I stumbled upon a documentary on Netflix last night that is about names! I was like, this is the documentary I would want to make! Granted, after watching it, it’s not precisely how I’d do a names doc, but it was still pretty entertaining to me. It was made by this guy named Alan Berliner and he gets together with a dozen other Alan Berliner’s in the world (most seemed to be from North America) and discusses the concept of names. It can be found here.
I ran some stats on my database and found the most gender ambiguous name was Casey- almost half are boys and half are girls as you can see from the above graph. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a gender ambiguous name. I have met a couple of male Kellys in my life but I’m sure everyone assumes I’m a girl when they see my name. I once read in Time magazine that Taylor Swift’s parents named her Taylor because that way her gender would not be immediately known, like if someone received her resume, and assumptions and biases could not be made (of course, with social media, if your name is at least somewhat unique, you’ll be found). In 1989, the year Taylor was born, there were 4800 males named Taylor and 4000 females, so it was pretty even back then. Since then girls have taken over the name- in 2013, it was 4000 females and 800 males.
Here’s a few other gender ambiguous names and which gender wins the count:
Click to enlarge (and if still looks kinda small, try clicking it one more time and it should get bigger- worked for me in Chrome).
After doing my first tennis post and seeing a bunch of American youngsters in the Australian Open women’s draw right now (I’m especially excited about the upcoming Madison Keys versus Madison Brengle match), I wondered- exactly how many up-and-comers do we have? So I ran some stats on young versus older players in each country and the results in the graph above. The first graph is all players in the top 300 and then the bottom two are per gender. The average age of women in the top 100 is 24.8 and it is 27.6 for men, so I changed the age used as the threshold in each graph. A few things I noticed:
- Lots of up-and-coming American women! Madison Keys (currently ranked #35), Lauren Davis, Christina McHale, Nicole Gibbs, Taylor Townsend, and Grace Min are all 22 and under and either in or hovering around the top 100. Christina McHale has already been a staple in the draws and seems to be here to stay. There’s also 15-year-old Catherine Bellis, who had a great run at the US Open this past year.
- Interesting how many European countries like Germany, Spain and Italy currently have lots of older players- this could just be a sign of the game’s increasingly global scale as more Asian and lesser known European nations are taking ranking spots away.
- Looks like we can expect to see some good Dutch players on the women’s side coming up- can’t think of any good Dutch player since I’ve been following tennis (2001). The men don’t have any young Dutch players right now.
- The Australian men are doing great- the women, not so much. Someone’s gotta replace Sam Stosur! She’s getting old in tennis years.
- Surprised to see so many young Japanese women- 11 under 24- but only one is inside the top 100. Not as many young Japanese men as I thought- there are only 5- but of course Kei Nishikori is one of them and his game has been hot lately.
- Of course a large amount of young players is just one step in the process of having success- they actually have to rise up in the rankings and play well as they get older and not get burned out
- Perhaps Roger Federer and Martina Hingis have had some influence on the ladies of Switzerland- there’s 5 under 25 and one of them, Belinda Bencic, is only 17 and ranked #34 in the world!! Impressive. She is the top Swiss right now. Bencic trained most of her childhood at Melanie Molitor’s tennis academy- Melanie is Martina Hingis’ mother!
- Russians started dominating the game soon after I started following pro tennis in the early 2000s. So since I used to think they were going to completely takeover, I was curious where they stood. This graph tells me that there are 10 women under 24 years old, which is a decent but not super high amount, but only one of these 10 is inside the top 100! (And that one is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is 23). So I’m thinking Russia might see some loss in its dominance in the upcoming years.
Curious to see how all this plays out because just because a country has a lot of young players in the top 300 doesn’t mean they all have what it takes to move into the top 50 or top 10.
Caitlin is an Irish name, variant of Kathleen or Katherine, generally believed to mean “pure” and pronounced “Cotch-leen” in Irish. Before the 1980s, almost all Caitlins were spelled with a “C”. The name first appears in the SSA database in 1955 with 5 names and remains under 100 a year until the 1970s. In 1980 it spiked, going from 255 to 648, a 150% increase. By 1985, there were 2500 Caitlin’s, 1418 Katelyn’s, and 1235 Kaitlin’s, etc. Did some research and I wonder if this has anything to do with American actress Caitlin O’Heaney, who was born in 1953 and starred in a TV movie and One Life to Live in 1979, followed by a movie with Tom Hanks called He Knows You’re Alone in 1980 (it was Hanks’ first film). In 1982 she got the lead female role in ABC’s Tales of the Gold Monkey and she was also in the Woody Allen film Zelig. So needless to say, she was becoming known in Hollywood.
Tons of variations of spellings crept in as you can see from the graph below. Caitlin was overtaken as the most popular spelling by Kaitlyn and is now the 4th most popular way to spell it. Growing up, there was a Caitlin next door to me born in the late 80s. I also went to elementary school with a Katelyn born in mid 80s, later on in college knew a Kaitlyn, vaguely knew a Kaitlin through work and just recently met a Kaitlyn born around 1990. So when I meet a Caitlin, I never assume it’s spelled a certain way. Personally, I enjoy having a name (Kelly) that is easy to pronounce and spell and most people get it right since it uses the most common spelling. These days in American society, people want their kid to have a unique name and stand out and not be one of 4 Jennifers in their class, so they are getting pretty creative. Here is a list of ways parents spelled Caitlin in 2013: Kaitlyn,Katelyn, Caitlyn, Caitlin, Katelynn, Kaitlynn, Kaitlin, Caitlynn, Katlyn, Katelin, Catelyn, Kaytlin, Kaytlyn, Catelynn, Katelynne, Katlynn, Kaytlynn, Kaitlen, Katlin, Catlyn, Kaitlynne, Catelin, Caytlin, Keitlyn, and Katelyne. Whew.
It’s interesting to see how names that went out of style, similar to fashion, are becoming popular again. Names like Henry and Charlotte were fairly popular 100 years ago before nearly dying off and then seeing a revival in the last decade or so. Two of my coworkers have daughters named Charlotte; Chelsea Clinton named her daughter Charlotte; and my friend’s sister recently named one of her twins Charlotte. I have a college friend who named her son Henry and Julia Roberts did the same. Yet I can’t think of a single person around my age named Charlotte or Henry except for a friend of a friend named Charlotte who lives in my apartment building.
These names sound fresh and cool- for whatever reason, it’s adorable (to me and others, at least) to currently name your baby son George, Jack or Henry, names we traditionally think of for old men. People are going back to the classics, perhaps picking a name their great-grandparents had (or could have had). After many years in the 1990s and 2000s of girls being given boy or masculine-sounding names like Jordan, Riley and Taylor, parents started going back to more feminine names that were popular long ago, like Emma, Olivia, Ava, Alice, and Olive, many of which end with an “a” instead of a “y” sound like most popular 80s/90s names like Ashley, Brittany, and Mackenzie. It’s rare for boys to have an “a”-ending name- exceptions include “ah” names like Elijah, Micah, Ezra, Jonah, and Joshua- all Biblical names. Dakota, Dana, Ira, and Luca/Luka make up the few “a”-ending, non-Biblical names that are at least somewhat commonly assigned to boys, but the first three are also frequently assigned to girls. I’ve noticed from following pro tennis, which has become very international, that many European women on tour have “a”-ending names, like Maria, Anna and Martina, and tend to be more traditional; much more so than the American women, whose names are all over the board, from Venus to Madison to Shelby.
The graph below shows several names experiencing comebacks after dying off following the 20s and 30s. I noticed that they started going downhill around the time of a low-point in US births (see this post to see how many babies were born in the US each year) but they obviously didn’t go back up during the baby boom, indicating a major decrease in popularity. Emma is the most popular of all these and I’m curious if that peak in 2003 happened because of Rachel from the popular show Friends naming her daughter Emma in a May 2002 episode. Or it could have just been that it reached its max popularity before it became too popular for everyone, but I bet Emma Geller Green had at least some impact!
The name Jennifer first appeared in the SSA’s baby name records in 1916 (in order to be released in the public records, it must have been given to at least 5 babies in a given year). The name steadily rose up into the 1960s when it reached 33,000 babies in 1969. Not a bad number. Then in 1970, a novel called A Love Story was released with a character named Jennifer. A movie by the same name was also released soon after. This helped soar Jennifer up to 63,600 names in 1972 (including actress Jennifer Garner)- almost double from 1969. It maintained popularity until the mid 1980s when it started dropping. But I wondered, where did it come from originally and why was it so popular in the 1960s before A Love Story came out? Well, it’s a Welsh name that has been in use since the 18th century, but started being used in the states after George Bernard Shaw’s play called The Doctor’s Dilemma came out in 1906- the main character was named Jennifer and America started falling in love with it.
The name Mary was the #1 girls name in the US from 1880 to 1947. Then, it was kicked off its throne by Linda. Linda is in the records starting in 1880 (the earliest year in the SSA records) but exploded in the 1940s. One of the most popular names in US history, Linda outranks all names for the most babies in a single year- in 1947, 99,674 Lindas were born! But unlike Jennifer, which remained at its peak popularity for just over a decade, Linda started plummeting just a couple years after 1947. By 1957, 10 years later and during the peak of the baby boom, “only” 44,000 babies were named Linda. By 1977, less than 3000 and in 2013 there were only 435 Lindas. Linda as a name has mostly German roots but in Spanish it means “beautiful.” In 1946, Buddy Clark released a song called “Linda” that he wrote upon a friend’s request who had a six-year-old daughter named Linda. The song was really popular in 1947 and reached #1 on the Billboard Music charts. The song was then sung and released by another singer, Charlie Spivak, in 1947 and that was also a hit. The Linda the song was named after grew up to become Linda McCartney– Paul’s wife!
The boys’ name Jason has Greek roots and Jason was the leader of the Argonauts in Greek mythology. Jason is also in the New Testament of the Bible- these two things help it be a name that’s been around for a while (it’s on the SSA list since the first year in 1880), but it hit its peak in the US in 1977 with 55,000 babies (this included country singer Jason Aldean). At first I thought this could be attributed to the character Jason in the very popular Friday the 13th movies, but it turns out that the first one didn’t come out until 1980. So I did a little research on it and found a lot of characters in TV and movies, including the Friday the 13th movies; Jason on the popular series The Waltons, which started out as a TV movie at the end of 1971 before turning into a TV series that lasted 9 seasons; the character of Jason Weber on the soap Guiding Light– he was on from 1965 to 1966 and was killed off in a car accident; and the character Jason on the sitcom Here Come the Brides, which lasted from 1968-1970 (from 68 to 69 the name Jason more than doubled in count). Jason may have died off in popularity in recent years, but it’s not that far gone- in 2013, there were still 5400 babies! Not too shabby. Jason probably helped usher in today’s plethora of names ending in ‘on’ like Mason, Peyton, Jayden, and Grayson and so it doesn’t sound that old yet.
There’s a twist in the Jason storyline, though- Jayceon! First appearing in 2005 and hitting 1,838 names in 2013, Jayceon has come to the forefront thanks to rapper Jayceon, also known as Game. Mostly pronounced exactly like “Jason”, this new spelling has risen fast. Many spelling variations also exist, like Jaycon, Jayson, Jasen, Jaiceon, Jasyn, Jaceon, and Jaesun.
Friends was an incredibly popular show on television from 1994-2004. Everyone tried to be home or tape it on Thursday nights at 8. So did the names of the characters- Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, and Joey- gain or lose popularity because of the show? Only Chandler received a boost by the show and it was pretty minor. A rarer name back then, the show at least put Chandler into the consciousnesses of parents everywhere as they named their babies. As the table below the graph shows, Chandler was already on the rise, so the show just catapulted it higher. The name Rachel (and its similar spelling, Rachael) may have fallen due to the show- it’s hard to say for sure. The actress (Jennifer Aniston) and character became super popular a couple years in, especially in part to “the Rachel” haircut, so that may be why it started to drop around 1997. It’s interesting how Rachel plateaued for several years because I have not seen this shape for very many popular names (most names are mountain, hill or roller coaster-shaped). I was surprised to not see Phoebe gain more popularity as the character is lovable and Lisa Kudrow is hilarious, but maybe her eccentric and aloof personality turned people away from the name. The name Monica stayed pretty flat through the start of the show but dipped after the 1998 Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Note: This post was updated on January 24, 2017.
What happens to your name if your dad or husband becomes the President of the United States? Take a look at Chelsea and Hillary, which took a nose dive after former President Bill Clinton took office. I can’t say for sure why, but I’d speculate people didn’t want their kid to share their name with someone so well known and be associated with them, whether they liked the Clintons or not. Even if you liked the name Chelsea and you voted for Bill, seeing them all over the newspapers and TV may have been nixed Chelsea off your baby list. Maybe they didn’t want people responding with “oh, like the first daughter?” or “like as in Clinton?” when told their baby’s name. I suppose some may have been turned off because of political party affiliation. Who knows, but neither name recovered, which is sad, because I think Chelsea and Hillary are nice names, but that’s just my opinion.
Jenna Bush’s name trajectory has been a bit more of a roller coaster, but the name Jenna, like Chelsea and Hillary, also took a popularity hit once her dad became President. However, it increased sharply shortly after her grandfather became the VP, but it’s hard to tell if that’s what caused the increase. I found no distinct correlations with Barbara, George, and Laura.
I love this infographic from Slate on assigning just one sport for each state without duplicating. Ohio, my home state, got cornhole! Obviously other sports are pretty popular here, like high school football (they gave that to Texas) and basketball (Indiana), but cornhole is a staple in Ohio and many give us credit for at least bringing it to the forefront and helping spread the game (if you ask others, they’ll say Ohio invented it- that’s debatable). Known simply as “bags” in other places, you can find cornhole in leagues and at all kinds of parties and bars in the buckeye state.
So the talk of the tennis world in the US can often revolve around why there aren’t as many American players anymore. Where are our up and coming superstars? Where did all these Russians come from? Are we not driven enough? Is tennis just not that popular here? People are used to seeing their American favorites (McEnroe, Evert, Austin, Sampras, Roddick, etc) at the top of the rankings and winning grand slams. The game has gotten much more international with players from all over the world. I wondered- where exactly does the United States stand? Are we really doing as bad as everyone says we are? I’m a pretty avid fan and have noticed fewer American men in the top rankings but the women seem to be doing okay to me, but I wonder what will happen when Venus and Serena retire because it does not seem like anyone is close to making themselves at home in the top 10. Several young phenoms are or were close- Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Melanie Oudin, and Christina McHale, to name a few- but no Serenas in the mix just yet (all of the above still definitely have a shot, though, if you ask me). The last American man to win a grand slam was Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open! Before that, guys like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and John McEnroe ruled the roost.
The below graphs are from data for the top 300 tennis players on the men’s and women’s tours from October 2014. In the first graph, showing the number of players per country per gender, you can see that there are more American players than any other nationality, but the second graph, which shows the number of players per million residents, we Americans rank near the bottom! (Note that in the 2nd graph, only countries with at least 2 players were included).
As much as we think “The Russians are coming!”, I was shocked to see how low they ranked in the per capita list. Many of the world’s more populated countries- China, India, US, Russia, Brazil- are near the bottom of the list or non-existent (Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria). Small countries like Croatia are tennis powerhouses- 4 out of every million Croatians is a pro tennis player (top 300)- impressive! That would be like the state of Ohio having 44 pro players… insane.*
Some interesting things to note are the countries with big disparities between men and women. China has a ton of female players, but almost no male, and it’s reversed for Argentina. France and Spain have lots of male players, while the Czech Republic, Japan, and Russia have much more females. Both Russia and Czech Republic have benefited from a few past superstars, like Anna Kournikova and Martina Navratilova. I’ve also heard that female tennis players like Li Na are huge in China- major celebrities.
The fact that Luxembourg is 2nd on the list does not mean it’s a tennis powerhouse- they have just two players, one male and one female, ranked inside the top 300. Countries like Serbia and Croatia, with 12 and 17 players respectively- now that impresses me. Is it their underdog status and war-torn history that help give the players drive and determination? Do they dream of money and fame and a mansion in Florida or a sweet pad in Monaco? In a future post, I hope to explore reasons and theories behind why some countries excel and others, like America, are seemingly less successful!
*I think Ohio only claims one player, as far as I know- Nicole Gibbs. We kind of have two if you count Chieh-yu (Connie) Hsu, who plays under Taipei but spent a lot of her childhood in Cincinnati (I played her three times in junior tournaments despite being six years older).
EDIT: March 10: Ohio is also the home state of current top 100 player Lauren Davis!