Every year on December 2 (happy birthday Britney Spears!) we start another round of the annual Pop Culture Baby Name Game. It’s not a “game” really, but more of a group brainstorm. Between today and next May, we try to guess which baby names saw increased usage in 2014 thanks to popular culture — music, movies, television, video games, sports, politics, current events, products/advertising, and so forth.
Here are all the 2014 predictions we’ve made so far. Many of the below come from longtime commenters elbowin and Julie — thanks you guys!
Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Asteroids…if you grew up in the 1980s, you know all about Atari.
But you might not realize that, at the height of the video game console’s popularity, dozens of U.S. babies were actually named Atari:
1983: 5 baby boys named Atari
1982: 16 baby boys and 11 baby girls named Atari
1981: 13 baby boys and 7 baby girls named Atari
1980: 10 baby boys and 12 baby girls named Atari
1979: 10 baby boys named Atari [debut]
The console name comes from the Japanese word atari, which is used in the board came go in the same way “check” and “checkmate” are used in chess–as a warning to one’s opponent that he/she is in imminent danger of capture.
The baby name Atari dropped off the SSA’s baby name list after 1983, but has recently returned:
2011: 8 baby boys named Atari
2009: 8 baby boys and 6 baby girls named Atari
2008: 9 baby boys named Atari
2006: 5 baby girls named Atari
Pop culture names typically don’t disappear and then reappear decades later, but the explanation in this case is simple: sports. Football player Atari Bigby (b. 1981) — who claims he wasn’t named for the video game console — made his NFL debut in late 2005.
Pearl Jam held a festival over Labor Day weekend to mark the 20th anniversary of the band’s debut album, Ten.
The news reminded me that I’ve seen the name Vedder (the surname of Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder) on the SSA’s baby name list.
But I didn’t see it on the SSA lists of the early ’90s, which was when grunge band Pearl Jam was at the height of its fame. Nope–Vedder didn’t start popping up until more than a decade later, surprisingly:
2010: 7 baby boys named Vedder
2009: 6 baby boys named Vedder
2008: not listed
2007: 6 baby boys named Vedder
2006: not listed
2005: 5 baby boys named Vedder [debut]
2004: not listed
2003: not listed
The same thing happened to Cobain, surname of Nirvana vocalist Kurt Cobain:
Interesting, isn’t it? These names didn’t become trendy while the associated acts were big, but they’ve begun trickling in years after the fact. As if the teens of the ’90s needed a few years to grow up and start having their own kids first.
Contrast this with names like Rihanna, Beyonce, Kanye and Shania. These names became popular on a much larger scale while the corresponding pop stars were hitting it big. Quite a difference.
The latest batch of English baby names was released last week, and I’ve finally had time to peruse the whole thing (over 10,000 names in total). Here are a few of the interesting names I spotted:
T, given to 8 baby boys. The SSA doesn’t include one-letter names on the U.S. list, and I only know of one U.S. baby that may have been named T, so I’m curious about how many Ts we have over here. And whether any of them have the middle name Pain.
Leeloo, given to 3 baby girls. This was the name of the half-naked, orange-haired alien character played by Milla Jovovich in the The Fifth Element (1997). The U.S. list doesn’t include names given to fewer than 5 babies, which is a shame–just think of all the crazy names we’ll never see. (Also, Leeloo reminds me of Laa-Laa.)
Siouxsie, given to 3 baby girls. Another music reference, this time to influential Brit rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees. Either that or specifically to vocalist Siouxsie Sioux.
Kal-el, given to 13 baby boys. I see Superman’s birth name as a real-life baby name so often nowadays that it doesn’t even seem unusual anymore. Also, notice the hyphen–something else the SSA excludes from the U.S. list.
Daisy-Boo, given to 4 baby girls. Just like Jamie Oliver’s second daughter. Makes me wonder how many babies named “Buddy-Bear” will pop up on the 2010 list.
Xanthe, given to 55 baby girls. Up from 18 a decade ago. This one surprised me, as only a handful of U.S. babies are named Xanthe every year. Is Xanthe on its way up in England? Is Xanthe the new Zoe? Hm.
Have you had a chance to scan the full list yet? (You can download the Excel files here.)