I started posting on Instagram recently. Though I haven’t used the filters much, seeing them in the app reminded me of something: Babycenter.com claimed, back in late 2015, that Instagram filter names were influencing baby names. And the clickbaity claim was (of course) picked up by various media outlets: Time, People, Vanity Fair, US Weekly, TechCrunch, Mashable, etc.
But the BabyCenter.com folks (who still think Gollum is a baby name, amazingly) weren’t basing their claims on any sort of real-life baby name usage data. They were apparently just making assumptions based on their own website metrics.
In any case…it’s now 2019, and we do have access to usage data for 2015 (not to mention 2016, and 2017). So let’s use this data to determine whether or not their claim is true.
I analyzed the data for 44 names in total: 43 from filters — most current, several retired — plus the name “Lux,” which technically refers to a photo enhancement tool, not a filter. Zeroing in on usage from 2010 (the year Instagram was launched) to 2017, I noticed that…
28 filter names did not see higher usage as baby names:
20 had no SSA data to work with (1977, Crema, Charmes, Clarendon, Dogpatch, Early Bird, Gingham, Ginza, Hefe, Inkwell, Lo-Fi, Mayfair, Nashville, Poprocket, Skyline, Slumber, Stinson, Sutro, Toaster, X-Pro II)
So which, if any, of the 16 names above increased in usage because of Instagram?
Some of them, like trendy Hudson and Willow, were already on the rise by 2010. So it’s hard to know if these names were influenced at all by recent pop culture, let alone the app specifically. (Though that Juno-jump does seem significant.)
Others are associated with more than just a filter. Vesper was a Bond Girl, for instance, and Juno was a movie. So, even if Instagram was a factor, it was one of several. (BabyCenter.com’s original write-up from 2015 doesn’t even acknowledge this, e.g., “The Instagram-inspired name Lux…”)
In terms of filters actually influencing names, I think the strongest case can be made for Amaro. It wasn’t already on the rise in 2010, it did become more popular in the Instagram era, and the filter itself (as opposed to the Italian liqueur after which the filter was named) does seem to be the primary pop culture association these days.
On the other hand, Clarendon — despite being the first filter you see inside the app and, accordingly, the most-used filter overall — saw no corresponding uptick in usage on birth certificates, which is telling. (Though perhaps “Amaro” hits a stylistic sweet spot that “Clarendon” misses.)
My verdict? I’d say it’s possible that a handful of Instagram filters influenced real-life baby name usage…but I definitely wouldn’t declare that naming babies after filters was/is some sort of “hot trend,” as BabyCenter.com did.
What are your thoughts on all this? Have you ever met a baby named after an Instagram filter?
Laurette Taylor was an actress who appeared in films in the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1884. Her birth name was Loretta Cooney. Laurette was also a character played by actress Molly Lamont in the film Scared to Death (1947).
Lavolia was a character played by actress Etta McDaniel in the film Magnificent Brute (1936).
Leatrice Joy was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1950s. She was born in Louisiana in 1893. Leatrice Joy Gilbert (Leatrice Joy’s daughter) was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. She was born in California in 1924.
Leontine Dranet was an actress who appeared in 2 films in the 1910s. Leontine was also a character name in multiple films, including The Closing Net (1915) and The Shielding Shadow (serial, 1916).
Lita Grey was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in California in 1908. Her birth name was Lillita MacMurray. Lita was also a character name in multiple films, including Bachelor Apartment (1931) and The Girl from Monterrey (1943).
Lorna Gray was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Michigan in 1917. Her birth name was Virginia Pound. Lorna was also a character name in multiple films, including Traffic in Souls (1913) and The Butterfly Girl (1921).
Luana Walters was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in California in 1912. Luana Patten was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1980s. She was born in California in 1938. Luana was also a character played by actress Dolores del Rio in the film Bird of Paradise (1932).
Lucile Watson was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1950s. She was born in Canada in 1879. Lucile Browne was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Tennessee in 1907. Lucile was also a character played by actress Marguerite Snow in the short film Lucile (1912).
If you like the idea of anagrams but want to avoid sound-alike sets, I recommend anagrams with different numbers of syllables. Pairs like “Etta and Tate” and “Clay and Lacy” are a far more subtle than pairs like “Enzo and Zeno” and “Mary and Myra.”
The names below are “one-hit wonder” names that ranked among the 1,000 most popular U.S. baby names only once — sometime during the 1880s.
This list is much longer than the 1940s and 1950s lists, but it’s also probably a lot less reliable. Why? Because the SSA‘s baby name data for the late 1800s and early 1900s is pretty skewed. As a result, a lot of random names (and misspellings) managed to rank among the statistical “top 1,000” during this period.