Conventional wisdom tells us that parents hesitate to bestow unusual names on their sons. And there’s some statistical truth to that old chestnut: while about three-quarters of all children born in the US receive a Top 1000 name, the percentage is higher for boys. In 2007, more than 80% of our sons’ names charted; the same was true for just short of 69% of our daughters. A similar picture emerges for Top Ten names – the most popular choices change, but more boys consistently receive one of those few favorites.
So we anticipated an easy time crunching the Top 1000 list to arrive at a revised Top 100. As with the girls’ list – see our summary here or download our report from box.net, available in the sidebar – we grouped variant spellings (Katelyn, Caitlin, Kaitlyn, Catelyn, etc.), variant endings (Isabel, Isabelle and Isabella) and in some cases, nicknames and formal names (Grace and Gracie).
But it turned out that the boys were tricky for two major reasons.
First, parents do indeed favor the classics for their sons. But are Joe, Joseph, Joel, Joey and Jose five different names – or one? How about Nicholas, Colin and Cole? Alexander, Zander and Zane? In the first case, we chose to treat them as a cluster; in the second and third, we kept them separate. It’s a judgment call, and there are plenty of instances where we’re not entirely confident of our decision.
What this means is that parents appear more comfortable choosing a twist on a classic name than opting for an underused classic, at least when it comes to their sons. (Cordelia’s brother is probably William or Matthias, not Eleazar or Ignatius.) But spelling Jacob with a “k” doesn’t make it any less of a blockbuster, and it’s impossible to say how many of those Jacksons (and Jaxsons and Jaxsons and Jonathans and Johns) are answering to Jack.
Second, we sometimes talk about the Name Blob – HaileyKayleeKaylaJaylaJaydenHaydenHayleigh – that seems to offer infinite variations without sounding distinctive or fresh. In some ways, parents’ tendency to be conservative with sons’ monikers makes them more vulnerable to bestowing a Blob name to a boy. Jayson, Jaydon and Jaylon all make the Top 100, along with 17 additional spellings between them. And let’s not talk about the Aiden/Braydon/Caidhon/Haiden madness just yet.
Because parents dare more with girls, it becomes less likely that Kaitlyn, Kaylee and Makayla will share their exact name with a classmate. Will their names be confused? Of course – they’re terribly close. But in terms of numbers of syllables and possible endings, there’s greater variety.
The story of the Top Ten is clearly one of enduring classics, even if some variants (Antwan and Anthony) seem just barely related.
Here’s the official Social Security Administration Top Ten for 2007:
And our revised Top Ten:
- Joseph (Jose, Joel, Joe, Joey)
- Alexander (Alexzander, Alexandro, Alejandro, Alessandro, Alexis, Alec, Alex)
- Jacob (Jakob, Jake)
- Aiden (Aidan, Aedan, Aidyn, Aden, Adin, Aydin, Ayden, Aydan)
- Michael (Micheal, Mike, Miguel)
- Jayden (Jaydan, Jaydin, Jaydon, Jaden, Jadon, Jadyn, Jaeden, Jaiden, Jaidyn)
- Anthony (Antony, Antonio, Anton, Antoine, Antwan, Tony)
- Andrew (Andre, Andreas, Andres, Andy)
- Christopher (Cristopher, Cristofer, Kristopher, Chris)
- Ethan (Ethen)
The good news? It is much easier to choose a distinctive name for a son, simply by looking beyond the comfortable classics and trendy chart-toppers.
We’ll finish formatting our Top 100 and post it in the box.net tool in the sidebar within the next few days.