Thursday, May 19, 2011

Your Name Doesn't Lie

      If you are a female Baby Boomer, born in or around 1950, you are most likely named Linda. Your daughter, born circa 1980, is Jennifer. And your granddaughter, born in 2010, is Isabella.

     If you're a man born around 1950, you're probably a James. Your son is named Michael, and your grandson might be Jacob.

     Okay, perhaps that's extrapolating a bit too far. But your name does tell the world how old you are. If your name is Barbara, it's likely you were born in the 1940s, when Barbara was the 2nd or 3rd most popular girl's name -- and not in the 1990s, when it was more like the 300th most popular girl's name. If your name is Jennifer, you were probably born in the 1970s. Jennifer was the No. 1 girl's name from 1970 to 1984 (thanks in large part to the 1970 movie Love Story, based on the bestselling book by Erich Segal).

     A report out earlier this month from the Social Security Administration catalogued the top ten most popular names for babies born in the U. S in 2010. And as you might guess, they look very different from the names we grew up with.

     According to the Social Security Administration, the most popular boys and girls names back when we were babies in 1950 were:

Popularity in 1950

Rank Male name Female name
1 James Linda
2 Robert Mary
3 John Patricia
4 Michael Barbara
5 David Susan
6 William Nancy
7 Richard Deborah
8 Thomas Sandra
9 Charles Carol
10 Gary Kathleen

     By 1980, about the time we were naming out kids, things had changed:

Popularity in 1980

Rank Male name Female name
1 Michael Jennifer
2 Christopher Amanda
3 Jason Jessica
4 David Melissa
5 James Sarah
6 Matthew Heather
7 Joshua Nicole
8 John Amy
9 Robert Elizabeth
10 Joseph Michelle

     Hey, what happened to Thomas?  My name was 8th most popular back in the good old days. By 1980 it had dropped out of the top ten list, down to No. 25.

     Names have changed even more since 1980. Today's most popular sobriquets -- the ones our kids are giving to their kids -- are:

Popularity in 2010

Rank Male name Female name
1 Jacob Isabella
2 Ethan Sophia
3 Michael Emma
4 Jayden Olivia
5 William Ava
6 Alexander Emily
7 Noah Abigail
8 Daniel Madison
9 Aiden Chloe
10 Anthony Mia

     Thomas has now dropped to No. 62. Well, I was actually named after my grandfather (something people seem to do less often these days), but the point is, I prefer to think that instead of losing popularity, my name has simply become more rare and distinctive -- kind of like how Ethan or Alexander was back in 1950.

     But the fact is, to most people, my name just signifies that I'm probably in my 60s.

     Anyway, you can look up the relative popularity of your name over time by entering it on the bottom right of this page on the Social Security site.

     Have fun. But don't let it take time away from your grandchildren ... er, Sophia, or Jayden.


Sydney said...

That was fun. I'm the opposite of you, I was named Sydney when it was not very popular at all. For about the first 30 years of my life, I rarely met a female Sydney. Then about 20 years ago the name catapulted to the top 100 where it's been ever since. Now when I hear someone calling my name it's usually a parent calling their 5-year old!

rosaria said...

VEry interesting. Times do change our perspective of what is attractive in a name.

Anonymous said...

My name hasn't made the top 1000 for the past 50 years. Love it!

To think that I am uncommon, a one-of-a-kind individual and not some run-of-the-mill person.

I'm different.

And no, Morrison is my blog name.

BTW, those top names for 2011, I know a lot of dogs with those names. Including my own.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Great post! It's so true about the name trends. I'm a Kathleen, born in the 40's, and went to Catholic schools. In my grade school, there were five other Kathleens and two Katherines in my class. The nuns called all of us by our first and last names as a result. To this day, out of habit, I often identify myself on the phone with both first and last names, never assuming that "Kathy" is sufficient. said...

Names, I love to look at their history. At the Census Bureau, we had a file that showed the incidence of each of the last names in the US. Some of them were so odd, they appeared once or not at all. We used last names to verify ethnicity. We had the most difficulty with the name Lee which is very very common across many ethnic and race groups. Moreso than Jones which is Welch.

Sightings said...

I first heard of the name Sydney when Mariel Hemingway played Sydney Guilford in the TV series "Civil Wars," a legal drama from 1991-93. I was a Mariel Hemingway fan, for sure.

I think of Morrison as a last name. (Jim Morrison of The Doors!) But another fairly new trend is using last names as first names. So Morrison, you're a trend setter!

And Kathleen. Well, I've known many Kathleens ... but every one of them was special!

June said...

I see that my nom-de-plume, June, is becoming marginally more popular. From 800-something in 2008 to 597 in 2010.
My honest-to-God given name doesn't make the top 1000 in the last eleven years!
...and probably not in the last hundred!

Kay Dennison said...

My parents had no imagination -- both my sister (1950) and I (1947) have top 10 names. And Kay is my middle name. My brother (1962) is Michael.

Dick Klade said...

I don't mind seeing "Richard" pushed from popularity. But replacement by the likes of "Jayden" and "Aiden?" Please say it isn't so.

Robert the Skeptic said...

My wife was just remarking that she knows of no other people Nancy who are not of her generation. My father's name was Clyde, I don't know anyone today who has that name.

My 4 year old grandson is named Beckett (there are two other Becketts in his pre-school). His 2 y/o younger brother is named Mercer. We haven't found another Mercer yet.

I was born in 1949. My mother told me she almost named me Steve. I'm glad she didn't because my THREE best friends in my neighborhood when growing up in the 1960s were all named Steve.

I seldom find many people of my parent's generation who aren't named Ethel or Myrtle or George or Fred. What is amazing to me, though, is John still seems to be a popular name.