How popular is the baby name Rebecca in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Rebecca and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Rebecca.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Rebecca

Number of Babies Named Rebecca

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Rebecca

Baby Names from Pullman Cars?

pullman car, train,Years ago I posted about Livonia, a baby both born on and named after a Pullman car. Recently I wondered: What other Pullman car names would have made good baby names?

So I downloaded a big spreadsheet of over 12,000 Pullman car names from The Pullman Project and was slightly surprised to see that thousands of them could have been baby names, if we allow for the splitting of compound car names (like Fort Miley, Glen Norman, Meredith College, and West Willow).

Here are a handful of examples. On the left are relatively common/familiar names, and on the right are some unexpected choices.

Alana, Archer, Arnold Adriatha, Arundel, Arvonia
Baxter, Becket, Bradley Bantry, Bellonia, Besco
Calvin, Catalina, Clyde Cadesia, Clarnie, Clymer
Dana, Deborah, Dwight Darlow, Dathema, Dodona
Edith, Eileen, Elmo Edminster, Emalinda, Etherley
Finley, Flavia, Floyd Fithian, Flaxton, Florilla
Gary, Georgette, Grayson Gavarnie, Gilia, Gloxinia
Harper, Harriet, Hector Harista, Humela, Hythe
Iona, Isabella, Ivan Irvona, Isleta, Ixion
Jessica, Jordan, Julia Jacelia, Jathniel, Justitia
Kara, Keith, Kenneth Keinath, Kenia, Kittson
Laurel, Lewis, Linden Lauveta, Leolyn, Lysander
Madison, Marco, Maude Mardonia, Mayence, Morganza
Nicola, Noel, Nora Narinda, Nasby, Norlina
Olivia, Omar, Otis Oaklyn, Olanda, Oxus
Parker, Perry, Philippa Penlyn, Pipila, Pixley
Quincy Quarren
Rebecca, Riley, Ronald Rexis, Risley, Ruxton
Sarah, Scott, Susanne Salphrona, Sarver, Sibley
Thora, Tracy, Tyler Tascott, Tilden, Tisonia
Vanessa, Vernon, Victoria Varick, Vinora, Vivita
Wesley, Wilson, Wren Welby, Wescott, Wexford

Which of the names above do you like best?


The “Elda Rema” Baby Name Formula

baby name formula, elda rema

In his book The American Language, H. L. Mencken mentioned a “woman professor in the Middle West [with] the given name of Eldarema, coined from those of her grandparents, Elkanah, Daniel, Rebecca and Mary.”

The woman he’s talking about did exist, but Mencken didn’t get her name quite right.

Elda Rema Walker was botany professor at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. And so was her sister — here they are, listed one after the other, in the University of Nebraska General Catalog for 1916-1917:

elda rema walker, leva belle walker

(Leva Belle’s names were also inspired by family — parents Levi and Isabel.)

So here’s the Elda Rema baby name formula:

  • First name =
    • First 2 letters of one grandfather’s name +
    • First 2 letters of the other grandfather’s name
  • Middle name =
    • First 2 letters of one grandmother’s name +
    • First 2 letters of the other grandmother’s name

Using the names of your parents and your partner’s parents, can you come up with any usable first + middle combos?

The best I can do is “Aujo Elhe.” Hopefully you can do better…

Source: H. L. Mencken. The American Language. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921.

Five-Name Friday – The Return of Suggestion Posts!

five name friday, call for requests

Update, 6/21/2017: Check out the Need a Name? page.

The people have spoken! Well, not all the people. Only those people who voted in the poll that was sitting in my sidebar for about a month.

In any case, those specific people spoke. That is, they voted. And what they voted for was a weekly baby name suggestion post.

But here’s the thing: I’m not going to do in-depth suggestion posts this time around. What I’ll do instead is focus on simplified baby name requests (up to 2 sentences each) and limited baby name suggestions (up to 5 from me, and up to 5 from every commenter). My hope is that these constraints will make participation easy and fun, like a game.

Ready to play? Here are the details…

Request Baby Names

Send me requests via the contact page or via social media. Here are some examples of requests you could send:

  • “I like the names Abigail, Rebecca and Catherine, but my spouse likes Allie, Ellie and Missy. What are girl names we’d both like?”
  • “What are some boy names that pay tribute to Dallas, Texas? They can’t start with the letter W please.”
  • “I want a girl name that makes people smile. Must sound good with the surname Jacobsen.”
  • “I love circuses! Please give me boy names associated with the circus.”
  • “I’m looking for a nature name for a baby boy that’s unlikely to be used for baby girls. Definitely cannot end in -a or -y.”
  • “What are some traditional but unexpected boy names that start with F, G, and H? His sisters are named Sarah and Tamar.”

You don’t have to be pregnant, or even planning to get pregnant, to place a request. And you can send as many requests as you like — either separately or all in the same email.

But I’ll only accept requests for first names that make note of gender in some way. And, as I said, no more than 2 sentences per request. (No run-ons, please.)

After you’ve sent a request (or several), subscribe to the blog. That way you can keep tabs on all future Five-Name Friday posts and see which requests get featured. Will one of them be yours?

Suggest Baby Names

We can’t start suggesting names until next Friday, so I’ll hold off on these guidelines for now.

But I will say that those who try to sneak extra names into their comments should expect to see said comments “fixed” in some embarrassing way by yours truly. (I’m very much looking forward to this…)

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So what are you waiting for? Request away! (Or, send requests via Twitter or Facebook.)

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Update, 8/30: Here’s the ever-growing Five-Name Friday archive!

Should We Name Hurricanes to Maximize Donations?

hurricaneIn 2008, psychologists Jesse Chandler, Tiffany M. Griffin, and Nicholas Sorensen published a study showing that people who shared an initial with a hurricane name were over-represented among hurricane relief donors. So, for instance, people with R-names donated significantly more than other people to Hurricane Rita relief efforts. (This is an offshoot of the name-letter effect.)

A few years later, marketing professor Adam Alter came up with an interesting idea: Why not use this knowledge to try to maximize donations to hurricane relief efforts? He explained:

In the United States, for example, more than 10% of all males have names that begin with the letter J-names like James and John (the two most common male names), Joseph and Jose, Jason, and Jeffrey. Instead of beginning just one hurricane name with the letter J each year (in 2013, that name will be Jerry), the World Meteorological Organization could introduce several J names each year. Similarly, more American female names begin with M than any other letter–most of them Marys, Marias, Margarets, Michelles, and Melissas–so the Organization could introduce several more M names to each list.

I think his idea is a good one overall. It wouldn’t cost much to implement, but could potentially benefit many hurricane victims.

I would go about choosing the names differently, though.

Repeating initials multiple times within a single hurricane season would be unwise, for instance. It would cause confusion, which would undermine the reason we started naming hurricanes in the first place (“for people easily to understand and remember” them, according to the WMO).

But optimizing the name lists using data on real-life usage? That would be smart.

I might even try optimizing based on demographics. Baby boomers are particularly generous donors, so maybe we should choose letters (or even names) with that generation in mind?

The baby boomers were born from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, so here are the top initials for babies born in 1956 (60 years ago):

Top first letters of baby names, 1956, U.S.

Here are two possible lists of hurricane names using the above letters. I stuck with the WMO’s conventions: 21 names total, alternating genders, and no retired names.

Mid-century style Modern style
Janice
Danny
Rebecca
Martin
Cindy
Scott
Lori
Kenneth
Brenda
Patrick
Theresa
Gerald
Angela
Eugene
Wanda
Vincent
Nancy
Howard
Francine
Ira
Olga
Jasmine
Dominic
Rylee
Matthew
Charlotte
Sebastian
Lucy
Kingston
Bella
Preston
Trinity
Grayson
Ava
Eli
Willow
Victor
Nora
Hunter
Fiona
Isaac
Olivia

And here’s another point: we wouldn’t want to assign these names in order. While the official hurricane season lasts a full six months — June to November — most hurricane activity happens in August, September and October:

Number of Tropical Cyclones per 100 Years (NOAA)

To really optimize, we’d want to reserve the top initials/names for the stronger mid-season hurricanes, which tend to do the most damage. So we could start the season using mid-list names, then jump to the top of the list when August comes around and go in order from that point forward (skipping over any mid-list names that had already been used).

What are your thoughts on assigning hurricane names with disaster relief in mind? Do you think it could work? What strategy/formula would you use to select relief-optimized hurricane names?

Sources: In the “I” of the storm: Shared initials increase disaster donations, Smart Hurricane Names: A Policy Intervention that Costs Almost Nothing but Should Attract Billions of Dollars in Aid, Tropical Cyclone Programme – WMO
Image: Tropical Cyclone Climatology – National Hurricane Center – NOAA

P.S. While J, D and R were the top initials 60 years ago, today’s top initials are A, J and M.

Names from WHER, the First All-Female Radio Station

Dot Fisher of WHER radio station in the 1950s
Dot Fisher of WHER c. 1957 © Broadcast News
Memphis-based radio station WHER (1430 AM), which was run almost entirely by women, went on the air in October of 1955. It was billed as America’s “First All-Female Radio Station.”

The station was created and funded by legendary record producer Sam Phillips — the guy who discovered Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, among others.

WHER’s original staff included Sam’s wife Rebecca (Becky) along with seven other women: Barbara Gurley, Donna Rae Johnson, Dorothy “Dot” Fisher, Dotty Abbott, Fay Bussell, Phyllis Stimbert, and Roberta Stout.

Six of these eight ladies were on-air personalities with their own programs, each of which emphasized “some particular subject of interest to housewives” according to a 1957 source.

Which of the original WHER names do you like best?

Which WHER name do you like best?

View Results

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(Dotty is usually a nickname for Dorothy, so I combined them in the poll.)

Vida Jane Butler, who joined WHER later in the ’50s, was known on-air as “Janie Joplin.” She’d been told that Vida “was considered too old-fashioned and too Southern for WHER,” and the data backs it up: the name Vida was indeed out of fashion and associated with the south at that time. These days, though, Vida is picking up steam — particularly in California. Janie, on the other hand, saw peak usage in the mid-20th century and has been in decline ever since.

Sources: