Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I was reading some posts at Swistle Baby Names, and since they're from 2007 or 2008 I feel uncomfortable commenting on them. So I will blog instead.

The major thing I wanted to say is that name popularity can be vastly affected by region/culture/etc. For example, almost every young Catholic family I know has a Teresa/Theresa/Therese. (And Mary/Maria/Marie, but I'm not talking about that right now.) When we picked out Teresa's name I know Mom at least was majorly concerned about it being too common. Then she looked it up on's baby names widget and found that in 2006 (the year our Teresa was born), her name was #533 in popularity. It's kept plummeting steadily since then; it was #695 in 2010. So you can pick a name that's not in the Top 500 for your kid and still encounter "There are three other kids with her name in her class."

(Theresa was 717 in 2006, which is funny because people tend to misspell Teresa's name as this, yet it's actually the less common spelling. Maybe it's more common in English-speaking circles, whereas Teresa is more common in Hispanic circles--which would further prove my point about culture and popularity.)

(Therese was 949 in 1984, after which it fell off the charts never to be seen again.)

Now for the real rambling, just because I love talking about baby names: When Andrea and I were born (in the late '80s), our parents' main concern was picking a name that was recognizable as a name but not popular. Yet they still picked names in the Top 100. Andrea was #36 in 1987; Megan was #11 in 1989. (And it made it to #10 several times in the '80s and '90s.) I've known a lot more people with my name than Andrea has; I think part of that is that there really aren't alternate spellings for Andrea but there are a ton for Megan, so my perception of my name's popularity was affected by all the Meghans and Meagans and Mayghinns. (Okay, that last one was made up, but I bet somebody out there has that name.)

Possible justification for my parents thinking it wasn't that popular: It's only been in the Top 1000 since 1952, and the Top 100 since 1975. So their perception of its popularity was probably affected by the fact that they didn't really grow up with any Megans. On the other hand, it's totally a trend name. Oh well. I still like it.

I must admit I'm kind of leery of Top 10 names as a result of my own name (though, come to think of it, that might just be the misspelling thing). Scott and I have a little list of names (disclaimer: not pregnant, just obsessed with names) and they're all over the charts. Of our eight boy names, two are in the Top 10 for 2010 (but neither of those has an alternate spelling that I know of, so now I feel better), two more are in the Top 100, two more are Top 200, one more is Top 300, and one hasn't been in the Top 1000 for the last 131 years. (That last one is a name Scott loves but I'm less loving towards, partly because I don't really recognize it as a name, even though it is.) Of our seven girl names, one was #2 (yeah, I'm giving you that one if you bother to look it up), one more was Top 20, one more was Top 100, two more were Top 1000 (300's and 600's respectively), one was Top 1000 briefly in the mid-sixties (but is a spelling/ethnic variation of a Top 500 name, poor hypothetical child), and one hasn't been Top 1000 since 1942 (and is not a variation of anything). One of those was my suggestion, one was Scott's but I like it. Obviously I have a little more taste for the obscure when it comes to girl names.

There was no point to that ramble. I'm going to go eat lunch now.


Melanie B said...

It's never too early to start thinking of baby names. ;)

Seriously I love looking at the lists and thinking about names. I love my girls' names but seriously wish they weren't in the top 10. And I think Anthony is actually in the top 10 too. Only Benedict got a super rare name. And this despite the fact that I always loved the fact that my own name was rare and I wanted to give my children more unusual names. Oh well. At least you know enough to look that stuff up before you get attached.

Rebecca said...

I'm over from Barefoot and Pregnant. Congratulations on your wedding and your marriage!

Cannot resist commenting on the names -- yes, never too early to start thinking about them. On that alternate spelling thing -- we have an Emeline, who is 12, and has recently changed the spelling of her name to "Emmalyn" (cringe), effectively turning a gorgeous, rare name into something equivalent to "Ashlyn" (apologies to any Ashlyns out there). Something to consider, I suppose. I always worried about lack of bad nickname potential, too.

Liza Jane said...

It's funny, I never encountered a huge problem with names. Prolly just because my name has a huge variety of nicknames, and I was always with someone with a different nickname in my classes (though I didn't meet another me until high school anyway!)

Since it's hard to discuss this without revealing my real name (like it's that hard...) I have to tell this story. When I lived in DC, I met ONE person with an S instead of a Z. I thought, "Elisabeth? That's so weird" Since I've been in *insert name of State,* people ALWAYS either spell it with an S, or say, "it's spelled with an S, right?" NO, I AM NORMAL! (apparently the rising popularity is cause it's rumored to be the original spelling... my thought is that it's just cause people want a name to be the same but different)

The Sojourner said...

Melanie--But your kids have such classic, lovely names. (Confession: At least half of your names are on our list. :)) They're popular right now, but not trendy, if you know what I mean. I personally don't think I'm going to pick names for actual children based on popularity (for one thing, I've got a lot of childbearing years left in me, and one of those 200s names could totally make a bid for fame in the next 20 years). I guess we'll see when I actually have children.

The Sojourner said...

Rebecca--Welcome, and thank you!

I like to (perhaps snobbily) make a distinction between legitimate spelling variations and "yooneek" names. Like, Rebecca and Rebekah are legitimate variations. Naming your kid Ruhbeckah, on the other hand, is not okay. And y abuse is rampant these days, especially with girl names. Is there a shortage of regular vowels or something, that those poor y's get pressed into service for everything?

The Sojourner said...

Liza--My pet peeve is that even though my spelling is the most common spelling, NOBODY ever defaults to Megan. Ever.

You are totally in the right, by the way. Elizabeth is currently #12; Elisabeth is #591. Not even a competition. You're the normal one.

Also, I can't guarantee I'm right, but I'm pretty sure the original spelling of Elizabeth had Hebrew letters. So.

Theocentrica said...

I think top ten lists might be different for boys' names. They haven't changed much in the past century. Except for Jaden. Don't even let me get started on Jaden.

The Sojourner said...

Yep. It's like a game of "One of these things is not like the others." Several Biblical names, some nice classic names, and then Jayden. (And Aiden is up there now too, but I'll let that one slide. We're all a little Irish, right?)

Becky D. said...

I had to go look. I figured your new little brother's name was quite common. Both 1st and middle are top twenty. Every time people ask his name I get comments about it being a nice strong name or a great biblical name so that's not a bad thing. I would hope no one would misspell them either.