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How to Predict If Your Baby Name Idea Is Too Trendy

A statistical analysis tries to predict how names’ popularity will change over coming decades

(Martin Sundberg/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Naming a baby is tricky. Err too far on the side of tradition, and your little girl may be the 8th Sarah in her homeroom class. Stray too far the other way, and your kid will spend his whole life saying, “Yes, that really is my name.”

According to Time, popular baby names tend to follow cyclical patterns, peaking as people learn to love a long-lost name (“Ohh, Beatrice, that's a pretty name”), before fading away when it becomes too popular.

Virginia Tech statistician Christopher Franck developed a tool that uses historical baby name prevalence to try to predict how the name's popularity will rise and fall over the next two decades. Here we've used Frank's tool, hosted at Time, to chart how some names have shifted in popularity in recent years.

Apparently naming children after ancient Greek gods isn't a super popular practice. Photo: Christopher Franck / Time

It's important to keep in mind, says Time, that not every name follows the same patterns of shifting popularity: “Some old standards lie dormant for half a century before gradually returning–hello, Evelyn. Others skyrocket and decline in a few years (that’s you, Miley).” And, people's name tastes are affected by everything from popular book and movie characters to technology. So, really, take all this with a grain of salt, and maybe don't hedge your kid's future on a late-20s revival of “Sophocles.”

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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