Thursday, September 15, 2011

Most Unique Name Ever

Last week I came upon a great article on (originally posted in 2009).  It was so great that I'm going to do something I've never done before - quote directly from the article:

Unusual baby names are becoming more and more, well, common these days. A mere one percent of babies are named Emma or Jacob, the most popular names, and only about ten percent are given one of the Top Ten names.  Compare that to a hundred years ago, when FIVE percent of babies were given the most popular names John or Mary, and 30 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls received one of the Top Ten Names.  For the first time, less than half of all babies get one of the Top 50 names.  

Interesting, right?  (To read the rest of the article click here)  Turns out that even popular names aren't all that popular.  I found the article comforting.  Even relieving.  I hate strongly dislike the thought of choosing a name that will require my child to go by first name and last name initial.  The image of my kindergarten-aged child putting his coat on a hook in a cubby labeled "Joe S." instead of just "Joe" is simply unacceptable.  I want to be able to yell, "Gittem' Joe! GET HIM!!!" at peewee football games and for my son to know that it's his crazy mom getting reprimanded by the ref because he's the only Joe on the field.  The name I choose can't be common.

And yet, I don't have any interest in naming my child something wildly unique, like Katniss or Seven.  Katniss is the female heroine from The Hunger Games.  Seven is a number.  Both make me scrunch my nose and say, "really?" because I think they're a bit too far off the grid.  I want my future children to have established names, as opposed to science fiction character names or numeric digits, yet I don't want their names to be duplicated within their (and my) inner circle.  I always thought that I was asking for the impossible.  Perhaps not.  This article makes me feel like my dream is attainable, my order is not too tall.

The Hunger Games (first of the series).
Who's read it?  Thumbs up or down?

Of course I had to confirm this good news with my own eyes.  I'm Type A like that.  Next stop baby was the Social Security website.  Nameberry was spot on, not that I had a genuine doubt.  In 2010, Jacob was the most popular boy's name with 1.0756% of the population choosing it.  In 1910, John was the most popular boy's name with 5.4920% of the population choosing it.  The statistics are almost identical for girl's names.  This means that likelihood of last initial cubby identification seems unlikely in a class size of 30, even for the most popular boy's name in the country.  I just let out a sigh of relief.  And another.  For the 2010 statistics, by the time you reach the 184th most popular boy's name (Josue) and the 156th most popular girl's name (Ashlyn), the percentage of total births drops to less than 0.1% (aka less than 1/1,000).

Your chances of meeting two babies boys named Hugh who were born in 2010 is the same as your chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime - 1 in 10,000 (according to the National Weather Service)

I couldn't (out of principal) choose the statistically most popular name.  Truthfully, I will probably steer clear of the entire Top 10.  Everything beyond that is fair game.  Thanks to Nameberry, I'm not going to worry that if I name my daughter Natalie (#14 in 2010) that she'll be one of three Natalies in her ballet class.  And I'm not going to worry that if I name my son James (#19 in 2010) that he'll be "the other James" on the science team.  When it comes to names, being popular doesn't mean it's actually popular.


Katie said...

In my 2nd grade class this year I have 2 Alexes, 2 Jacks and a Jackson AND Isabel and Isabelle which I have to differentiate with "Isabel with one l" and Isabelle with two ls". The Isabel thing makes Joe S. not seem so bad ha.

Leah (it's me) said...

Katie -, your 2nd grade class sort of flies in the face of all these statistics. Coincidence? Or, perhaps these names were WAY popular in 2004?

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S said...

As Katie pointed out with Isabel(le), variant spellings are popular and might mask how common a name is, just going by the statistics. Also, a lot of people might be going for the same nickname, but choose different longer names. Like all the Belle/Bella names, the Ella/Ellie names, the Emma names, etc. You still might avoid duplicating names on the coat hanger if they use her full name, but not if you're yelling the nn out in a crowd.

Also, these stats are for the whole of the US. Frequency of the name can vary by state and region. You can look up name stats for your state on the SSA website to get a better idea of which names are popular where you are.