How popular are names based on pop culture, politics and religion?
I was messing around on the Social Security Administration’s database of baby names. And in the process, I’ve made some observations… they are the product of a lot of inference in my part, but I think they’re all entertaining. Here you go…
1 | Kobe vs. Shaq
The name Kobe entered the top 1,000 names list for the first time in 1997; Kobe Bryant entered the NBA in 1996-97 season. The name grew in popularity… but then dropped from being the 265th-most popular boys’ name in 2003 to the 417th-most popular in 2004 and 544th in 2005… coinciding with Kobe going to trial for rape.
For reference, the name Shaquille hasn’t been in the top 1,000 since 1996. In 1993, when Shaq’s popularity was peaking, it was the 181st-most popular name for boys. Meaning there are a LOT of 15-year-olds out there right now who are REALLY suffering through their childhoods all because their parents were temporarily enamored of a 350-pound basketball player occasionally ripping down backboards.
2 | TV duos
I can’t guarantee whether this is because America’s getting more spiritual or because America’s so uncreative that parents are stealing baby names from failed Kelly Ripa sitcoms… but Hope and Faith were the 13th-most popular names for twins last year.
(Zack and Cody didn’t make the top 100. Neither did Tia and Tamara. Or Arnold and Danny.)
3 | How holy?
Don’t know if this is a result of immigration or not, but the number of kids named Jesus has gone from semi-popular (the 200 and 300 range) back in the early 1900s to 77th-most popular today. Jesus peaked in 2001 and 2002, where it was 66th-most popular.
I’m not going to attribute that to He Got Game, although that may have been worth a small temporary spike… that movie came out in 1998. From ’98 to ’99, the name jumped from 76th-most popular to 70th-most popular.
4 | Unique?
Fittingly, the name Unique was somewhere in the 800th-most popular range from 1993 to 2005. There’s nothing that gives a kid completely false, unwarranted overconfidence like naming her Unique. (Even if there are thousands of other girls with the same name.)
So please note: Many of the girls named Unique are now approaching the age where they’re going to inevitably try out for, and get mocked on, Americal Idol… then give an interview to the camera afterward telling us that the judges are fools and we’ll hear from them again.
5 | Emma is finally back
In the 1880s (when they started keeping this list), the third-most popular name for girls was Emma. In 2007, the third-most popular name for girls was… Emma.
Emma’s popularity is a ridiculous U-shaped curve… it was huge in the late 1800’s, got less popular until it bottomed out at 463rd-most popular in 1976, then started climbing again and finally broke the top two in 2003.
Very few other names have managed to rebound like that. In the 1880s, Ida was the 7th-most popular name, then it started declining… and hasn’t been in the top 1,000 since 1984.
Bertha was the 8th-most popular name in the 1880s; it dropped out of the top 1,000 in 1985. (It was 958th in 1985… meaning there are a decent amount of 23-year-old girls named Bertha in this country right now.)
And finally, Gertrude was 27th-most popular in the 1880s; it dropped out of the top 1,000 in 1965.
6 | Alaska?
In 2007, in Texas, the most-popular name for newborn boys was Jose. It’s clear why. What’s not so clear is why Alaska’s most-popular boys name last year was Aiden. Some strange people up there, ya know?
(Quick aside: Sarah Palin has really opened the door on a new era of Alaska mocking, huh? It’s really not a good time to be an Alaskan. For the first time in decades, people are actually paying attention to them and the results… are not good.)
7 | Could this name BE any less popular?
The name Chandler saw its popularity peak with Friends… it climbed from the 600th- to 900th-most popular name in the 1980s and early ’90s all the way up to the 157th-most popular name in 1996. It appears the shine is off, though… last year, it had dropped back down to 430th.
8 | Some celebrity names are too prohibitive
The following names have never made the top 1,000: Oprah… Ringo… Tupac… LeBron… Vanilla… Mao… Chachi… Conan… Pacman… Condoleeza… Seven… Dweezil, Moon Unit, Ahmet and Diva… Peerless… and Eagle Eye.
9 | Anyone for Simpsons names?
One theory that I had about names that completely failed: I figured The Simpsons would spike the characters’ names. It did not. At all. Marge hasn’t been top 1,000 since 1947… Homer hasn’t been since 1983… Bart hasn’t been since 1987… Moe hasn’t been since 1916… Montgomery hasn’t been since 1968… and Lenny hasn’t been since 1982.
The only name it’s seemed to help is Maggie… which went from 308th in 1989 steadily up to 181st in 2007. I’ve got to think that’s inspired by something other than The Simpsons though. No one who’s a big enough fan to name their kid after a character is going to pick Maggie. I’d be more likely to name my daughter Duffman.
10 | Adolf is done as a name
The name Adolf has not made the top 1,000 since 1928, when it was 954th. Adolph managed to survive World War Two… it didn’t drop out of the top 1,000 until 1970.
11 | Presidential names
During the past presidency, the popularity of the name George has gone from 123rd to 147th.
The name Barack has never been in the top 1,000. If he wins for president, he’ll be the only president ever whose name hasn’t been in the top 1,000.
(Yes, Ulysses was ranked 980th as recently as 2005!… Rutherford snuck into the top 1,000 a few times between 1897 and 1905… Woodrow was in there as recently as 1983, and ranked 44th in 1913, the year Wilson was elected… even Millard was top 1,000 until 1971.)