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…
While the name Nipsey didn’t debut in 2019, Nispey Hussle’s legal first name, Ermias, was the fastest-rising boy name of 2019 (in terms of relative increase).
Dua, one of the rising names in last year’s game, stayed perfectly level this time around — exactly 72 baby girls in both ’18 and ’19. (In the UK, on the other hand, Dua’s usage increased quite a bit.)
What are your thoughts on the results this year? Did anything surprise you?
[The usual disclaimer: Some of the names above were already moving in the direction indicated. Others were influenced by more than a single pop culture person/event. In each case, I leave it up to you to judge the degree/nature of pop culture influence.]
Rafaela Rafaela Ottiano was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in Italy in 1888. Rafaela was also a character played by actress Alice Joyce in the short film The Bag of Gold (1912).
Reno Reno Browne was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1950s. She was born in (Reno) Nevada in 1921. Her birth name Josephine Ruth Clarke. Reno was also a character played by actress Ethel Merman in the film Anything Goes (1936).
Rosina Rosina Galli was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Italy in 1906. Rosina was also a character played by actress Jose Collins in the film The Last Stake (short, 1923).
Rosita Rosita Marstini was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in France in 1887. Rosita was also a character name in multiple films, including Hell’s Valley (1931) and Zoo in Budapest (1933).
Below are all the names we came up with and how they fared on the charts last year.
First up, the names that made the biggest gains. (Some of these were on their way up anyway, so I’ll leave it to you guys to interpret just how much each one was/was not helped along by pop culture events.)