Names with Biggest Increase in Popularity

So, it’s been forever since I posted. Got busier at work, the weather has been nice and I’ve gone on several trips- typical excuses. But I hope to get back to some more regular posts!

The 2014 baby names were released and I hope to load them into my database soon. In the meantime, here’s a fun list of names that saw dramatic increases in the last several years and to what or whom that can be attributed.  I compiled the list by calculating which names saw the largest percentage increase in a two year timespan, filtering out very rare names, alternate spellings and only looking at the last 10 years. Here are the top 10…

Name Year Count 2 Years Prior* % Increase Reason
Cataleya F 2012 636 < 5 31,700% Female assassin in movie Columbiana
Jaslene F 2008 872 5 17,000% Winner of America’s Next Top Model Season 8
Kanye M 2004 507 5 10,040% Rapper Kanye West
Rihanna F 2006 571 6 9,400% Singer Rihanna***
Allisson F 2008 767 12 6,300% Mexican TV star Allisson Lozz
Talan M 2006 1058 20 5,200% Reality star on MTV’s Laguna Beach
Audrina F 2007 412 8 5,000% Reality star on MTV’s The Hills
Akeelah F 2006 403 8 5,000% Movie Akeelah and the Bee
Marely F 2008 1004 21 4,700% ?
Miley F 2007 1232 26 4,600% Actress/singer Miley Cyrus from Disney’s Hannah Montana****

*If the name did not appear in the database two years prior, I assigned it a value of 2. It’s hard to say whether it had zero names or up to four names, so it was a compromise. Plus assigning it at 0 made the percentages seem ridiculously high**- it would have been 63,000%  for Cataleya, for example.
**Because 31,700% isn’t ridiculously high at all. 🙂
***Her real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty
****Her real name is Destiny Hope Cyrus

Shaniqua

Shaniqua
Contrary to popular belief, Shaniqua is not a common name for black women. Often used as a stereotype to represent unique names used in the African-American community, it barely reached over 1000 names a year twice in the early 1990s before nearly disappearing. For perspective, if you were named Shaniqua, there is a good chance you were the only one in your entire school or town with that name. Shaniqua (and its spelling varieties) don’t even make the cut in the names database beyond 2010. According to comments on behindthename.com, the name rose to popularity from the 1990 hip hop song “Shaniqua” by Oran “Juice” Jones. Sadly, the name doesn’t have a good reputation these days, prompting one commenter on babynamewizard.com to say, “My name is Shenequia and when I tell people my name , they say ‘well you don’t act like a Shenequia'”. So what exactly is someone named Shaniqua supposed to act like anyway?

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Teen Mom Influence

bentley_maci
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maci_bentley
I’ll admit that I watched 16 and Pregnant (premiered in 2009), Teen Mom, and Teen Mom 2 when they came out. The two names from the show that have really been affected are Maci and Bentley (seen at left). Bentley is Maci’s son and they were from the very first episode of 16 and Pregnant and then Maci continued her story through Teen Mom. Maci was popular and successful in high school before becoming a teen mom and compared to the others, she seemed to be on a good track and come from a good family. She was shown juggling college and dealing with her baby’s daddy, Ryan, in the first season. Maci is a fan favorite and her son Bentley is super adorable, so it’s no surprise the name Bentley shot through the roof almost more than any other name in the 2000s. Many other reality show names also saw huge increases- The Hills’ Audrina went from 8 names in 2005 to 931 in 2008 and Laguna Beach’s Talan saw a 10,000% spike from 2003 to 2006 (it basically went from nonexistence to about 1000 babies).

The table after the break includes teen moms Maci, Jenelle, and Farrah; Maci’s son Bentley, Jenelle’s son Jace, and Chelsea’s daughter Aubree. All of these names showed an increase during the years their show was on. Interestingly, only the spelling Maci saw an increase. Macy and Macey actually went down during recent years. Some of the names, such as Bentley and most of the moms’ names, have started a downward trend after their brief popularity spike, so perhaps they’ll just be a fad. I would also bet that some people don’t want their son to be “the kid who was named after that boy on Teen Mom.”

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Getting Kreative

UniqueNameCount
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In a previous post, I talked about how common names today are not as popular as the popular names decades ago.  Names like Mary, John, James and Linda were huge during their prime time and could account for as high as 8% of all names that year. Popular names today often only account for 1-3% of all baby names. The chart above shows the distinct number of baby names given out each year since 1880*. If you go to this post, you can see how many babies were born each year for reference. About the same number of babies were born in 1961 and 2013, so obviously from the above graph you can see that there are way more names given out these days- about triple the number between the 1950s and 2000s despite there not being more babies born. Parents want their kids to have more unique names, either by picking something they’ve never heard before or coming up with a new spelling. Like the name Ashley? Why not go with Ashleigh so they can stand out? People started doing things like substituting “ie” for “y” in names like Kellie, Bailie, and Haylie. The letters “ae” also work instead of “a” or “ay” like in Caeden and Kaelyn. I could go on and on…

It’s also interesting to note how the line goes downward in the last couple years. Did we hit a peak? I think there started to be a lot of talk and articles out there about goofy baby names and people started poking fun at them, making parents more cautious.

*Source is the Social Security Administration and only names that occur at least 5 times a year per gender are included in the data set.

Keeping up with the Kardashians’ Names

Kardashians

The Kardashians (and Jenners) have been one of the most famous families in recent years thanks to their reality show that premiered in 2007, so it was fun to run this graph above and see how they have influenced the public in baby names. A few takeaways:

  • Khloe and Mason certainly shot up after they made their entrance into reality television but then the trend quickly reversed and their numbers started dropping. I feel like this is common- people are introduced to a more unique name on TV, they have a baby a few months later and name their kid that having no idea or way of knowing if parents around the country are doing the same thing. Then, once the public realizes how popular the name is (or the celebrity becomes even more famous), they ditch it.
  • Brody was on its way up but started going downhill after Bruce Jenner’s son Brody Jenner started making appearances. Apparently people didn’t like what they saw??
  • I originally had Kimberly in this graph (for Kim, of course) but it was so popular in the 50s-70s that it made it hard to see the details on the lesser used names like Penelope, so I took it out. Plus it didn’t appear that Kim Kardashian had any affect on it.
  • Penelope clearly rose in popularity and I’m curious to see her numbers for 2014.  Penelope (or “P” as I’ve heard her called on the show) is Kourtney’s second child and she recently had a 3rd child, a son she named Reign, so I’d also like to check that one out on future name lists.

Stay tuned for a future post on the Teen Mom gals and their kids- they made quite an impact. Let’s just say teachers should expect to see some Bentley’s in their classes soon.

Netflix Doc

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.