Apple, Suri and Shiloh may be household names because their parents are stars, but a new study of millions of babies finds it's not just celebrities who seek out distinctive names for their kids.
Regular folks do, too, driving down the percentages of those who pick popular names….
The large-scale study of trends in baby-naming by psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell is based on an analysis of names on applications for Social Security numbers of 325 million Americans born between 1880 and 2007….
Why, America (a great name for a boy or a girl, by the way), why? (And it's not just the U.S.; a similar study found the same trend in France.)
"We know the desire for uniqueness is going up, and we know narcissism is going up. That doesn't mean we can say it's definitely a cause, but the two are clearly related," [researcher Jean Twenge] says.
[Researcher Pamela Redmond] Satran says such changes in naming trends don't mean individualism has taken over.
"A value these days is to say you're unique and have your own individual style, but it's hard to buck the trends," Satran says. "Despite everybody saying they want a unique name, that is still why there are so many named Emily, Jacob, Jaden and Isabella."
I don't think that individualism and narcissism are linked (and if you don't ask me, dial up any friends named Roark or Dagny). And I think it's great that people are naming their kids whatever they want—it's part and parcel of a much-wider trend toward personalization that is everywhere around us except in health-care and education (and even there, it's a-coming). When you look at the Puritan fathers of New England, they all had kids with stupid names and look at how they turned out. Four hundred years later, the Boston Red Sox, chock full of players with stupid names, won the World Series in a game not really created by a guy named Abner. Go figger.
Full disclosure: My two kids' names are Jack (actually John) and Neal.
Wish for a better America: More kids named Sal and fewer named Manny, please!
Where this trend started no doubt:
Update: Go to the baby NameVoyager for an incredibly cool Java-driven site that will let you see how popular a particular name has been since the 1880s. For instance, the names Heath and Heather peaked in the 1970s; Ethel in the 1890s (as the eighth most popular name for gals!); and George has been sliding since the 1880s, when it was the fourth most-common name for boys.