Trendy names?

My wife and I are expecting our first child in February, so we’ve begun scoping out names. Naturally, you want a euphonious name. It also helps the child’s name works with your last name – which in our case rules out:

  • Sara, Vivien, Brett, Bruce, David, Peggy, Sophie, Spike, Tommy and Jennifer Jason.

Another issue is how popular your chosen name will be. In 1972, “Andrew” was one of the most common names in Australia. My 6th grade class, with three Andrews, was the worst. But a quick skim through my address book reveals 18 other Andrews.

So I’m more conscious than most people about choosing a name, while at the same time trying not to choose the most popular baby name in 2007. One handy site is the Victorian government’s list of popular names, which can tell you the most popular boys’ and girls’ names in 2005.

  • Jack, Joshua, Thomas, William, James, Lachlan, Ethan, Daniel, Benjamin, Ryan
  • Olivia, Chloe, Ella, Emily, Charlotte, Jessica, Isabella, Mia, Sophie, Sienna

Trouble is, some names are going up and down in popularity. So the most popular names in 2005 won’t necessarily be those in 2007. Plotting trends in name popularity over the last five years, here are the names that are shooting up fastest (along with their rank from 2001 to 2005).

  • Amelia (40th to 20th)
  • Ava (98th to 21st)
  • Charlie (65th to 29th)
  • Charlotte (15th to 5th)
  • Ella (12th to 3rd)
  • Lily (28th to 11th)
  • Mia (24th to 8th)
  • Noah (30th to 13th)
  • Oliver (47th to 18th)
  • Ryan (22nd to 10th)
  • Sienna (87th to 10th)
  • Xavier (94th to 34th)

So if you’re worried about your child having the most popular name in 2007, you may want to avoid these.

On the other hand, if you want to be pretty sure that your chosen name won’t be in the a top ten, here’s a list of names that have been declining in popularity:

  • Hannah, Jeremy, Kyle, Matthew, Michael, Mitchell, Nathan, Sarah, Stephanie.
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47 Responses to Trendy names?

  1. Grumpy old economist says:

    The parents of murder victim Leigh Leigh http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1128673.htm obviously didn’t put in as much thought as you.

  2. Verdurous says:

    Andrew,

    Naming is an incredibly difficult task. It seems to me that naming of children has been influenced by a sense of “marketing”. In the same way we name blocks of apartments “salt”, “abode” etc. We thought we were fairly original naming our lad Oliver in 2002 (which as your chart shows was 47th in the previous year). Popularity caught up with us. Its easy to get caught out if you’re not reading the charts. Don’t worry mate, the name will grow on him/her whatever it may be. My particular theory is that we reject the names of our parents’ generation. In my case the baby boomers. Be a rebel Andrew and choose a baby boomer name. Graham? Kevin? Bruce? Alan?. Or perhaps Linda? Kay? Sharon? Beverley? or Carol? Now that would be REALLY against the trends. (For some reason as I sit typing I find myself smirking at the idea of a little tiny baby boy called Graham).

  3. Yobbo says:

    Kuan Yew should be avoided too.

    It seems to me that a lot of names that weren’t especially popular during the 20th century are becoming popular again. Almost all the names you listed that are increasing in popularity fit that description (except Ryan).

    With a surname like Leigh any name you pick is probably going to end up belonging to someone else famous in the next 20 years or so, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

    The easy way out is to simply name him or her after a relative, as long as all your relatives don’t have retarded names. That’s how I got stuck with middle name of Aubrey and my brother got the middle name of Archibald.

    A friend of mine who is an Indian muslim recently had a kid and named him Noah, which I thought was strange. Noah Ahmed. I still can’t work that one out. Better than Inzaman or Waqar though I guess.

  4. Joshua Gans says:

    Time for a prediction market I think; but one that allows people to add names and bet on them.

  5. I think ‘Andrew’ went through a long boom. I was born in 1965, and there were a lot of Andrews among my contemporaries. I had thought from people I know that there was another wave who are currently in the early 20s, and indeed that link shows it was the third most popular name in 1982. But it wasn’t on the top 20 list I saw in the Herald Sun a week or two ago.

    My general view of kids names: creativity to be strongly discouraged, along with unorthodox spellings of common names. Each person should have to spend as little time as possible in their life explaining how to say their name, how to spell it, or what on earth their parents were thinking of.

  6. Sinclair Davidson says:

    I have a Jonathan, Saxon, Sascha, and Scarlett. I have wanted to call each one Harley.

    You could go ‘American’ and have ‘Andrew Leigh jr’ or ‘Andrea Leigh’.

  7. Patrick says:

    I have a Quentin and an Arnaud. I can’t wait for a daughter to call Ayn ;) – unfortunately that would be over my wife’s dead body.

    You could go Scottish (indeed) and call him [Yourmiddlename] Andrew Leigh.

  8. Luke says:

    The joys of naming children. When I was growing up, Luke was quite uncommon but had a renaissance in the 80’s – I’ll thank George Lucas for that.
    Perhaps you might like to follow some of the recent bizarre names coming out of the US. Apparently in the year 2000, 24 parents named their children Unique but only one named their child Xerox. There were also a few with the name Camry, Timberland, Bentley, Jaguar or Canon. Name your child after your favorite brand – I’m sure that there is an argument that an economist could come forward with about that somewhere! Perhaps selling the naming rights for your children could be a money spinner, especially for those with popular blogs like yourself Andrew! Might help pay for the child’s school fees!

  9. Russell says:

    At last a topic worth thinking about.

    The Leigh is a disadvantage – take a nice name like Daniel and you’d end up with Danny-Lee, so we have to avoid any trailer-trash sounding name combinations.

    If it’s a girl I think something lusciously alliterative like LOLA. This is because her father is an uber-intellectual and her mother is probably highly cerebral so she would be in danger of becoming a little un-balanced.

    But with a name like Lola as a constant reminder of the more earthy side of life, she could turn out to be fun as well as smart. So, you would dispense with the usual twee lullabies and go for the classics ….. What Lola wants, Lola gets …… L-O-L-A Lola, la la la la lola etc…. Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl (any Barry Manilow fans on this blog?) and of course Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel:

    My name is little Lola
    The wisest gal on earth
    And oh my pianola is played for all it’s worth
    The boys all love my music
    I can’t keep them away
    So my little pianola
    Keeps working night and day
    etc
    Now I’ll tell you a secret
    Don’t hammer on the keys
    For a little pianissimo
    Is always bound to please
    etc

    OK, that’s a pretty convincing case for Lola, for a girl (easy to spell too Sinclair)

    For a boy you don’t want alliteration – you just couldn’t be taken seriously (Ronald Reagan, Bob Brown etc) – I’m thinking – – Buster. Isn’t too affected by the Leigh thing, nice American reference (Buster Keaton), sort of tough, sort of friendly, not likely to become too popular.

    They’re such good choices you should have twins: Lola and Buster Leigh.

  10. Yobbo says:

    Except Lola was the name of a tranny. You might as well call her RuPaul.

  11. Patrick says:

    That’s alright Russel, I suspect that most people would be happy for their children to be taken so lightly as was Ronald Reagan…

  12. How about “Important Leigh” or “Most Important Leigh”? ;)

  13. Russell says:

    “Except Lola was the name of a tranny” Yobbo , don’t you think this categorisation stuff is just so twentieth century? LOLA clearly transcends trannies or trailer trash (and apparently accentuates ones alliterative abilities). Marlene Dietrich in suspenders and top hat daring all-comers (puns, too) with “They call me naughty Lola” is just class.

    Well you could go the other way: Doris is a name that can’t be cheapened. Always been a favourite of mine – the name of my late piano teacher, and the great Doris Day:
    Que sera, sera,
    Whatever will be, will be
    The future’s not ours to see
    Que sera, sera

    (I’m still hoping the Barry MAnilow reference will convince Andrew – judging from his appearance (the gold highlights) I suspect he could be, well, you know ….. a Barry Manilow fan.)

  14. Joshua Gans says:

    No one here has taken advantage of the adverb status of all this and the surname Leigh. How about Patient, Love, Crucial, Occasion …

  15. Russell says:

    Because they’re not names! This is a serious business.

    There are names that have such an air of authority they can stare down the unfortunate implications of the surname Leigh: Hilda “she who must be obeyed” wife of Rumpole, for example. Alexander might do it for a boy.

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  17. Sinclair Davidson says:

    The expression ‘she who must be obeyed’ is from Rider Haggard’s novel ‘She’.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She_%28novel%29

  18. Russell says:

    Sinclair,

    I think someone who has chosen the name Saxon for a child has disqualified themselves from this discussion …. good advice to people with questionable taste is to confine themselves to the names of saints, like Lola (short for Dolores I believe), Doris and Hilda.

  19. I’m told a recent survey by leading tax eating academic economists with nothing better to do found that Xavier was voted Most Attractive Name by a panel that included foreigners.

    Can I suggest:

    Male: B(r)ent Leigh (Near Cheltenham?)
    Female: Cher Leigh (Don’t call me Shirley!)
    Gender Neutral: Lee Leigh

  20. Russell says:

    (Francis) Xavier is good – patron saint of Australia.

  21. Sinclair Davidson says:

    My wives have chosen the names – I have always chosen ‘Harley’ as the name for each child. For Andrew that could be Har Leigh, but just doesn’t have the ring to it.

  22. Russell Hamilton says:

    Darryl Leigh would go down quite well

  23. PeterF says:

    Andrew,
    Our children are 32 (Gareth), 26 (Lachlan) and 25 (Simon). We wrestled with this subject through each of the pregnancies, and used an invaluable book by a Leslie Alan Dunkling which tracked the popularity of names in Britain, Canada, the USA and Australia over a century.
    The trick is I think to anticipate popularity. We did with Lachlan – quite unusual at the time, but well-represented in the top 10 in the last few years (because of Lachlan Murdoch, perhaps). We feel our three have proved reasonably durable. Simon in the 1980s did have a touch of the 1970s Andrew.
    I think that the popularity cycle is much longer than has been suggested in earlier posts. So, I think I’d be looking to names that were popular in the ’60s and ’70s, but have declined since. Obviously this is in addition to euphony, parents’ preferences, a careful check of initials and similar considerations.
    Parents’ preferences often relate to pleasant/unpleasant encounters with people with certain otherwise innocuous names. My wife vetoed one name because she associated it with a child she hadn’t liked in primary school.
    I expect that you have plenty of guidance from the net, but I was amused by this site, and if you dig deep enough, you may find something that you’ll both be happy with:

    http://www.notwithoutmyhandbag.com/babynames/index.html

    Best wishes for the great adventure of parenthood.

  24. david tiley says:

    David has almost disappeared.

    Just saying.

  25. Yobbo says:

    Russel: Can you honestly say that you don’t think of The Kinks when you hear the name Lola?

  26. Russell Hamilton says:

    Yobbo – why would anybody think of the Kinks when they’ve seen The Blue Angel:

    http://www.imagesjournal.com/2002/reviews/blueangel/

  27. Ian Holsman says:

    Audrey
    Ainsley

    would go with Leigh (you already chose my 1st daughter Amelia).

    If you want something pleasing/unique.. go back to 18th century authors or something.

    but whatever you do..spell it the normal way!

    another thing you could do is go to a children’s park and listen to their names.. chances are those are pretty common, and the last thing you want is for your child to be in class with another child with the same name.

  28. The Colonel says:

    As a musician, I’m a big fan of judging names by how they sound with the surname.

    If you choose a first name that ends with the same vowel sound as the surname, You also need to think about the sounds at the end of both names. For instance, Ali Leigh is an overdose of “eees”.

    As Leigh is such a short surname, you might like to think of a three syllable first name. Veronica Leigh sounds good, as does Harrison Leigh. Trips off the tongue better.

    As to fashions in names, we did a survey of the names at our kids’ primary school. By far the most popular name for girls was Jessica. For boys it was Josh.

    When I was at primary school in the ’60s, I was surrounded by boys named ‘Mark’ and ‘David’ and girls called ‘Linda’ and ‘Karen’.

    Ultimately, I think the best advice is to ignore fashion and pick a name that both sounds right to you AND has a family connection.

  29. Russell says:

    “You also need to think about the sounds at the end of both names. For instance, Ali Leigh is an overdose of “eees”.”

    But Colonel what about shortened forms – your Veronica becomes Nikki Leigh or Ronny Leigh, and Harrison becomes Harry Lee – too many ‘eees’ …. Lola’s still looking good.

    Popularity is a bit unpredictable – take my suggestion of Alexander. What if Al Gore decided to run, and won – there’d be zillions of little Als to follow. (I have a brother born in 1960 who is John Fitzgerald Hamilton – my parents claim to not remembering being influenced by JFK)

  30. Angie says:

    I thought naming my daughter Ruby in 1997 was pretty unique…now it’s #18 according to the Herald-Sun popular names survey. Not what I’d planned but I still like the name.

    Ruby Leigh. Nice.

  31. David Walker says:

    Andrew, congratulations!

    I recall reading (but cannot now find) a description of research explaining how baby names move in long cycles of between 70 and 120 years. Apparently there is a psycho-social explanation for the phenomenon that sees everyone in the suburb suddenly name their new daughter Emily, that has purged Davids, Marks, Karens and Lindas from today’s primary schools, and that has created the modern Oscar swarm. I am half-expecting expecting Mavis – my grandmother’s name – to make a return any decade now.

    The Colonel writes wisely in recommending a three-syllable first name to go with a single-syllable surname, and also in suggesting a preference for family names. Many kids seem to value – more than I expected – the sense of linkage to a relative, living or dead. But in all things, moderation: I resisted the temptation to call either of my girls Mavis.

    To find out more about Mavis, Oscar, Madison and Karen (in the US, at least), see this interactive Java name popularity grapher:

    http://babynamewizard.com/namevoyager/lnv0105.html

  32. Angie says:

    I think “nana” names are making a comeback. Think Alice, Lucy, Violet, Audrey, Pearl, Rose, even Edith (Edie for short). If you like that style, they are short and suit many surnames. And are easy to spell…

    Best names at my daughter’s school (that I’d never consider myself) were Electra, Ulysses, Eurydice, Kiki and Iggy.

  33. Russell says:

    David Walker writes: “The Colonel writes wisely in recommending a three-syllable first name to go with a single-syllable surname” …. howabout … Lo-Li-Ta Leigh !

    The aforementioned Electra reminds one of Megawati Sukarno (Mega=Cloud) and her brother Guntur (Thunder) and sister Sukma (Soul) – kind of ahead of their time in a new age-ish way. A lot of my students in China were born during the cultural revolution and had slogans as names (the east is red etc). We haven’t really explored this child pioneering a trend to use Australian Values as names: Solidarity Leigh and Equality Leigh have the “eeees” issue. Avago Leigh ?

  34. Russell says:

    AL – do you prefer Traditional Australian Values: Wowser Leigh, Bludger Leigh, Whinger Leigh etc., or Today’s Australian Values: Powerball Lee, Plasma Lee, Me Me Leigh ??

  35. russell – how about Blogger Leigh – [Yeah we named her / him after the father] – works for me – blues echos of Stagger Lee (Stack O’ Lee)

  36. Russell says:

    “russell – how about Blogger Leigh”

    Apt, but perhaps a bit sort of heavy sounding – what if the child is struck with obesity? or aspires to a career in the ballet ? Pixel Leigh has a more dainty ring to it. Blogger Leigh sounds like a possible associate of Chopper Reid.

    If the Leighs can’t see the beauty of Lola / Xavier I just hope they confine their choices to the names of either saints, or the Kings and Queens of England (also respectable).

  37. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Has anyone suggested “Bruce”?

  38. Russell says:

    No, because AL ruled it out at the beginning of his post.

    He didn’t rule out Gypsy Rose though …. maybe he doesn’t know about Gypsy Rose Lee ! the ignorance of youth could lead to an unfortunate mistake. Better check here before any final decisions are made.

  39. Emma H says:

    Why not follow Levitt’s and Dubner’s advice and go with whatever the highly educated, high-income parents are choosing today(http://www.slate.com/id/2116505/). They’ve even provided a list of those “high-end” noms du jour in the US http://www.slate.com/id/2116505/sidebar/2116512/, though I notice your surname wouldn’t work with the majority of these names – Harper Leigh, anyone? I’m sure a survey of well-healed Canberrans would provide similarly appropriate results (I suspect the suggestions above may provide a sample). Be reassured that Levitt’s research shows the choice of name doesn’t make any significant difference to the child’s life outcomes.

  40. Russell Hamilton says:

    I see in the latest Medical Journal of Australia that a study of prescribing finds that :

    “Brand names were preferred when they were shorter and easier to remember and spell, when there was only one brand on the market, and when the brand name ended in an x.”

    Marx Leigh ?

    http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/185_11_041206/bro11019_fm.html

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  43. Russell Hamilton says:

    Latest National Geographic has nice map of most popular baby names – interesting how William is all over the east coast but not to be found on the West. And how the wasp-ish Emily is no 1 in Arizona and Texas but the most popular boys names there are Angel and Jose ?? Washington DC has Sophia for girls while the rest of the nation has gone for Emily/Emma or Madison. Sophia Leigh is a bit hard to say, but Sophie Leigh, while sounding a bit louche has pleasing reminders of the great Sophie Tucker.

    The article does say “taste leans toward names with vowels airing out the consonants rather than the harder sounding appellations like Gertrude” … so LOLA would be quite acceptable.

  44. Russell says:

    Sinclair alerts us to the fact that the dreary topic of unions has 44 posts, so just to show how easy it is to lower the tone of an academic’s blog I might keep this thread going (let’s see, I’ve already worked in Barry Manilow, Doris Day and Sophie Tucker….)

    That blog at http://the-riotact.com/?p=3958
    has a post on ACT baby names – how about Ryton Leigh, Jorje Leigh ??

    See LOLA is sounding better and better – you could have even more pleasant associations by having Lollobrigida Leigh – Lola for short.

  45. Russell says:

    Latest list of names popular in WA (ie. names to avoid) is here:

    http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,21054109-2761,00.html

    “Willetton couple Dean and Larisa Motton’s baby daughter was one of 88 Siennas born in the state last year, at a rate of one every four days.

    Ms Motton said she guessed the name Sienna was becoming more common.

    “I probably first heard it with Sienna Miller and I just loved it,” she said. “I thought it was on the border of becoming really popular, but I was hoping to get in before other people.”

    Hoping to get in before other people ??? Luckily, LOLA isn’t on the list – we don’t want to see a good name trashed.

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