Newton’s third law states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” He was talking about physics, not baby names or even popular culture. But it hits on something I’ve been wondering about lately.
Not so long ago, I could have rattled off the dozen picks on every list of wacky celebrity baby names. I mean, maybe I had twenty or so that reliably cycled through those stories. (Apple, Suri, Pilot Inspektor, Frank Zappa’s kids … sing it with me now.) They spanned decades.
But now I could fill a list from 2019 birth announcements alone. And that was before we heard about December’s Raddix Chloe Wildflower Madden. (Confession: I’m lukewarm on her first, but I’m in love with those middles.)
And yet, I find myself wondering: will the pendulum swing in the opposite direction?
Names reflect bigger cultural trends, in ways that can be subtle and hard to predict. So will a new decade bring fresh ideas that impact how we name children? Wait, that feels like an obvious yes. But will those ideas push us more towards fitting in? Or will the edges continue to move farther apart?
Here’s the number to watch: in 2018, about 73% of all children born received a Top 1000 name. (77% for boys and 68% for girls, to be more precise.) That’s been pretty consistent over the last decade. In 1950, though? That number was more like 96% for boys and 93% for girls. Even in 1985, it was 91% for boys and 81% for girls.
My best guess is that diversity in names will persist, for a wide variety of reasons. And that it’s (mostly) a good thing. The downside? It brings an awful lot of pressure to be original in naming, and the idea of no repeats can be unnecessarily stressful.
What do you think? Do you feel like the children you know today represent more diverse names than your peers growing up?
Okay, I’m laughing over this list of possible baby names for Elon Musk and Grimes. To be fair Musk has five sons from a prior marriage, and their names are pretty mainstream: Griffin, Kai, Xavier, Saxon, and Damian. Then again, he has a sister named Tosca – swoon! – so who knows? It’s definitely one of my most-watched-for birth announcements of 2020.
Laura Wattenberg breaks down the secret to finding a name that’s traditional and stylish. So interesting – and be sure to scroll down to the chart at the end. A few of these fit the pattern, but aren’t exactly mainstream – yet.
Elisabeth “Tiggy” Christine Rose is a good example of the announced-nickname phenomenon I think we’re seeing more and more often. Or maybe it’s just because we did for our daughter, and so I’m always delighted when I see other parents doing the same?
Acronym names that mean love are a tiny, but fascinating, trendlet. I’ve been curious about acronym names ever since Mad About You gave us Mabel (Mothers Always Bring Extra Love). Now Nancy shines the spotlight on Liati. It’s an acronym possibly based on a mondegreen! My day is complete.
Something that bothers me about rock star names: they all belong to men! Yes, that reflects the history of rock and roll and who’s topped the charts over the decades. And we can – and do – name our daughters about John Lennon, too. Still, I was thrilled to find this list on NPR, featuring women deserving of inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Because many of those 41 women have amazing names: Lucinda, Emmylou, Roxanne, Miriam.
That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!