Saturday February 12, 2005


For your edification and amusement: NameVoyager, a Java-based visualization of the popularity of various given names in the United States for more than a century.  I had fun looking up the names of friends and family members and noticing that, almost without exception, each received his or her name during the peak of that name's popularity.  Even in naming, we're slaves to fashion.  For a challenge, try to find a name that was popular at the beginning of the sample (around 1900), went out of style, then came back into vogue recently.  The best examples I've found so far are "Ivy" and "Edgar".  (hat tip: Peeve Farm)

[Update: Add "Emma" and "Maggie" to the list of back-in-fashion names.  Also, try entering single letters (i.e. "a", "b", etc.) to see the distribution for all names beginning with that letter—there's no consistent pattern in the consonants, but all the vowels show a U-shaped curve.  For some reason, vowel-initial names were out of fashion for a while in the middle of the last century, but now they've come back.  What's up with that?]

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That is really cool. When I was born my name was just approaching it's peak. I also checked my daughters name and am happy to see her name is not particulary popular when she was born.

Posted by: Blinger at Feb 12, 2005 4:38:36 PM

That is so cool!

It'd be interesting to see the 1800s ... my grandmother was named Coral, and from what I can tell the name appeared out of nowhere in 1880 ... there were no babies called that until that year ... is it from a celebrity or something?

I read that the name Wendy was invented for Peter Pan.

Posted by: Idle Fellow at Feb 15, 2005 6:22:23 PM

For back-in-fashion: take a look at "Grace": #18 in the 1900s, #13 in 2003, and down in the 200s and 300s during mid-century. I suppose you might question whether it was ever actually rare, but still, that's quite a profile.

Posted by: Craig at Feb 17, 2005 5:17:47 PM

1900's comeback: Porter
Another one, with a mini-peak in the trough: Caroline
Curious spike (or "heep" we might say): Uriah
Changing fashion: Pink (note the sex) c.v. Pinkie
Quincy: up and down

More challenges: which is the steadiest popular name?

Which letter has gone down the most consistently? W?

Observation: Note the recent upsurge in Y; basically all due to Hispanic (and some Middle Eastern) names.

Posted by: Margaret at Feb 24, 2005 4:21:37 PM

You're right, W has gone most consistently down, although F is pretty close (if it weren't for Faith). It looks like X is the only monotonically increasing letter, but the numbers there are pretty small.

Lilian is another name, like Porter, that drops away to nothing and then comes back.

In addition to Victor, Vincent is also pretty steadily popular across the century—I guess winning is always in fashion.

Posted by: The Tensor at Feb 24, 2005 6:32:53 PM