Explain the popularity of various names

I was amusing myself looking at the popularity of various first names for boys and girls (in the United States) using name voyager.
I wondered if people might enjoy looking for names that show a trend and then trying to explain it.

For example, take Adolf. One idea is that the decreasing popularity is due to Hitler, but the decline starts a decade or so too early.

I think Angelina is due to Angelina Jolie, Harrison to Harrison Ford, Douglas to Douglas MacArthur, Benjamin to Dr. Spock.

Look at the popularity of the letter “O”.

It’s fashion, primarily. People just like a particular name. Sometimes you can find the cause, sometimes not.

For instance, “Linda” came out of nowhere in the 1930s primarily due to Katherine Hepburn playing a Linda in “Holiday.”

“Dylan” became massively popular in the 80s, and was probably in response to people choosing to use Bob Dylan’s name.

In more general terms, sometimes a becomes linked to an older generation and people stop naming their children with “old fashioned” names.

This seems to be more of a diversion than a question with a definitive factual answer, so I’ll move this thread to the MPSIMS forum.

moderator GQ

That is the coolest site ever. I’m just sayin’.

I got that site off of the Freakonomics website. Freakonomics is an excellent book written by economists who like to look at patterns behind everyday phenomena. They found that children’s names follow a pattern. What happens is that the upperclass moms pick names for their children that tend to be unique and then the name slowly trickles down and becomes more common as it goes. For example, my name Ava is nearly unheard of around people in my age range 20-30s. Now, it is becoming more popular among the upper class and the Freakonomics authors believe that by 2015, it will be a most popular name. Girl names change more rabidly than boy names, but the phenomena is the same. Other things influence name popularity too, if you type in the name Xander and Willow, you will see a sudden spike in the later years that is because of the popular TV show Buffy.

The Beatles recorded Michelle in 1965. The name moved from 93rd in the 50s to 9th in the 60s and 4th in the 70s, before dropping off in popularity. Ya think there’s a connection?

I got the name in '54. I was supposed to be Michael, but that didn’t work out, did it?

Look at how the name Shirley spikes in the 1930’s. Want to bet it’s due to the actress Shirley Temple?

Well, there’s always Michael Learned.

So Edmund (my grandfather’s name (b.1889)) should be coming back next year after the Narnia movie? :slight_smile:

My folks were far too conventional.

Why the explosion of Jeremys, Jasons and Joshuas in the 70s and 80s?

paraphrasing FairyChatMom “My parents weren’t that cool”

Ha! My parents were way cool. I got named Mikel anyway.

(I was named after my great-gran, Michealeane. Mom changed the spelling to Mikel Lynn to aid in pronunciation and everyone still insists on calling me Michelle. Sometimes you just can’t win.) :rolleyes:

Type in Farrah.

Creates a spike you could split a log with.

I possess an Austin, and I had never actually met an Austin in person before he was born. When he was growing up, there were suddenly massess of them. Every class and sports team he was on seemed to have at least one other Austin. On name voyager, Austin has a sudden dramatic spike up (mine is on the early up slope) in the early nineties, and then a just as dramatic down slope. It’s all before the movie came out, so it can’t have anything to do with that. Really fascinating.

Paris is a bit spikey lately.

No, that’s still the reason. Most names go up and down, come in and out of fashion etc. Adolf went out and has stayed out. It was a very popular name, then it went on a slide, then Hitler comes on the scene and (unlike many names that would probably have continued to come and go) it died stone cold dead.

It was dead before Hitler showed up. I’d bet you anything that World War I killed it. The timing is right.

Benjamin’s a Biblical name and has been around for ages, but if there’s a spike maybe you’re right. I would guess that one has a fairly consistent appeal with some occasional spikes, like the one after The Graduate came out. :wink:

Speaking of movies, Luke had a steady, but declining, appeal for about a century… and then it grows in the '70s and rockets up after that. I’m gonna pin that one on Star Wars, just like people say Love Story made Jennifer popular and Splash Madison.

Dylan remains a very popular unisex name, as people who grew up fans of Mr. Zimmerman are still having kids. My brother (now almost 13) played Little League with a number of Dylans who would’ve been born in the early 90s. Jordan got really popular in the early 90s. Is His Airness to blame perhaps? I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bunch of little Lebrons sometime in the future.

I see that my name is getting very popular among girls, but still hasn’t made a dent for the guys. Suits me fine.

I wonder if the revival of a certain moderately popular 19th century name in the last 15 years can be traced to the lead singer of Guns 'N Roses.

Actually, they said in the book that Shirley was becoming more popular before Shiley Temple, the same with Britney.

I’m praying you mean Bailey, which is probably quite popular, like a lot of other Irish surnames that are turning into first names. [Checks.] Oh god, you don’t mean Bailey. Yeah, it’s probably either him or Eddie Murphy’s character in those Beverly Hills Cop movies.