How baby names reveal cultural trends
December 14, 2007
BabyCenter.com released its annual Top Baby Names List on Thursday. There were few surprises among the most popular names, with mainstays like Jacob, Noah, Madison and Emily maintaining spots in the top 10.
Sophia landed at No. 1 on the girl’s list, up six spots from last year. Olivia moved down two to No. 10, perhaps because the legions of well-meaning parents are finally realizing the popular children’s book character after which they were naming their daughters is actually a pig (albeit a precious one), thereby setting themselves up for years of psychotherapy bills and eating disorder evaluations.
The name Reagan made its debut on the girl’s list at No. 80. Fifty-six year old Rush Limbaugh is said to be considering becoming a first-time father in order to move the name up even more on next year’s list, just in time for the presidential election. The name Layla shot up 60 spots to No. 40, perhaps because of the release of Eric Clapton’s autobiography. Addison and Bailey also rocketed up the list in 2007 to Nos. 6 and 60 respectively, thanks to characters of the same names on the popular TV drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Of course naming babies after celebrities isn’t a new trend. The number of newborn girls named Shirley more than doubled between 1933 and 1935, which is right around the time when Shirley Temple starred in the film “Bright Eyes.” Elvis shot up 527 spots on the Social Security Administration’s 1,000 top baby names’ list when the king of rock ‘n’ roll released “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956.
After Tyra Banks appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 1997, her name surged more than 50 percent among newborns the following year. No word on if the name took a nosedive this year after the former supermodel appeared again on a beach in a swimsuit, but this time with an additional 30-plus pounds packed onto her frame.
In 2007, the name Ava fell two spots in popularity to No. 5 on BabyCenter’s list. Part of the downgrade blame could potentially be attributed to the highly publicized divorce of actress Reese Witherspoon and actor Ryan Phillippe, whose 8-year-old daughter is named Ava. A new report out this year claims divorce has a crucial effect on global warming, so it’s quite possible that eco-friendly parents don’t want to associate their newborn baby girls with the child of a broken, nonenvironmentally friendly home. (Plus, Reese’s most recent film, “Rendition,” was a total box office bust.)
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Maddox, the name of the oldest child in Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s ever-expanding brood, did not make the top 10 this year, but its popularity has nevertheless surged threefold in the past few years. And apparently new parents in Nebraska and Kansas have taken a liking to the name more so than new parents in any other state.
Likewise, the name of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ daughter, Suri, didn’t crack the list of most popular names, according to BabyCenter. However, that hasn’t stopped residents in the great nutmeg state of Connecticut in particular from naming their baby girls after the daughter of the couple that landed in the No. 2 slot in Us Weekly’s Couple of the Year issue (on newsstands now). (Brangelina was No. 1.)
Naming their daughter Apple has done little to help Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow and Grammy winner Chris Martin boost the frequency of children being named after fruit. Not only did Apple not make it onto BabyCenter’s list, but it has never appeared on the Social Security Administration’s list, either.
However, 3-year-old Apple Martin shouldn’t take it personally, as nature’s candy has always fared poorly in the first-name slot. The only exception is Orange. In 1884, 13 boys were named after the nectar of Florida’s official beverage. Popularity of the name took a nosedive when only six boys were named it in 1892. However, it rebounded significantly ” to approximately 12 namings ” around 1898. In a show of solidarity, Olives everywhere are hoping for Apple and Orange comebacks in 2008.
In 2007 Aiden, continued its reign as the most popular boy’s name for the third year running on BabyCenter’s list. No doubt “Sex and the City” enthusiasts, who have largely graduated from singledom to mommydom, have had a hand in the enduring popularity of the name of Carrie Bradshaw’s onetime fiance.
Jayden, the name of Britney Spears’ second biggest surprise in life (biggest surprise and son No. 1, Sean Preston, was born a year before Jayden), made its debut this year in the No. 4 slot. BabyCenter noted the name had more varied spellings ” 26 in all ” than any other name on the list. Twenty-five of the different Jayden spellings are being attributed to Spears, who completed only one year of high school.
More outrageous names are expected among 2008’s crop of newborns, who will be born just as a slew of celebrities give birth. Expectant mothers everywhere are hoping Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Nicole Richie, Halle Berry, Jessica Alba and Paris Hilton (who isn’t pregnant, but is sure to either get knocked up or arrested in the new year) don’t let them down.
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