Once upon a time, kids were named Tom, Dick, and Harry. Nowadays baby-naming seems to be about finding the most unusual — and often unbearably precious — name (like, say, Shiloh or Suri). Yet, while striving for uniqueness, most parents inevitably end up landing on the very same names at the same time (remember the 1970s wave of Jennifers, Courtneys, and Jessicas?).
The Website Baby Name Wizard, run by Laura Wattenberg, is a handsome, user-friendly, interactive graph that tracks name popularity using Social Security data from the 1880s onward. It’s a neat tool for new parents, sure, but it also can provide a fascinating sociological context, and lets you discover whether your own name is passé or ascendant.
For instance, any guesses as to why the name Adolph fell out of favor after the 1940s? Is the meteoric rise in popularity for the name Madison due to Daryl Hannah’s allure in 1984’s Splash? Or just another example of the trend of turning retro-WASP surnames into first names (Jackson, Tyler, Hunter, Mackenzie)? As today’s parents make old-fashioned names (Sophia, Isabel, Ava) hip again, we’ve got our fingers crossed for a Prudence comeback.
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