The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

18 May 2007

None of which explains Heathers

The Baby Name Wizard has been around a while, but now it's been Java-ed into something called NameVoyager, which will tell you just how popular that name was here in the States during any particular decade, including all of the 20th century and the very end of the 19th.

In the 1890s, for instance, "Charles" was the fifth most popular name given to boys. (My maternal grandfather, born in 1899, was one of them.) It dropped off markedly after World War I, recovered a bit, but is still sliding: in 2006 it was number 60.

My daughter is named Rebecca, a name which was nearing its peak when she was born in 1978, getting as high as 13th; it's since dropped off dramatically, down to 96th in 2006. My son is named Russell, a name which peaked in the 1910s at 51st and has since slid out of the top 400.

Perhaps the sharpest spike was Jennifer: 206th in the 1940s, first in the 1970s, and now out of the top 50. And one odd thing I stumbled upon: names starting with F have almost died out, with the exception of Faith and Frank — and Francisco.

(Via Laura Lemay, who says she's using it to come up with names for fictional characters.)

Posted at 9:45 AM to Entirely Too Cool

TrackBack: 4:57 PM, 18 May 2007
» THE RISE AND FALL OF THE JENNIFERS from Population Statistic
Chaz takes a spin through NameVoyager, née the old Baby Name Wizard. And while he invokes the classic Heathers to illustrate his findings, the historical trajectory of another girl name is far more pertinent to me: Perhaps the sharpest spike was Jenni......[read more]

This site is one of two reasons I came up with for procreating - the other was using the phrase "I'll give you something to cry about."

Almost 10% of my high school graduating class was named Amanda, including my eventual wife. Amanda was in the top 10 in the 80s and 90s, but it's down to 102 in 2006. My wife is predictably thrilled.

For the big trend in names, check out Brooklyn. It just barely made an appearance in the 90s; in 2006 it was ranked #67. Blame the Beckhams.

Posted by: Joel at 6:15 PM on 18 May 2007

I was taught to read back in the early '50s by a neaghbor kid, even younger than myself but into comic books, with the rare and exotic name of Ethan. Turns out he was just named a couple of generations early.

As for naming fictional characters, there was a Regency romance in which the male lead had the then-masculine name of Evelyn.

Posted by: triticale at 9:51 PM on 18 May 2007

And there was, of course, Evelyn Waugh.

I traced a couple of uncommon male names that would wind up as fairly common female names: Beverly (mostly because I was thinking of local restaurateur Beverly Osborne, definitely a guy) and Madison (I tend to blame this on Splash).

Posted by: CGHill at 9:56 PM on 18 May 2007

I wanted to give a son my dad's middle name, Arlo -- which apparently just happened to be in some degree of vogue about the time he was born.

(Whether the word "vogue" was in vogue at that time, I couldn't tell you without doing research.)

So I guess I would have been contributing to a resurgence of that name. Or saddling my kid with the 21st-century equivalent of "Daedalus."

Posted by: McGehee at 10:05 PM on 18 May 2007