Posted: December 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

The current #1 baby names are Isabella and Jacob.  Surprise!  Although the name Isabella had been gaining in popularity for the past decade, it spiked in 2005 with the release of the first Twilight book, and again in 2008 with the movie adaptation.   Jacob, which had already peaked in popularity in 1998 saw a similar uptick in popularity.    Edward, which has traditionally been a more common name, was not greatly affected by the release of the popular vampire franchise.

Patterns in baby name trends are interesting to watch.   Most parents don’t choose to invent their own name, but chose an existing name which suites their modern taste.   At the same time, many seem to want a more unique name for their child, so pick a slightly exotic name that is not in too widespread of usage.   This results in interesting naming fads where a name which is perceived as rare will suddenly burst into popularity only to quickly fade out once it becomes too mainstream.    These names will probably not die out completely however, since people tend to borrow names for their children from respected others, either from history, pop culture, or people that they know personally.    The bible is always a good place to go digging for names, and fuels recent popular names like Noah, Elijah and Jonah.

Pop culture names are relatively easy to track, and popular characters with relatively unusual names can make a big impact on the baby naming consciousness.   The name Trinity appeared out of nowhere after the release of the 1999 film The Matrix.  Harry Potter star Emma Watson may have helped boost her name’s popularity in recent years.  Other characters may have helped extinguish certain decent names by being too strongly associated.  Kermit was essentially dead as a name for humans by 1980, and Zelda is too strongly associated with video games for anyone other than Robin Williams’ daughter.    Ursula lost all hope of a comeback with the release of “The Little Mermaid”, but the same film boosted the name Ariel and may have helped Sebastian into legitimacy.    Some names, like Stella, are able to get their groove back by building from an established aging population.   Others, like most names containing the letter “U” are simply out of tune with modern taste.   Since character names are chosen similarly to baby names, they sometimes serve merely to accelerate names that were already gaining in popularity.   The name Luke exploded at the time of the 1977 release of Star Wars.  It’s unclear which movie was responsible, but the name Angelina skyrocketed concurrently with Angelina Jolie’s Hollywood debut.   Actress Reese Witherspoon singlehandedly brought her name out of obscurity in 1999.  Mariah Carey did similarly with a strong debut album in 1990.  The frequency of the name Elvis spiked following the singer’s debut around 1955, and again with his death in 1977.  Kierah saw a bounce after Knightley’s roles in Bend it Like Bekham and Pirates of the Caribbean.   The name Miley was essentially created in 2006 by the popularity of the Hannah Montanna star.   Likewise Xander appeared due to Buffy the vampire slayer in 1997, but neither name became too widespread.  Some names aren’t so lucky.  The name Katrina probably isn’t coming back for a while, after it was finished off by the 2005 Hurricane.

What names may the future hold?   I’d guess Justin Bieber might give an uptick to the declining Justin, although male names seem less clearly affected by pop culture and his target audience may still be a little young to bear children.    Here’s a long shot: Isaiah, as in Isaiah “Old Spice Man” Mustafa.


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