Looking Back: 2013 Predictions Reviewed

by appellationmountain on December 20, 2013

English: Bratislava; New Year 2005; FireWorksIn the last days of 2012, I came up with some predictions for 2013.   With twelve months in the rearview mirror, it is time to look back.

Of course, the end of the calendar year doesn’t match up with the release of 2013’s official baby name data for the US.  So I’m analyzing how I did – but I really need to come back in May to know more.

Trends are slow-moving things, usually easier to see once there are ten or twenty or years past – so I suppose I might give myself credit for a few hits that don’t pan out over the decades.  Likewise, some of the misses might not be misses, but more accurately, trends that have yet to make themselves known.

All of those caveats aside, let’s see how I did this year.

Popular Baby Names in 2013

10.  Name most likely to enter the Top 100 for boys … Camden.

This one feels like a miss – Camden climbed from #160 to #156 in 2012, but that was no where near the big jump I predicted.

But he also feels like a hit.  Camden continues to be chosen by high profile parents – the nearly back-to-back arrivals of two in 2012, and another earlier this year continue to keep Camden in the headlines.

He made it to #82 in the (highly) unofficial but very mainstream BabyCenter.com list for 2013, so I still feel like he’s a name to watch.

9.  Unstoppable retro gemstone name on the rise … Pearl.

Pearl climbed from #805 to #755.  She also made the mid-year Top 100 at Nameberry.  Like BabyCenter, it is based on user data, not on hard numbers from the broad population – though if BabyCenter reflects what their audience is using now, Nameberry tends to be more like a crystal ball, collecting names that we’ll all be considering in another ten years.

So she’s definitely getting more attention than before, even if she isn’t anywhere near the US Top 100.  Tougher to track, but equally interesting, is Pearl’s growing use as a middle name, like Busy Phillips’ 2013 arrival Cricket Pearl.  Other celeb combos include Emerson Pearl, daughter of Shonda Rhimes, and India Pearl, daughter of Georgina Chapman and Harvey Weinstein.  She pairs so well with so many different names that I can easily imagine Pearl as the new Grace.

8.  Variant spelling most likely to surpass the original … Sofia.

In 2012, Sophia was the #1 name in the US for the second year in a row, while Sofia ranked #18, up one spot from #19.  In pure numbers of newborns, Sophia is about three times as popular as Sofia.

That’s about where she was for 2011, too, so let’s call this one a miss.  And yet, with the combined cultural impact of Disney princess Sofia the First and the -f spelling representing the preferred Spanish version of the name, this remains one to watch.  After all, it was one madness to imagine that Zoey and Kaitlyn would be more popular than Zoe and Caitlin - but dominant spellings do change, sometimes quickly.

7.  Newest -ia ending name on the rise … Cecilia.

Let’s call this one a hit.  From 2011 to 2012, Cecilia climbed from #241 to #216.  She charted at #77 on Nameberry’s mid-year list.  And she follows lots of trends – she’s a sister for Sophia, a substitute for Amelia or Olivia, and that -ia ending is unstoppable, from Lucia to Aria.

There’s also her great nickname – Cece.  It’s a little less daring than Coco or Gigi, but has that same repeating-sounds style.

6.  Birth announcement most likely to garner endless media attention and inspire at least a few parents …

I called Mary for a princess and Arthur for a prince.  George - the most traditional of British monarch male names in recent years – wasn’t on my radar.  So that’s a big miss.

As for the rest of the prediction – that whatever the new arrival’s name, it would inspire parents?  It’s too soon to say officially, but we’ll all be watching George and Georgia and Georgina when the popularity stats come out in the spring.

Popular Baby Name Sounds

5.  Boys’ names will be pirate perfect.

For years, the long ‘a’ of Jacob and Aiden was the sound defining boys’ names.  But in recent years, we’ve heard a different sound – the pirate-perfect ahr of Parker, Carter, Carson, Charlie, Arlo, Arthur, Archer and many more.  Could it be thanks to Disney’s emphasis on all things pirate, from accessible Jake to devilish Jack Sparrow?  Maybe.  Or maybe we’ve just grown weary of the ay sound and gone looking for something slightly different. 

Other ahr names that made jumps in the 2012 data and could continue to climb?  Barrett went from #436 to #375, Ari from #508 to #435, and Harvey from #859 to #796.  The only name on my list that didn’t reverse was Martin – at #265, he’s still sliding.

Another ahr names that gained in 2012 and likely continued to rise in 2013? Clark.  The whole group is one to watch – call this a hit.

4.  For girls, it is all about elo.

A trio of girls’ names featuring elo caught my eye going into 2013: Elodie, Eloise, and Elowen.  It’s a sound shared by super-stylish choice Penelope, too.

How did the elo names do?

Elodie was a fast-riser on the Nameberry charts at midyear, but she remains outside the US Top 1000.  Look at the raw numbers and there’s no question that Elodie is catching on.

Eloise jumped from #449 to #364 and shows no signs of slowing down.

Elowen is the most obscure of the bunch, by far – but 13 girls received the name in 2012, suggesting that we should keep watching her in the new year, too.

Fellow elo name Melody also rose from 2011 into 2012.

Call this one a semi-hit.  While Eloise and Elodie are leaping up the charts, it seems premature to declare that all elo names are on the rise.

Trends to Watch in 2013

3.  Super-short boys’ names are on the rise.

After years of two-syllable, ends-with-n names for boys dominating, it feels like we’re looking for new sounds.  More syllables or fewer, ends with -y or -o or some other letter.  The single-syllable boys’ names are an interesting bunch, from classics like Luke to innovations like Kash.

Two names I was watching closely: Gray/Grey, as in Shades of and Gale, as in The Hunger Games.  Neither of the Grays have yet to break into the US Top 1000, but they both gained in use.  Gale looks like a huge miss – he’s fallen off the charts completely – but what’s going on with the culture-spanning Gael?  He leaped from #408 to #146 in 2012.  Mexican-born actor Gael Garcia Bernal has had a good run in recent years.  He pronounces his name guy EHL.  But could there something else driving the rise of Gael?  I’m intrigued …

I’d also mentioned ends-with-s names, like Brooks and Ames.  They do seem to represent a trendlet of their own.

Overall, it will take some more analysis when the 2013 data is available to tell if single-syllables for boys truly represents a trend – but I’d say that signs point to yes.

2. We will continue to see increasing volatility in boys’ names.

Boys’ names are traditionally more stable than girls’ names, and that continues to be true in 2012 and 2013.  But comparing boys’ names in 2013 to boys’ names in 1993 or 1953?  Things have definitely changed.

My prediction suggested that there were two possibilities: first, we could be seeing a new cluster of boys’ names in the ascendancy.  Come 2022, maybe we’ll still be naming our boys Jayden and Mason.  But I think my second guess is more accurate: variety in boys’ names is steadily increasing.  In 2011, 78.76% of newborn boys received a Top 1000 name.  In 2012, that number was 78.62%.  It’s a fraction of a difference, but look back at 2003, and that number was 82.41%.  We are slowly moving towards a richer, more interesting pool of names for our sons, and less judgement about what kinds of names are appropriate for a boy.

Again, I’ll have to look at this closely when the 2013 data is available in May, but I imagine this will be true, too.

1. The pool of nature names for girls continues to expand.

My guess was that we’d continue to hear more and more nature names for girls.  A few I highlighted:

Wren remains outside the Top 1000 – but not by much.  Juniper is up to #883.  Linden and Lake are getting a lot of attention, too, but both are more evenly mixed between Team Blue and Team Pink.  Zinnia is strictly for the girls, and she’s gaining – but remains very rare.

It’s tough to track, too – are parents who choose Juniper attracted to her sound or her meaning?  Is Lily named after grandma Lillian or the flower?  And how ’bout all of those middles, like Lark and Rose?

Overall, I suppose it is a hit – but kind of an obvious one, right?

What were the biggest trends you spotted in 2013?  Are we really becoming more adventurous when naming our sons?  Did you meet any girls named Wren or Sofia or Pearl?  How ’bout boys called Arlo, Camden or Gray?

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