7 Surprises from 2011’s Top 1000 Baby Names

Stay tuned for my commentary on the 2011 top baby names for Monday. In the meantime, these findings seemed interesting.

The fickle nature of 2011 name trends leads to surprises in the top 1000:

  • These names are still not in the top 1000: Cecily, Clementine, Philippa (or Pippa), Louisa, Linus and Rufus.
  • Being a murderous vigilante title character has not hurt Dexter one bit. Dexter has been rising at a rapid clip since 2006. It was the 15th fastest rising boy name in 2011, rising 70 spaces from #454 to #384.
  • I’m surprised Eloise jumped 80 places from #529 to #449. I thought Eloise would go up some, but not that much.

On the other hand, I thought Adelaide, Matilda, and Theo would climb more dramatically than they did. These names climbed at a respectable pace, but since I’ve heard them extensively on name blogs, and lower ranking names tend to see bigger increases/decreases, I expected much bigger jumps from them.

  • Adelaide climbed only 27 places from #434 to #407.
  • Matilda climbed only 30 places (from #799 to #769).
  • Theo climbed only 48 places (from #915 to #867).

Some findings were expected. Here are some of my theories that were vindicated:

  • Archer, Declan, Atticus and Nico were among the fastest rising boy names.
  • Milo didn’t rise as quickly as some other names, but still jumped a bit by 61 places from #422 to #361.
  • Mila, Olive, June, Parker, and Gemma were among the fastest rising girls.
  • Braden, Braeden, and Braiden all fell.
  • Cadence and Kadence, among the fastest risers almost a decade ago in 2004, were among the fastest fallers. These names were the flavor of 2004.

Some of the most interesting activity happened at the bottom of the top 1000. These findings do not show up on the Social Security administration’s popularity change ranking table because these names were outside the top 500 in 2010 and 2011:

  • Beatrice increased nearly 130 places from #836 to #707, and
  • Felicity increased nearly 100 places from #765 to #666.

Readers: How did your favorites fare in 2011? Were there any surprises?

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2011 Top U.S. Names Are Here!

The day us name fanatics wait for has finally arrived, after a slight delay. We were all on edge, expecting the results to come in the Friday before Mother’s Day as is tradition. Now we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

For those who haven’t seen them, here are the top 10:

Screen shot from the Social Security Administration

More 2011 name ranks can be found at the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Popular Baby Name Site.

Surprises for me:

  • Mason increased so much. I suspected Mason would hit the top 10 for the first time, but wouldn’t get higher than the 9th or 10th spot. Mason has surpassed Aiden.
  • Madison is still in the top 10 but Addison is not.
  • Mia didn’t increase more dramatically.

Laura Wattenberg at The Baby Name Wizard Blog comments on the unprecedented turnover in #1 girl names over the past five years, something I had also noticed:

2007: Emily

2008: Emma

2009 – 2010: Isabella

2011: Sophia

I’m working on a more in-depth report on names outside the top 10 (where I feel the real story is) for this Monday. Until then we have a spotlight name for Thursday, which I have to quickly edit to switch placeholder 2010 rankings for the more current 2011 rankings.

Readers: Do you see any surprises in the 2011 top 10?


Jennifer Garner & Ben Affleck Welcome Samuel Garner

Truth be told, most celebrities either bore me or annoy me. Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck are an exception. They seem like they could be my neighbors or PTA members. OK, maybe they are the beautiful neighbors or PTA members. Nevertheless, they seem so likable, so real, and most people want the best for them.

The names of their kids show this. Violet, Serafina, and Samuel may not seem like the perfect sibling set on the surface, but it works. Style-wise the set may go against some name enthusiasts’ sensibilities or at least mine.

They repeated an initial with two of the three kids. One name is old-fashioned trendy, another name is exotic and unusual (but could be trending upwards if searches on name sites are any indication), and the last name is completely conservative and mainstream. One has two middle names but the others do not.

Think about real-life siblings you know, and chances are most of them are not perfect fits. From my own personal experience, I know more than one family with kids that repeat initials while clash style-wise sort of like my hypothetical example of Thaddeus and Thatcher. Off the top of my head, I know of at least one family that repeat an initial with two of the three kids, just like the Afflecks.  I know another family that picked names so similar they might as well used the same name, sort of like brothers Robert and Rupert, as a hypothetical example.

And even with my family, while I love laying awake at night crafting perfect sibling sets, my own kids don’t have perfectly coordinating names. Like many other little girls, I used to dream about having kids with names that coordinated without matching too much, complete with perfectly coordinating middle names. And then real-life got in the way.

My tastes changed. Rob is picky. We had a hard enough time coming up with two names we both agreed on, much less two names we agreed on that were a perfect fit. The obvious brother for Fiona would probably be Liam or Declan. The obvious sister for Paul would probably be Elizabeth, Sarah, Mary or Laura.

While my own children’s names don’t fit perfectly, both names have a meaningful story behind them. And the same could be true for the Garner / Affleck clan.


Baby Name Google Rankings

We truly live in the 21st century. When picking a name for a new baby, most new parents consider the following which have been considered by parents for generations:

  • How does a potential name flow with the last name?
  • How does it feel to call out the name on the playground?
  • How will the name look on the future resume or marquee or name plaque?
  • How will the name fit with the names of current or future siblings?
  • And, “Could I live with this name?”

Now some ambitious parents are adding yet another qualifier to that list:

  • How high will the name reach in Google’s rankings?

Apparently some parents are vying to christen their baby with a name unique enough to rank at the top of Google search results. Introducing, baby name SEO! (That’s Search Engine Optimization.)

I don’t know about you, but personally I think low search rankings might be another case for the common name. As much as I like the idea of my kids having somewhat uncommon names, the thought of future employers, lenders, and romantic partners being able to find online information on my kids that may or may not be accurate makes me reevaluate my preference for unique names.

I should know. Going from a somewhat common last name at birth to a very unusual married last name (there are only about 320 of us in the entire U.S.), I know both the feeling of being easily and not so easily found.

The fact that some of my early feeble attempts at web design are buried under many search results of people sharing my maiden name is a relief. At the same time, I can still find inquiries I posted on forums right after I got married over 7 years ago under my very unusual married name. Some of these inquiries revealed my poor business acumen then, and I sometimes wish they would go away – or that I was smart enough to post under a pseudonym. Lesson learned.

But I have also accepted, as someone with an extensive online presence, that I compromised complete anonymity with my personal blogs, Facebook, and LinkedIn profile. I made that choice freely, reasoning that the benefits outweighed the risks. We all fall on our face sometimes and anyone who wants to judge my early crappy websites has their own issues.

My kids, however, may grow up to be like my husband, a little more guarded with their privacy. Maybe with our unusual last name especially, a top 10 name would have been better for my kid’s privacy than the top 300 names I picked. But I won’t beat myself up over it.

For one thing, no matter how high your child’s name ranks in Google, there is always the chance more parents will begin to like your child’s own unique name, negating the name’s uniqueness.

For another thing, technology constantly changes, and perhaps in the future people will scan photos of faces instead of searching names. Thirty years from now, “google” as a verb may sound so hopelessly 2000s/2010s.

Therefore, I find evaluating a name’s Google rank a waste of energy. I’m not even sure baby name SEO is as big of a trend as the media suggests. To test my theory, I used Google’s Keyword search tool and entered the keywords “baby name google rankings” and “baby name SEO”. With both sets of keywords, no results came up. With “google baby names” 720 results came up. These results are based on a 12 month average of user queries on Google.

Perhaps the few parents concerned with baby name SEO are so outside the mainstream that the press finds them fascinating. These people must be ready for everything and very savvy right? I’m not so sure. These may be the same people who go through life making sure every box is checked, and aren’t able to consider anything not contained within a box.

Readers: When picking a name for a baby, how important are a name’s google rankings?

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Name News: Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z Welcome Blue Ivy

Here at Upswing Baby Names, we try to follow a schedule. Tuesdays are name trend posts and Fridays are spotlight name posts (this schedule could change), but exceptions are made for newsworthy events. Such is the birth of Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z’s daughter Blue Ivy.

Blue Ivy creates a pretty picture for sure. As a name, some parents may find Blue Ivy a bit off-the-wall, but as far as celebrity names go it is rather tame. Blue (or Bleu or Blu) is actually rather common among celebrity circles. Way back when, John Travolta and Kelly Preston named their daughter Ella Bleu, several other celebrities followed suit, by using Blue or some variation as a middle name. These celebrities include:

  • Alicia Silverstone: Bear Blu
  • Brett Michaels: Jorja Bleu
  • Soleil Moon Frye: Jagger Joseph Blue

Ivy could have significance for the couple. One story is that Ivy was Beyonce’s Grandmother’s name. Another story is that Ivy was inspired by the roman numeral IV. The number four is significant because both Beyonce and Jay-Z have the number four in their birthdays.  Regardless of back-story, Ivy is currently a very fashionable name choice, containing both the currently stylish letter V, and the equally stylish botanical theme.

While I personally would have rather seen Ivy Blue (some early reports said Ivy Blue was the name), it’s not the worst celebrity name I have encountered.

Welcome Blue Ivy!