The perils of not tracking popularity charts

I can understand how people some generations back might have genuinely had no idea a name was so popular, or becoming popular. News travelled slower, people weren’t so interconnected, and we didn’t have instant access to all sorts of information (and misinformation). But since the Internet Age has begun, there’s really no excuse for not knowing a name is more popular than you’d wanted.

If you’re naming your child something like Elizabeth, Robert, Joseph, or Sarah, you know your child will have to share that name with numerous people throughout life. Those names are longtime established classics, and if you wanted to avoid your child being one of several classmates by that name, you would’ve chosen a less common name. I’d actually be more surprised to see any of these established, timeless classics suddenly plummeting in popularity.

I frequently hear people lamenting how they wouldn’t have chosen a name if they’d known it was so popular among that age set, that they’re annoyed they weren’t as original as they thought, or that they had no idea a name was becoming popular or trendy. If you’re concerned about popularity, there’s no reason not to at least glance over the Top 100 from the last 10 years or so. Not only does it tell you what’s popular now, but it also gives you an idea as to what’s trending, and what names might replace oversaturated names (e.g., Madeline instead of Madison, Amelia instead of Emily/Emma).

Obviously, not everyone is going to be a name nerd, and thus won’t put the same type of research into baby names. There’s nothing wrong with picking a name because you just liked the look or sound, and only starting to think about names after conceiving or starting the adoption process. But it just seems like good, common sense to be familiar with popular names and up and coming trends, so you’re not shocked to find Sophia shares her name with five other girls in kindergarten, or to learn ten other couples in your circle also have new babies named Kaden.

I devour the new Top 1000 Social Security list when it comes out every May, and there are certain names I watch with concern. I’m going to name my future firstborn son Samuel no matter what, but I just wish it weren’t Top 30. Yes, it’s an established classic, and has never been out of the Top 100, but I just wish it weren’t that popular. The name Isabella is no longer on my list of potential names because it got way too popular, and I’d never want to be accused of just following the crowd. Strangers wouldn’t know she were named after the late Isabella (Katz) Leitner, who wrote the most haunting book I’ve ever read.

Some people won’t care if a name is reaching the oversaturation point or speeding up the charts, but if you do care, check the charts! And make sure to look at about 10 years’ worth, both Top 100 and Top 1000, to get a handle on what’s trending, what’s holding steady, and what’s on its way down.


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