Thursday, May 15, 2008
My sister's name is Jennie. Not Jennifer, just Jennie. But still, she was always one of 2 or 3 Jennies per class, and dozens per school. She can never assume when she hears her name called in public that it is for her. There are Jennies everywhere. And yet our mother swears she had never heard the name Jennie before she chose it. But the facts tell a different story. The year before my sister was born, Jennifer was the #1 name in America. The year before that, #3. The year before that, #4. Even as far back as 1956, Jennifer was always in the top 100 names in the nation. So my mom should have known better.
This is what I like to call The Kaden Phenomenon. (Or the Caden Phenomenon. Or the Kaiden Phenomenon. Or the Cayden Phenomenon. But that's another issue altogether.) I call it that because every single mom I know who named her son Kaden also swears that she never heard the name before she picked it. And yet there are Kaden/Caiden/Kayden/Caden's everywhere. How does that happen? I'm not sure. I think somehow names filter into our subconsious without us realizing we've heard them. And then, if we don't personally know anyone of that name, they seem fresh and new. Also, a lot of new moms don't have older children who mingle with other older children. So it's not until that child enters school that the mother realizes just how many other mothers were on the same wavelength as her. And for lots of moms, it's no big deal if their child has the same name as other kids in school. Choosing a popular name lends a sense of security: that child will never have to worry about someone saying, "Your name is WHAT?" Perhaps those popular names even ensure that the child herself will be popular? I don't think I ever knew a nerdy Heather or Jennifer. But for those moms who don't want to fall victim to the Kaden Phenomenon, I present to you your solution:
THE SOCIAL SECURITY BABY NAME WEBSITE
Every year the Social Security Administration collects and tallies all the names of babies born that year. They release it about mid-way through the following year, and their website allows parents an easy way to look at names and see just how popular, or not, the name they are considering is.
The website allows you to look up a certain name and see how it has been doing over the last 120+ years. Just type in the name, how many years back you want to go, and it will show you the rank of that name (and the number of kids with that name) during that period of time. You may be interested to know, for example, that the girl's name Addison was in #800 as recently as 1994, but is #11 this year. It's hugely popular, although you may not personally know a single Addison. Or that the name Felix has never gotten higher or lower than the mid 300's for the last 20 years. It's a very steady border-line popular name.
You can also look at the top 1000 names and see what interesting names people are giving their kids these days. Like Genesis (#139 girl), Khalil (#427 boys), Paisley (#610 girls), Zayne (#974 boys) or Rylan (#236 boys). Maybe you'll get some cute ideas. Or maybe you'll just get a good laugh.
You can even look up the names by state to find out how a name has performed in your state. Because maybe that name is super popular in New Jersey, but not at all popular where you live. (That feature is under construction until May 19th). Also, if you live or have lived in Utah, please treat yourself to reading the "The 'Best Of' list The Cream of the Crop - Favorite Utah Names" section at this website. You'll be so glad you did.
My favorite is to find out when a name I like, say Pearl, was most popualar and then to see what else was popular that year. Pearl, though bottom of the top 1000 names in the last few decades, was in the top 100 from 1888-1926. So I pick one of the years it was most popular (like 1898) and find some real gems from that year like Helen, Clara, and Hazel (and a few gross ones like Edna and Bertha and Ethel).
Anyway, whether you are the type of mom that wants to pick something really unusual, or classic, or trendy, or made-up....this website can help you verify whether your name meets the criteria you think it does. You'll never wonder again how your daughter with the totally original name you made up yourself, Nevaeh, ended up sharing her name with 6,689 other Nevaehs that year. The SS Baby Name Website would have shown you that this name was #31 nationwide (really!). And you can rest assured that your baby Michael will never have to worry about his name being thought of as we think of "Herbert" today. (Michael has been in the top 60 names for the last 100 years, #1 or #2 for the last 55 years). And if you are in the market for a really really different name, I'm sure little Essence (#930) and baby Treyvon (#986) won't mind their names being bumped up one spot next year.
*I tried to be as P.C. and non-offensive in this post as possible. Hopefully no one took it personally. Especially those named Kaden and Jennifer.*
at 9:08 AM