Need a name for that new baby? History and culture may offer some suggestions

Posted August 8, 2016

In "Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare pondered "what's in a name?" That's something new parents have been asking themselves from one generation to the next as they consider their baby-naming duties.

The Social Security Administration not long ago released its dataset showing what parents have named babies for the last 136 years, making it possible for anyone to plug in a name and see whether — and when — it was hot.

Even more recently, a young man from Madison, Wisconsin, used Tableau to look at the name game from a different perspective, again using the SSA data. Eddie Hartman looked at name diversity, the most popular names, the history of a name in terms of when it peaked and what its trend line looks like, as well as how music might have influenced name choice and the effects of other pop culture factors.

For instance, rapper Kendrick Lamar released the album "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City," near the end of 2012, Hartman notes. In 2013, the name Kendrick experienced a modest surge in popularity.

And the name Paris got an even bigger bump right after Paris Hilton's reality TV show "The Simple Life" aired in 2004, according to his analysis.

When the Deseret News strolled back through the name dataset in May, the article noted that "Noah's been No. 1 for three years and was hot a decade before that. Emma, the 2015 top female name, has sizzled for about a decade, too. And it was a popular name nearly 100 years ago, as well, though it fell out of favor for a stretch in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s."

Anyone interested in the original dataset will be able to see what year — if ever — his or her name was popular. Just type in a name. You can also track naming trends and find inspiration in the rise and fall of various monikers.

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