We’re well into November, and while I don’t typically experience “November Rain” — usually just November snow — now’s a good time to talk about Axl, the name of the guy who sang “November Rain.”
Axl debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1988:
1992: 29 baby boys named Axl
1991: 23 baby boys named Axl
1990: 25 baby boys named Axl
1989: 21 baby boys named Axl
1988: 9 baby boys named Axl [debut]
The next year, the names Axle and Aksel both debuted, while the already-in-use name Axel (which can be traced back to the biblical name Absalom) more than doubled in usage.
The influence? Axl Rose, lead singer of the rock band Guns N’ Roses.
The band’s debut album Appetite for Destruction was released in July of 1987. It became a commercial success the next year, after the band started touring and releasing singles such as “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (peaked at #1 in Sept. 1988), “Welcome to the Jungle” (#7 in Dec. ’88), and “Paradise City” (#5 in Mar. ’89).
Axl Rose grew up in Lafayette, Indiana, with the name William “Bill” Bailey. As a teen, he discovered that his surname at birth had been Rose, so he started using it. Not long after that, he adopted the first name Axl:
One of the short-lived local bands he’d sung with was called AXL, which then became his moniker. When the band broke up, he kept using the name, and styled himself “W. Axl Rose.”
And in early 1986, right before signing with Geffen Records, he legally changed his name to “W. Axl Rose.”
Unexpectedly, the name is more popular today than ever before:
2017: 335 baby boys named Axl [rank: 716th]
2016: 305 baby boys named Axl [rank: 778th]
2015: 313 baby boys named Axl [rank: 760th]
2014: 266 baby boys named Axl [rank: 842nd]
2013: 111 baby boys named Axl
2012: 102 baby boys named Axl
This is probably thanks to another singer, Fergie, who welcomed a baby boy in August of 2013 and named him Axl after Axl Rose. (Some ’80s trivia for you: Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson was on Kids Incorporated with Marta “Martika” Marrero.)
What are your thoughts on the baby name Axl? Would you use it?
Davis, Stephen. Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N’ Roses. New York: Gotham Books, 2008.
Spitz, Marc. “Just a Little Patience.” Spin Jul. 1999: 80-93.
P.S. How did the band name “Guns N’ Roses” come to be? It was created from the surnames of two of the founding members, Axl Rose and Tracii Guns (born Tracy Richard Irving Ulrich), essentially. More precisely, it came from the merger of the bands they were in at the time: Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns.
That image is a piece of a larger infographic showing the most popular baby names in each Norwegian county. In two counties, Oppland and Aust-Agder, the top girl name last year was the intriguing Tiril. Tiril seems to have no specific meaning; it may have been derived from the (nonsense?) word tirilil from the 19th century poem “Lokkende Toner” by Johan Sebastian Welhaven.
(A similar name we talked about recently was Tirrell.)
I forgot to post Norway’s 2015 rankings, but in 2014 the top names were Nora/Norah and Lucas/Lukas.
Which boy names increased the most in popularity from 2015 to 2016? And which ones decreased the most?
The U.S. SSA likes to answer this question by analyzing ranking differences within the top 1,000. I prefer to answer it by looking at raw number differences, and to take the full list into account. So let’s check out the results using both methods…
Boy Names: Biggest Increases, 2015 to 2016
1. Kylo, +2,368 spots — up from 3,269th to 901st
2. Creed, +370 spots — up from 1,352nd to 982nd
3. Benicio, +356 spots — up from 1,331st to 975th
4. Adonis, +307 spots — up from 701st to 394th
5. Fox, +288 spots — up from 1034th to 746th
6. Kye, +281 spots — up from 984th to 703rd
7. Hakeem, +256 spots — up from 1,161st to 905th
8. Shepherd, +242 spots — up from 1,105th to 863rd
9. Wilder, +238 spots — up from 961st to 723rd
10. Zayn, +222 spots — up from 643rd to 421st
Kylo was influenced by the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).
Creed and Adonis were influenced by the movie Creed (2015).
Hakeem was influenced by the TV show Empire (2015-). So was Bryshere, which debuted last year.
Wilder could have been influenced by either Gene Wilder or by boxer Deontay Wilder, or both. (Or neither.)
Zayn was influenced by British singer/songwriter Zain “Zayn” Malik.
1. Mateo, +1,516 baby boys — up from 5,010 to 6,526
2. Oliver, +1,340 baby boys — up from 11,635 to 12,975
3. Bryson, +1,239 baby boys — up from 3,094 to 4,333
4. Lincoln, +1,094 baby boys — up from 5,982 to 7,076
5. Benjamin, +899 baby boys — up from 13,670 to 14,569
6. Grayson, +735 baby boys — up from 7,887 to 8,622
7. Theodore, +723 baby boys — up from 4,136 to 4,859
8. Greyson, +704 baby boys — up from 3,591 to 4,295
9. Leo, +678 baby boys — up from 4,582 to 5,260
10. Maverick, +675 baby boys — up from 2,265 to 2,940
Other names that saw raw number increases in the 200+ range included Owen, Sebastian, Ezekiel, Lucas, Ezra, Leonardo, Santiago, Conor, Gael, Everett, Rhett, Jameson, Killian, Tobias, Arlo, Easton, Finn, Rowan, Elias, Asher, Calvin, Thiago, Bodhi, Legend, Lukas, River, Elliot, Harrison, Roman, Adriel, Paxton, Julian, Ace, Josiah, Waylon, Messiah, Nash, Ellis, Matias, George, Barrett, Connor, Wade, Kyrie, Milo, Amir, Bennett, Elliott, Silas, Matteo, and Axel.
Rowan is rising quickly for both boys and girls right now.
Kyrie, which was once given primarily to girls, is now being given primarily for boys thanks to basketball player Kyrie Irving.
Boy Names: Biggest Decreases, 2015 to 2016
1. Jonael, -475 spots — down from 921st to 1,396th
2. Aaden, -239 spots — down from 784th to 1,023rd
3. Triston, -230 spots — down from 957th to 1,187th
4. Freddy, -222 spots — down from 993rd to 1,215th
5. Yaakov, -213 spots — down from 992nd to 1,205th
6. Braeden, -203 spots — down from 792nd to 995th
7. Chace, -202 spots — down from 935th to 1,137th
8. Brantlee, -176 spots — down from 777th to 953rd
9. Gannon, -173 spots — down from 533rd to 706th
10. Robin, -171 spots — down from 969th to 1,140th
The name Jonael got a lot of exposure in 2015 thanks to 11-year-old Puerto Rican singer Jonael Santiago, who won the 3rd season of La Voz Kids, which aired from March to June. It didn’t get as much exposure in 2016, which accounts for the drop in usage.
1. Logan, -1,697 baby boys (12,897 to 11,200)
2. Jacob, -1,498 baby boys (15,914 to 14,416)
3. Jayden, -1,455 baby boys (11,518 to 10,063)
4. Mason, -1,399 baby boys (16,591 to 15,192)
5. Ethan, -1,291 baby boys — down from 15,049 to 13,758
6. Aiden, -1,271 baby boys (13,429 to 12,158)
7. Alexander, -1,186 baby boys (14,507 to 13,321)
8. Jackson, -1,032 baby boys (12,242 to 11,210)
9. Brandon, -1,024 baby boys (5,100 to 4,076)
10. Blake, -951 baby boys (4,220 to 3,269)
Unlike Rowan, Blake is falling on the boys’ list, but rising on the girls’ list. In fact, the graph (right) makes a gender switch look inevitable. This is not something I would have anticipated a decade ago, before the emergence of Blake Lively.
Other names that saw raw number drops in the 200+ range included Landon, Caleb, Gavin, Anthony, Christopher, Andrew, David, Parker, Colton, Jase, Hunter, Brody, Brantley, Gabriel, Jonathan, Jordan, Tyler, Kevin, Nathan, Joshua, Carter, Daniel, Joseph, Dylan, Christian, Noah, Angel, Brayden, Iker, Chase, Nicholas, Austin, Dominic, Camden, John, Ayden, Michael, Colin, Bryan, Riley, Kyle, Hayden, Bradley, Nathaniel, Jake, Samuel, Luke, Cayden, Evan, Zachary, Steven, Kaden, Cooper, Marcus, Ryan, Tristan, Bryce, Ryder, Micah, Brady, Bentley, Kaleb, Levi, Alex, Conner, Jeremy, Isaac, Ian, Gage, Brian, Kayden, Jaden, Carlos, Sean, Jeremiah, Abel, Devin, Adrian, Giovanni, Garrett, and Adam.
Jase has seen a dramatic rise and fall over the last few years: big gains in 2012 and 2013, followed by big losses in 2014, 2015, and now 2016.
Similarly, Iker was on the rise for a while, with partcularly big leaps in 2011 and 2012, but usage is now on the wane.
Do you have any other explanations/guesses about any of the names above? If so, please leave a comment.
(In 2015, the big winners were Oliver and Riaan, and the big losers were Jase and Arnav.)
On the girls’ list, Alice replaces Elsa as the #1 name.
In the top 10, Alicia replaces Saga. Alicia’s rise from 21st in 2015 to 6th last year was inspired by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in early 2016 for her role in The Danish Girl (2015).
Overall, the girl name that saw the sharpest increase in usage was Chloe. The girl name that saw the sharpest drop in usage was Elsa.
On the boys’ side, Oscar replaces William as the #1 name.
In the top 10, Alexander and Noah replace Axel and Vincent.
Overall, that boy name that saw the sharpest rise in usage was Nicolas (followed by Frans, boosted by Swedish singer-songwriter Frans, who represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest 2016). The boy name that saw the steepest decrease in usage was Anton.
It should be noted that Sweden does combine spelling variants to come up with national rankings, though I don’t know to what degree. The single example that Statistics Sweden offered was Vilma (159 baby girls) being counted with Wilma (421 baby girls). For that 10th-place total of 587, though, there would need to be at least one more variant in the mix. (I did notice “Whilma” in the database.)