….

  45. Reinmoose,

    that site is fantastic.

    My favorites are the twin boys:

    Zy’Kuez and Zy’Quez

  46. A common name in these parts is
    Harry Dick
    or for the ladies,
    Anita Dick

  47. “My cousin named her kid Anakin. ugh”

    Heh. I worked at a place where these people with a kid named anakin came in to shop. We referred to them as the Star Wars people (not to their face) because they looked like some fucked up redneck trash like you would see in Star Wars. They paid with food stamps.

  48. If its a boy, I’ll name him Mister so they’ll always have to respect him;

    Respect? When they call him Mr. Mister?

  49. Jermaine Jackson has a son named “Jermajesty.” That is quite clever and incredibly silly.

  50. TWC, that’s close, but in HS, I had a locker next to a guy named Harry Kuntz. And it wasn’t Harold. Just Harry.

  51. “Respect? When they call him Mr. Mister?”

    His first name would be Mister.

  52. There’s always Twins player Rusty Kuntz.

  53. “Respect? When they call him Mr. Mister?”

    His first name would be Mister.

    Still, many times you’ll see things like “Mr. First Last”, so he’d be Mr. Mister (your last name)

  54. Aida Byrd pooped on my head when it flew by.

  55. Lamar –
    wouldn’t it be better just to name him Doctor? or The Good Professor?

  56. I used to work with an engineer named Brooke Trout. For real.

  57. I might name my son “The one they call”

  58. H-E-B supermarket chain founder was named Harry Butt.

    …I don’t think “Butt Grocery” would be a good name for a store.

  59. wouldn’t it be better just to name him Doctor? or The Good Professor?

    I was thinking Perfessir. That way, they could call him Sir for short.

    kohlrabi: Ate-a-bird, get it?

  60. I have a field day with these conversations with my wife.

    Some days I think of initials that amuse me and come up with names to fit them, like Nathaniel Ishmael G. or Jessica Irene G. She never finds this amusing.

    Other days it’s weird names from sci-fi books. She vetoes most of them immediately, but I may actually have a shot with Morgaine. We’ll have to wait and see.

  61. so he’d be Mr. Mister (your last name)

    Mr. Mister Brokenwings?

    I might name my son “The one they call”

    I’d consider naming my son Juggernaut.

  62. Lamar,

    I see, I was thinking “Ay, da bird!” But “Ate a” is much better.

  63. Pro Libertate

    It can be hard to avoid getting a top 10 name. These things run in cycles, and what makes a name popular seems to be almost subconscious in some cases. I chose Jacob for my son because it was different without being weird (and there was some family history there), only to discover it was in the top ten for that year.

  64. I know of a college football player named Sirr.

  65. Already planning on naming the first little girl Imoen. Also already planning on getting overridden on that decision.

    1. my second born is named imoen. =)

  66. “I was going to post the orangejello, lemonjello story as urban myth at the beginning of this thread to prevent anyone else from doing it.”

    I figured it was made up. She lied about everything else too.

  67. The pitching coach for the Reds is named Dick Pole.

    Less amusing, I once heard a mother chide her son for running ahead. I swear she called him Jihad.

  68. I know of a college football player named Sirr.

    The greatest college football name of all time was:

    Lucious Pusey.

    Half way thru his college career he changed his name to Lucious Seymour. He should have hyphenated.

  69. I swear she called him Jihad.

    Jihad Muhammed played basketball for U of Cincinnati.

  70. These names are more retarded than web blog sock puppet names.

  71. There’s always Twins player Rusty Kuntz.

    Didn’t the Cubs just get a Dick Hardon?

  72. I knew I had reached adulthood the day when, in my business writing class, a Korean lady got up in front of the class to give a presentation and stated that her name was Mi Suk Cox and no one as much as snickered.

  73. Abigail? Really?

    Jeez, I guess that John Adams special was more popular than I thought.

  74. It can be hard to avoid getting a top 10 name. These things run in cycles, and what makes a name popular seems to be almost subconscious in some cases.

    True, we chose a name on our own, not a common one, only to realize a year later it was a top name.

  75. Jammer,

    Oh, I don’t know about that. I find it hard to believe that a lot of parents are going to name their kids Gozer the Gozerian.

  76. Real names from my high school days:
    Dondelprecio
    Wondiful
    Octavius

    Real College Professor of Anthropology:
    Richard Handler

  77. Gozer might indeed have a hard time cracking the top 10. But you never know. When does the Ghostbusters game come out?

  78. What’s wrong with Throckmorton or Povitamun?

    Demeter is pretty cool too.

    Gozer would be fine if it didn’t ryhme with hoser.

  79. When is Buell going to come back and why hasn’t Huck ever gotten big?

  80. I find it hard to believe that a lot of parents are going to name their kids Gozer the Gozerian.

    But what if he was born in Kentucky?

    Would he not then be Gozer the Kentuckian?

  81. My friend is a pediatric physical therapist and she has a four year old patient named – Apocalypse. seriously.
    And the mother WONDERS why he has behavioral issues?!?

  82. Other days it’s weird names from sci-fi books. She vetoes most of them immediately, but I may actually have a shot with Morgaine. We’ll have to wait and see.

    I’ve met a kid named Morgaine, after the fantasy character, or possibly vice versa. C. J. Cherryh used to live in Oklahoma City and she and the parents were friends.

    Fortunately Alfred Bester didn’t live in the area or the kid might have been named Fee-Five Grauman’s Chinese.

  83. I’m a fan of Jervas. Weird, but not too weird. A friend of mine wants to name his first son Surfin’ Dave. I have a cousin named Mats and another named Magnus, sorry, Magnus VonMagnusson! The Strongest Baby in the World!

  84. Cthulu can be a boy or a girls name.

  85. Favorite name I’ve seen: UVa basketball player named Majestic Mapp. He had a brother named Scientific.

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