Baby Name Season

 Did you know there is a Baby Name season? Well, there isn’t really.  But the Social Security Administration recently released their list of the 1000 Most Popular Baby Names for 2009 (you’ll need to scroll down to the section that says “Popular Names by Birth Year” and select “top 1000”. Also listed are top 100 in each state and top twin names. I love it!)  Which means that baby names are in the news these days.  Plus there are lots of spring births so that makes it baby name season too.

Baby names are one of my favorite things in the whole world.  Like most girls I started picking out names for babies early.  I remember my first list at about age 10.  My favorite girl names were Yvonne and Yvette (um, yeah, don’t quite know what I was thinking).  By the time I was 13 my favorite names were Dana and Dennis.  Fortunately most 13 year-olds don’t have babies.  So my choices were left to mature.  As I got older I got more and more into Merry Olde England.  My choices reflected the delve into Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and the Queen of Outstanding British Names: Georgette Heyer (if you like Jane Austen and have never read any Georgette Heyer, get ye over to Amazon! Her books are lovely romantic trifles.  Very sweet and proper and English.)  My favorite baby names included Ebenezer (!) and Jemima.  But it’s one thing to imagine those names and quite another to actually bestow them on a child who is living in a world of Aidens and Brinleys.

When I got pregnant way back in 1995 the internet was a tiny footnote in our culture and the SSA didn’t have their Master List.  So it was very hard to gauge what was popular and what wasn’t.  First time parents–even today–rarely have an understanding of what names are actually common since they have very little exposure to other children.  For example, before I had kids I loved the named Chloe.  To me it seemed unusual and fresh.  I had never met a Chloe in my entire life. But it has turned out that thousands of other parents were thinking that exact same thought. There was an explosion of Chloes. There is at least one in each of my kids’ classes.   For some reason we didn’t choose it and went with India instead.  I have to say I’m relieved.

Some people might not be bothered that there is another child with their child’s name.  Or several children, as the case may be.  For many years I assumed that everyone wanted to give their child a unique, unusual name.  But that is not so.  Most people find a name that they like and if it turns out that it’s common, meh, who cares?  There is a reason why popular names are popular: they are nice names and that’s why people pick them. I grew up with a common name and I hated it.  Hated it!  I never wanted to do that to my child.  But I also don’t like KRE8IVE names.  They’re just not my style.  In case you have never noticed, my kids names are over to the right.

Here, in a Venn diagram, is how I pick names:

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–Let me just pause here to say that if you have picked any super common or made-up names for your children, don’t worry.  I’m not judging you any more than I would judge you for your choice in furniture or shoes.  We all like something different, so no biggie. I might call my sister and say something behind your back, but that’s about it.  Kidding!–

The cool thing about baby names is that they are the great equalizer.  Unlike shoes or furniture or cars, baby names are free.  Anyone can pick any name they like (well, not any name).  You can pick the same name that Bono gave his child, or the Sultan of Brunei or the homeless lady on the corner.  So what a person chooses really says a lot.  Because theoretically the world is a parent’s oyster. I love how free that makes me feel.  

The name my mother chose for me says that she was utterly clueless about what was popular*. I have the worst of both worlds as far as names go:  the super-commonest name of the 70’s (sort of.  I was born Jennie.  Not Jennifer.)  When people yell “Jennie!” I don’t even turn and look because there is always another one nearby.  But it is not spelled the traditional way.  So I spent my childhood without the personalized pencils and bike license plates that all the Jennys were lucky enough to have.  Moral of the story: you can spell your kid’s name any weird way you choose, but it’s still going to sound the same when you yell it across the playground.  In the meantime you’ll just drive yourself and your child bonkers having to correct the spelling constantly.  

I have so much more to say on this topic (could I get a PhD in baby names?  Because I totally would) but Mister is bugging me to turn off the light and go to bed and this post is long enough as it is. Don’t fret, though.  I’ll be talking about baby names again next week.

*She made up for it with her next child.  My sister’s name is Arianne. I was always so jealous that she could call people and just say her first name.  I always have to tell people my first and last name when I call, to differentiate myself from the five other Jenny/Jennie/Jeni’s everyone knows.

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25 thoughts on “Baby Name Season

  1. I'm such a baby name nerd. I love the social security rankings. I don't understand how people aren't obsessed with where their child's name ranks! My rule is nothing in the top ten, nothing creatively spelled or made up. Think twice: will your child's name be suitable when they are 65 and a judge?

    I approve and love your children's names. They're fantastic (special applause for York.) My kids have classic first names, and more unusual, family, and cultural names for middle. They need to mean something. My friend was named after a brand of butter. I don't ever want to have to tell my child that.

    I never had anything personalized either. Then again, my sister is a Jennifer. My parents were overseas when she was born in the 70s and had no idea how popular the name had become. PEOPLE, we have access to the social security data now, use it!

  2. I can't stop talking.

    My first son's name was barely out of the top ten the year he was born. It's a family name, and he has an unusual middle name.

    My second son's name is at it's lowest point in 100 years, but is still popular, in the high teens. It hasn't been number one since the 40s. Cool.

    For my imaginary daughter: her first name has never been in the top 1000, and her middle name topped out in the mid 200s in the 1950s, and is currently at the lowest point in 100 years: in the high 900s. I'm pleased.

  3. The Venn diagram is my favorite. I want you to print it and hand it out to young married couples.

    P.S. My word verification was "blentie" which I think meets all three criteria.

  4. I love naming babies! My husband and I each took turns (although the other had to agree). I still regret that I never got to use the name Georgia. I just think it's the cutest little girl name. Of course I didn't regret it enough to have a sixth child 🙂 I picked pretty common names every time it was my turn. My husband chose Bailey for one of our daughters and that's about as wild as it gets around here! My in-laws actually called and asked us to reconsider before we put "Bailey" on the birth certificate. I personally don't think it's that wild of a name (gotta love those in-laws!) and it fits her perfectly.
    I always thought it would be so cool to be able to call someone and just give my first name. That's never going to happen with a name like Jennifer. Oh well… the other name my mom considered was Michelle and that's just as common, so I guess I'm happy with Jennifer!
    By the way, I think you're kids names are fabulous!

  5. I get that all the time with Isabel. It isn't Isabelle or worse, Isabella. Just Isabel. Simple. But woe, I can't find it that way on ANY personalized things. AND people spell it wrong ALL the time- even people in my extended family! 🙁 What have I done to that sweet, innocent child?

  6. Lisa, Isabel is a very common spelling in Europe. So just rest easy knowing that it's only the dumb Americans who don't know how to spell it.

  7. Funny you mention your sister's name….last year Arianna was number 52! How things can change in 30 years, huh?

  8. I haven't even read your post, but I clicked on the link and YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME! Twilight names are the top two.

    I don't know if I should laugh or be very worried! ;D

    Now off to actually read your post! ;D

  9. Okay…still haven't read it. (Sorry…I have ADD) but Isabella and Jacob aren't the number 1 names in UT…which totally throws me off!

    Okay, NOW I am going to read your post. You can't stick a link in the first couple of lines…I have blog ADD!

  10. I love baby names too…which is why I played on the SSA site for way to long!

    And I so feel your pain with the whole no personalized keychain thing. Although I have to say that I really think my name SHOULD have an e at the end. It just makes more sense.

    I can't tell you how it pains me to spell Livi with an i at the end, but it makes sense because that is how it is spelled in her name.

    Okay, enough rambling.

    Or at least about names.

    What are your plans for summer? I want to go to that waterhole with you sometime if you are up for it!

  11. Note to Lorie, above. I totally agree that Lorie should have an "e" on the end. I've been assured that it originated in Germanic countries as the common short-form of Eleanor (which is my own real middle name) and was ALWAYS spelled LorIE until the US love affair with France in the 50s. Then it, and every other name, felt more fashionable ending with "i" Toni, Patti, Lori, Luci,etc. I spelled my name Lori on Jr. High school papers, though I soon considered it cheesy-affected. I rejoiced in going back to "ie" to be DIFFERENT!

    FUN blog, Jenni (I mean, Jennie)

  12. My name is slowly becoming more popular and it irks me.

    My name. Mine.

    P.S. I adore your kids' names, especially the boys'.

  13. I have to say my parents were pretty unique when they named me, there was only one other one in school and she was two years older and spelled it Brie.
    People do always spell and pronounce it wrong- really I can never understand it, B-R-EE, not difficult!!
    Although with Desperate Housewives around my name is growing in popularity and I HATE it!!

    My biggest whoa in life was that it was short and sweet and to the point. No nickname, no middle name, just boring. So I made sure to name my girls with multiple syllables that lent easily to a cute nickname. Although the first two are extremely popular(really I had no idea when I named my first) they are old, vintage and elegant, and just fit each girl perfectly.

  14. I love your kids' names, especially York (that was a name I had tried to convince my husband to like 5 years ago…no luck). That Venn diagram is seriously awesome. My Venn diagram would be rather simple…just 2 cirlces of all the names I liked and then the few names my husband could tolerate. It was no joy to go through lists of baby names with the dear hubby during my pregnancies. I was very afraid when I found out we were having twins and would have two names to come up with. They were of course named eventually…Eeun and Krystofur (j/k!). They were actually named Ian and Christopher. My mom was horrified that we would give a 3-letter name and an 11-letter name to our twins. Hey, I was just grateful they were named at all. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks…I found you from Segullah (I just recently started reading and commenting over there as mom o' boys). I love the humor here on your blog and in the posts you've written over at Segullah. Write on! By the way, do you have any favorites of Georgette Heyer to get started with?

  15. Anne– I would, of course, recommend "Arabella" to start with. "These Old Shades" is also a good one. There are tons of reviews on Amazon.

  16. I love my name. I always have, always will. My boy names are pretty common (top 50 all of them).

    My oldest daughter has a name that everyone knows, but few people meet. My younger daughter, however, I accidentally named an unusual Scandinavian name that no one can pronounce right the first time or spell. Oops. I still love the name and there is a famous actress with it, so it isn't completely unknown. Thanks Kirstie Alley for not making my daughter a complete name outcast.

  17. I have always hated having a name no one had heard of or could pronounce. I soo envied all the Jennifer's , Lisa's, and Michelle's. It seemed somehow their parents cared more! Isn't that silly? I wanted my kids to have names that were classic and non descript. Meaning I wanted them to be able to define themselves, and I never wanted them to have to spell or repeat it over and over for people. My second son was named Chandler, before the show Friends. So he has always thought of it as a toddler name, as that who he meets with the same name. Even with a Christopher, Annie, Geoffrey and Seth, none have ever had a child with the same name in their class.

    I always ask my friends if I can name their girls, as I only had the chance once…

    Long comment, but lover Georgette Heyer too!

  18. Lorie, you don't think you need to be worried that fans are naming their kids after Twilight characters. It looks like Jacob has been #1 since at least 2000, and Isabella has been in the top 10 since 2004. so what it looks like is really happening is that everyone (including, obviously, STephanie Meyer) keeps picking those same names! Give them a rest, people!

    But, of course, I subscribe to the same qualifications for baby names as my sister, so naming my kids something uber popular is a big no-no for me too.

  19. Count me as another parent of a Jacob. I always loved that name and never really considered any other for my oldest son. I had no idea it was #1 at the time. The fact that there is a Twilight connection now cracks me up. Jacob's twin sister was harder to name. My husband wanted Emily (also #1 that year, wouldn't that have been funny), but we settled on Ashley (#6). When we found out how very common their names were, we decided to choose something less common for child #3 and picked Brianne. We again neglected to do our research because the year she was born, Brianne ranked #922 and Brianna was #17. I had never even heard of the name Brianna, but guess what EVERYBODY calls my daughter? We named child #4 Benjamin, and that's worked out OK so far. It's common, but not in the top 20, and nobody gets it wrong. Anyway, I still really like all the names we chose, I just wish other people's decisions didn't interfere with mine!

    I love your Venn diagram. You should make copies and hand them out at every baby shower you attend. You might help a lot of people. 🙂

  20. I work in health care and see a lot of little kids and I’m probably showing my age when I say that I tend to mentally snark at parents (and by this I mean moms, because what dad comes up with this stuff) who give their kids names that will always sound infantile or give them regular names that are spelled so badly the poor thing will forever be spelling it Examples? I gotta lot of them:
    Aerycka (Erica), Ottom (Autumn), Adysin, Ehren, Peytin, Dannyel, Maddysyn, Stefanee, Kinzley… I guess a lot of people think it looks cute, but to many people it makes the mom look a tad illiterate. When I was in college I met another Jennifer and it was spelled Jenyfer and I thought, “huh, her mom didn’t know how to spell Jennifer. How sad.” Maybe it’s a class thing. The docs I know give their kids names like Christopher, Michael, etc. and the people who work as x-ray techs and LVNs are the women who name their kids with weird spelling. It would be interesting to look at names of kids based on the income/education of the parents.

  21. Sorry to comment on this post so long after it was written, but I stumbled upon your blog from Pinterest and got really excited when I saw you had a series of posts about baby names. I could talk about baby names endlessly! I am in my late 20s but not yet a mom and as thus, am surrounded by my peers naming their children horrendously spelled names. In a generation of Megans, Christys, Sarahs, Jessicas, Amandas, and Rachels, I guess anything seems better than having the same exact name as everyone else. I never knew anyone with my name until I got to college. I’ve never minded being named Laura, and I love Emily for a middle name. Emily is always on the top SSA lists because it is so timeless, but I still have yet to meet someone else with it for a middle name.

    Your Venn diagram is amazing, and it seems to me you go about naming your children similarly to the way I hope to name mine. Speaking of, Adelaide has been on the top of my list of girl names for quite awhile now, but my biggest hesitation is I’m worried people will butcher trying to spell it or possibly even mispronounce it. Have you had any issues with that? It sounds so beautiful, historic, and has so many cute possible nicknames. I like Adele too, but since it is not already a common name in the US and with the popularity of the singer, I would hate to have my daughter forever connected with her as though she was named after her. Since I don’t know anyone with the name Adelaide, I would value your experience. :o)

    1. Thanks for reading, Laura. I do like the name Adelaide but it’s getting kind of popular. Well, not popular but more common. Most Adelaides go by Addie which is super, duper popular (there are a jillion Addisons and they all go by Addie too). My Adelaide goes by Ada which is pretty unusual but sounds a lot like Ava which is mega popular.

      It’s getting harder and harder to pick a name that is less trendy but doesn’t end up being common eventually. My advice to you would be to not get too attached to a name before you’re pregnant. If it ends up being really popular you’ll either be super disappointed or you’ll just use it anyway (making it even more popular). Also make sure you check the popularity lists on the SSA website. It can be a little tricky to figure out what is truly trendy (Zoey and Zoe are considered separate names because they are spelled differently but they are totally the same name!) but it’s a good start. It’s not foolproof, though. When I had my son Finn almost 14 years ago his name wasn’t even in the top 1000. Last year it was 299. That sucks!

      Good luck! No matter what happens remember that tastes change and you’ll find a name eventually that will be just perfect.

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