When it comes to choosing names for children, parents can politely endure suggestions from meddlesome relatives or consult baby name books with more than 100,000 names — either way, it can be a daunting task. For the most part, parents choose traditional names over unusual or unconventional names (ie, the names that celebrities choose for their children; read below). The Social Security Administration (SSA) has tracked the names of babies since the 1880s. A review of the top five names over the past century reveals that traditional names have cycled through the decades, with several names emerging as constants. In 1912 the top names for boys were: John, William, James, Robert, Joseph; for girls: Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth. In 2011, the top names for boys were: Jacob, Mason, William, Jayden, and Noah; for girls: Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Ava. Since the SSA operates in government time (ie, glacial pace), their list for top baby names in 2012 will not be published until May.
In the meantime, based on the almost half million mothers who have registered on the site, BabyCenter.com published its list of the top names for 2012: for boys: Aiden, Jackson, Ethan, Liam, Mason; for girls: Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella, Ava. Aiden has been the number 1 name for boys for eight years in a row. BabyCenter features a Baby Name Finder and tracks the hottest name and celebrity name trends for the year. Another website that tracks baby names is Parenting.com. According to that site, Jacob and Isabella were the most searched names for 2012.
Jonah Berger, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied data from the SSA, notes a consistent pattern of name selection in an interview with USA Today. “The fact that we want to be different leads some people to avoid the most popular name, but it leads us to like similar-sounding names and pick others with the same sound that are less popular.” Unfortunately that commonsense approach is lost on celebrities that often live in their own warped reality. Justin Hayes has written a wonderfully amusing books of what NOT to name your child titled: “The Terrible Meanings of Names.” There is nothing wrong with being creative, but some of these name border on the ridiculous (name of child/father’s or mother’s name and occupation):
Moxie Crimefighter Jillette (Penn Jillette, comedian)
Kal-El Coppola Cage (Nicolas Cage, actor)
Fifi-Trixiebelle, Little Pixie, Peaches Honeyblossom (Bob Geldof, Live Aid producer)
Elijah Bob Patricius Guggi Q Hewson (Bono, U2 lead singer)
Speck Wildhorse Mellencamp (John Mellencamp, singer)
Bear Blue Jarecki (Alicia Silverstone, actress)
Sparrow James Midnight Madden (Nicole Ritchie, fashion designer, reality star)
Unfortunately, all of these great resources for names is lost on parents who live in Iceland and must present their baby names to the Icelandic Naming Committee (ICN) for approval. The ICN manages the list of government-approved names for children and listens to petitions. In January, NPR reported the story of a teenager who is suing the government for not recognizing her name. The NPR story explains that Iceland is not alone in restricting the naming of babies: “Some countries, such as France, have somewhat relaxed once-strict policies that required only government-approved names (many of which either appear in the Bible or are culturally entrenched). Many nations still require baby names to indicate gender (Germany) or to be easily read by a computer scanner (China), as CNN reported in 2010. And it remains common for many governments to give at least a cursory review, to ensure that the parents aren’t potentially sabotaging their child by choosing a profane or demeaning name, or one that might otherwise be an unfair burden to the child.” Celebrities giving birth to their children in Iceland be forewarned.
For further reading: The Terrible Meanings of Names by Justin Hayes, Adams Media (2013)