September 17, 2005

Baby names.

The NYT reports:
In the last several years, New York City has had more baby girls named Fatoumata than Lisa, more Aaliyahs than Melissas, more Chayas than Christinas. There have been more baby boys named Moshe than Peter, more Miguels than Jeffreys, more Ahmeds than Stanleys.

Wait. I'm supposed to be surprised there aren't that many babies named Stanley? Who names a baby Stanley?

Anyway, it's especially interesting to see that while "foreign-sounding names" — as the NYT puts it — have gotten popular at the expense of "classic American" names, there is also a reverse trend:
Jose and Luis were the top two names for Hispanic baby boys in 1980. But today they have slipped out of the Top 10, behind names like Brandon, Kevin and Christopher. The top Hispanic baby name today is Justin.
This is an interesting cultural phenomenon:
White families often try to revive classic names that have fallen out of use like Olivia or Hannah, whereas blacks are more likely to improvise, Professor Lieberson said. But now improvisation is becoming more common across the board.
I haven't named a baby in a long time, but I have to admit that my strategy would be reviving the little used but well-established name — maybe something from an English novel. [ADDED: I would only do this for a girl. For a boy, I would do what I did at the time, pick one of the solid, current names, but not the most popular one.]

Popular baby name that isn't popular in New York City: Brooklyn.


knoxgirl said...

This is a really interesting article with lists of baby names based on income:

SippicanCottage said...
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leeontheroad said...


Stanislaw is much more elegant than Stanley, even if English doesn't have the proper characters for it.

Ron said...

Maybe more people will follow Penn Gillette's example and name their baby Moxie Crimefighter! Can't have enough of those!

I wonder if Biblical names are on the rise or falling in popularity?

Jennifer said...

This is timely for me, Ann, as my husband and I are struggling to name baby sister in the next few weeks. I'm not white or black and my husband is white and we're going with the reviving a classic name approach.

I'm not sure why this seems so much harder than naming our son was. We took the same tack as you and picked a strong, common but not too common name - Luke.

Ron - I haven't noticed a ton of biblical names on the lists. But, I have noticed what I think of as "trendy" names that all sound alike like Hailey, Kaylee, Riley, Kylie, Bailey, yada yada.

amba said...

Brooklyn! That's actually kind of a nice name. But as a New Yorker, I never, ever thought of it as a name before. That would only be one step away from naming your kid Jersey.

Joan said...

Ah yes, the baby naming dilemma. I recommend the current version of "Beyond Jennifer and Jason," which gets updated every so often to reflect the latest trends, for anyone who really needs help.

My husband and I put a lot of work naming our 3 kids. We had multiple criteria: easy to pronounce, no weird spelling, not immediately giving way to horrid nicknames, recognizable but not uber-popular. We also preferred shorter names since we have a 2-syllable last name.

It has worked out very well, even though our youngest does have a very popular name. We eased up on that criterion because we wanted to name him after a relative.

The kids I feel the worst for are the ones whose names sound "normal" but whose spellings were derived in some alternate universe of complexity: why on earth would you want to saddle your kid with a name she will have to spell out every single time she gives it? When she gets old enough, she'll reach a point where she has everyone call her "Sue."

mzn said...

Some Biblical names are in, such as Ethan and Hannah. The ones that sound goofy to many people's ears, like Obadiah, are not.

What's most interesting about baby names is how much more latitude one has in naming a girl than a boy. The girls are even stealing some of the boys' names. I know a Sydney and an Avery, both girls. No such reverse trend for boys. Few parents today would give a boy a gender-ambiguous name like Leslie or Hilary, though I know grown men with both of those names. It's definitely harder to name boys.

Jeff said...

A well-read (Jewish) friend of mine told me once that names like Melvin and Irving, which bring to mind mid-century New York Jewish men, are actually old WASP names. They were adopted by Eastern European Jews as part of their attempts at assmiliation in the first half of the 20th century.

They must have gone overboard; by the time the original MAD magazine was published in the early 50's, Harvey Kurtzman could reliably turn to "Irving" and "Melvin" as components of name parodies, ones that would instantly nerd-ify any icon, i.e. "Melvin of the Apes", etc.

Also, I'll bet no one west of the Rockies and east of LA would name their kids "Dakota"!

SippicanCottage said...
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mzn said...

That baby name wizard is amazing fun.

Ann Althouse said...

Joan: For a simple name that you have to spell every time, try Ann. There is no simpler girl's name, but no one can ever know how you spell it, though they have close to a 50-50 chance. Actually, most people guess there's an "e." I think it's because they can believe someone has such a simple name. Surely, the parents would have fancied it up a bit.

lindsey said...

Did anyone else pick out the names they were going to give their kids when they were little? Ok. Just me. I'll go hide now.

If you want to see something funny on the Baby Name generator, look up Madison.

lindsey said...

Also, ever since the catastrophe in New Orleans, I've heard people say "Nola" so many times I've decided Nola is a pretty girls' name. I like Tula as well.

Be said...

Native Buffalonian signing in: we come from such a world of Stanislauses and Casimirs (ask me how many cousin Chazes I have) and Helgas and Stefkas that my mom wanted good, Anglo-sounding names for both my brother and me. As a result of this, both of us get mistaken for African-Americans in the bigger cities we currently live in. When I go back to Buffalo, people translate my name back to the Polish, too. (Anna Bronuslawa- , my brother's a Vincenty).

That said - I'm probably not going to have any kids myself, but if I did, I'd name them from the Bible. Ruth always struck me as a particularly poetic name for a girl (as did Deb and Yael). For a boy? Probably a good old Abe or Noah.

tcd said...

I think the most popular boy's name in the last three years has been Jacob and the most popular girl's name has been Emily. I know one of each in the same age group (4-5 yrs old).
For some reason I always associate the names Madison, Dakota and Amber with strippers and I don't even know any strippers or even been near a strip joint. Does anyone else have this sort of negative connotation with these names or other names?

SippicanCottage said...
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peter hoh said...

Having read Strip City by Lily Burana, I think I can assure you that strippers do not use their real names. They pick from the same trendy name rosters that new parents are using. There's a funny passage in which she's picking a name to use on her farewell tour. She explicitly refuses to consider Candy, Mandy, or Brandy.

Jimmy said...

My nephew was named Elijah, which I think is a very cool Biblical name.

Marcus Aurelius said...

The Onion some years ago did a story on this.

Most popular names among blacks:
Girls: Tomica, Propecia
Boys: Antwan, Dacron

Boys: Dillon, Austin, Phoenix
Girls: Can't remember but they were all soap operasih

boys: Michael, Peter, Jeff
girls: Mary, Sue, Lorie

Bruce Hayden said...

My daughter and I were talking about this yesterday. She has 4 Alexes in her grade this year - three girlss and one boy. And probably all spelled differently.

One thing that I find interesting about names is that, esp. as to girls' names, you can pretty much guess a girl's or woman's relative age by her name. In my generation, we had a lot of Susans and Deborahs. Twenties and thirties, a lot of Jessicas, Melindas, Melissas, etc. And now? Misspelled short common names, often male (the misspelling I think gives away the sex).

Some of the only constants seem to be Katherine, Elizebeth, Ann, and Mary (esp. the later for Catholics, of course).

I also find the ethnic side of girl (and somewhat boy) naming interesting. East Asians seem to prefer traditional "White" names (indeed, Whiter than the Whites pick), while a lot of African-Americans pick names that are obviously Black. May have something to do with desire for assimilation.

I should add that with boys, it seems that the most traditional seem to be the Jews - esp. the more popular names like Daniel (2 in her class).

My preference has been surnames. Unfortunately, we already had a couple of Meredith's (Welsh - my mother's mother's family) in my family, and found another 3rd cousin with that name a year or two ago. Interestingly, none of the Merediths were from that side of the family.

My parents came close to naming me Judson, for my mother's father's family. I think I would have preferred it to what I got - esp. as a lawyer.

soCal909 said...

According to Top 100 Baby Names the most popular boy name in 2005 for boys is Aidan. I have never heard this name before so it is surprising to me. The most popular girl name is Emma which I think it really pretty.

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belinda said...

I was also in search of baby names when pregnant,and after hunting many sites and books got him named "Radomil" which means "Happy, Peace", as nickname I call him "Romil". Radomil is a Polish baby names, which were new to my ears. It sound very different to me so I went for it.