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August 8, 2006
Name that Baby

Courtesy of Danielle Bean comes what may be the most evilest time-waster in the history of Internet time-wasters. The length of this post demonstrates that.

Go here (if you dare) for the 1000 most popular baby names of each gender since 1880.

Some notes:

  • The dominance of Michael
    "Michael" has maintained an impressive hegemony on the boys' side. Though it was relatively popular all century (its worst ranking was 56 in 1926), spending much of the first third in the 40s and 50s, in the late 1930s, it suddenly surged into the top 20 and in another decade jumped into the #1 spot, which it held (excepting "David" in 1960) from 1954 until 1999, when it yielded to Jacob, which has held the top spot ever since.

  • The rise of Christopher
    The mid-20th century saw "Christopher" go from obscurity to ubiquity. In 1933, "Christopher" was the 376th most popular boys' name. 10 years later, it was up to 184, another decade and it was at 61. In 1972, "Christopher" reached number 2, and for 24 years in the 70s , 80s and 90s, it held second or third place and was in the top 5 until 2002. Though it has remained in the top 10, it looks like it has been supplanted for the near future by "Jacob," Joshua" and "Matthew" (can't complain there) among others.

  • Going "Old" school
    In 1905, you had to go down to number 30 (Samuel) to find an overtly Old Testament name on the boys' list and there were a total of six in the top 100. There were only seven on the girls' side, though "Ruth" at number five is higher than any OT names on the boys' side.

    By 2005, the boys' side had exploded with OT names: #1 (Jacob), #3 (Joshua), #5 (Ethan), #7 (Daniel) and 17 others. OT girls' names have not caught on quite so much, as in 2005 there were only six in the top 100.

  • All about me
    In the year of my birth, my first and second names "Christopher" and "Jason" ranked third and second, respectively.

  • Female volatility
    As with so many things feminine (**DUCK**), girls' name rankings are subject to sudden and severe fluctuations. The prime example is "Madison" which was not even in the top 1000 before 1985, when it debuted at number 635. In 1991 it cracked the top 200, Shot into the top 30 in 1995 and has bounced betweek 3 and 2 all millenium.

    "Jennifer," the ever-fair Mama-Lu's christian name, was similarly not even on the charts until 1938 when it debuted at number 987. It took 20 years for it to crack the top 100, and then rose rapidly to be number one for 15 years, including the year of her birth. It has since slipped, though it still remains a top 50 name.

    "Laurie" is another strange case. On and off the charts, never above 900 until 1934, then rapidly rising to #42 in 1962. Completely off the charts since 1994. This one is complicated by the existence of alternates (the slightly- more popular Lori and the much, much more popular Laura)

    "Ava" has had perhaps the craziest trajectory: It was around in the first half of the century, peaking at 376 in 1954, but falling off completely in 1973. It fought a mostly losing battle to stay on the charts for the next 20 years. In 1990 it ranked 952. Then watch what happened:

    1991 847
    1993 739
    1995 739
    1997 618
    1999 259
    2001 133
    2003 39
    2005 9

    All told, three of the 2005 top ten girls' names were not even on the charts 20 years ago.

  • Where's Charlie?!!?
    I was very surprised to see that "Charles" isn't even a top-50 name anymore. Charles was a top 10 name for most of the century, but the 1950s saw the start of a long, slow slide that bumped it down to the mid-low 50s, where it's been since 2001.

  • Throughout the 1970s, "Eric" bounced between 13 and 18. In 1980, it was at 16. It has since steadily declined to #67. I'll let my cousin weigh in on that if he wants.

  • David has been pretty steady, being at or above #31 since 1905, with one shining moment at the top in 1960.

Did I mention this is a horrible timewaster?

Posted by Papa-Lu at August 8, 2006 8:50 AM
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We've wasted significant time at the Social Security website as well. "Alexander", as I recall for 2001 or 2, was a top 10, but if you add the various derivatives, such as Alex and Alejandro, it weighs in at number 3. "Dominic" is in the 80's. "Xavier", the leading boy name for #3 (partly because: 1, if he's a he, 2, if he's born on time, and 3, if Fr. Joe is okay with it, he will be baptized on St. Francis Xavier's feast day, and then all of the Indian Jesuits that my mother-in-law knows will be extatic), is also in the 80's as I recall.

Posted by: Brandon Field at August 8, 2006 9:40 AM
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