It’s hard to put into words just how bizarre 2020 was.
Despite this…people still had babies in 2020, and people still paid attention to pop culture in 2020. (In fact, thanks to quarantine, many people probably paid a lot more attention to pop culture than usual last year.) So, let’s put the seriousness of 2020 aside for a second and kick off the annual Pop Culture Baby Name Game!
Of course, “pop culture” includes not just things like movies and music and social media, but also anything that was in the news — including COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and the U.S. presidential election.
Which baby names will see higher usage — or appear for the very first time — in the 2020 SSA baby name data thanks to pop culture?
Here are some initial ideas (plus some context):
Aalam, DJ Khaled’s baby
Ahmaud, shooting of Ahmaud Arbery
Amala, Doja Cat album
Azula, character from Avatar: The Last Airbender (made available on Netflix in mid-2020)
Some of the names from the 2019 game could be applicable to the 2020 data as well.
Also, feel free to zoom out and consider name trends this year. Here are a few ways in which baby-naming may have been influenced by our collective experience of COVID-19, for instance:
“In my opinion this unprecedented situation will affect naming towards something “bolder” or “more badass” baby names and so you’ll probably see a spike of certain names like King, Major or Royal.” (Gheba)
“I’d bet on the rise of virtue names, or at least modern version of virtue names, like Brave/Bravery, Courage, Honor, etc. And I’d say names like Legend, Messiah, Legacy, Major, King, will probably rise some more too.” (Skizzo)
“I think it will also affect which media influence names this year. Eg we’ll miss out on names inspired by Olympic athletes, but might see even more from Netflix and YouTube.” (Clare)
What other names (or name trends) should we add to the list? Let me know by leaving a comment below. Just remember to make a note of the pop culture influence!
I’ll post the results as soon as I can after the SSA releases the 2020 data (in May of 2021, hopefully).
*Did you know that the actress who played Kamiyah in that Lifetime movie is named Rayven Symone Ferrell? Certainly a nod to Raven-Symoné…
According to the census, a teenage boy named “Radio Rex Musselman” was living in Ohio in 1940.
Know what Radio Rex was? A relatively high-tech toy of the 1920s.
Radio Rex was the first children’s toy to respond to voice commands. Rex the dog would spring out of his doghouse at the sound of the word “Rex,” thanks to a sound-sensitive electromagnet.
Radio Rex went on the market in 1922. It cost about $2, which today would be about $29.
But let’s get back to Radio Rex Musselman. Do you think “Radio Rex” was his real name?
He’s listed as “Rex R.” in most places, including the 1930 census and his headstone, but there’s no mention of “Radio” in any other record I’ve found.
Those circled x-marks on the census indicate that the family’s information came straight from parents Royal and Hazel. Do you think they were telling the truth that day, or do you think they were messing with the enumerator?
The U.S. National Park Service has a birthday coming up!
When the NPS was created on August 25, 1916, there were only 35 national parks and monuments. (The world’s first, Yellowstone, had been established in 1872.)
Nowadays the agency oversees 411 units. These units are located in the 50 states and beyond, and include national monuments (82), national historic sites (78), national parks (59), national historical parks (50), national memorials (30), national battlefields (11), national seashores (10), national lakeshores (4), national scenic trails (3), and more.
Let’s celebrate the upcoming centenary with over 100 baby names that pay tribute to the national parks specifically:
The derivation of Kenai is unknown, but it could come from either Dena’ina Athabascan (“big flat” or “two big flats and river cut-back” or “trees and brush in a swampy marsh”), Russian (“flat barren land”), or Iniut (“black bear”).
Which boy names increased and decreased the most in popularity from 2013 to 2014?
Below are two versions of each list. My version looks at raw number differences and takes all 13,977 boy names on the 2014 list into account. The SSA’s version looks at ranking differences and covers the top 1,000 boy names (roughly).
Here’s what the SSA says about the rise of Bode: “[It] might have had something to do with the Winter Olympics in early 2014, where Bode Miller continued his outstanding alpine skiing career by collecting his sixth Olympic medal.”
And on the rise of Axl: “[It’s] a nod to both rock legend Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses and Axl Jack Duhamel, son of Stacy Ann “Fergie” Ferguson and Josh Duhamel.”
Jase, last year’s biggest raw number increase, is now 8th on the list of decreases. Mason, which topped the list of raw number increases two years in a row (2010 and 2011), is now 18th on the list of decreases. (It was 3rd in 2013.) And Jayden, the trendy name that shot up the charts to become the 4th most popular baby name in the nation in 2010 and 2011, has since fallen to 15th.
Finally, here are the big winners and losers from the last few years:
2013: Jase/Jayceon (biggest increases) and Ethan/Austyn (biggest decreases)
2012: Liam/Major (biggest increases) and Jacob/Braeden (biggest decreases)
2011: Mason (biggest increase) and Jacob (biggest decrease)
2010: Mason (biggest increase) and Joshua (biggest decrease)