Today, the Social Security Administration released its annual list of the most popular baby names in America. Isabella tops the girls' list and Jacob is the boys' champ. The name that gained the most in popularity this year seems to portend a return to preppiness: Bentley, which is now the 101st most popular name in America. Yikes. (Must be because of the Outkast skit featuring Fonzworth Bentley.)
It's hard to explain, but baby name trends are endlessly fascinating. Harvard sociologist Stanley Lieberson argued that they distill the "pure mechanisms" involved in social and cultural fashion shifts. Whether it's jean bagginess or names ending in the "ey," change happens according to deep rules that have nothing to do with the actual "value" of a fashion (e.g. fat ties vs. skinny ties), even if we think something is cooler at some particular moment.
If you want to dive into the baby name trends, you need exactly one tool, the NameVoyager at BabyNameWizard.com. It presents the most popular baby names within an excellent visual interface, though it hasn't been updated quite yet with the newest data from the SSA.
Using the NameVoyager, you can see, for example, precisely when my name -- Alexis -- became a girl's name and compare it to when Joan Collins became wildly popular starring as the character 'Alexis' on the show Dynasty. Not that I'm bitter about that or anything. (Really, I'm not. Nobody forgets the name of the bearded dude named Alexis.)
If you're curious (and I know you are, no matter who you are), here are the top 10 names for boys and girls in 2010:
|Rank||Male name||Female name|