It’s December! A month full of gatherings. Particularly family gatherings.
This is great news for expectant parents who want to find a family name, but haven’t had any luck with the obvious choices (like parent names and grandparents names). Family gatherings are the perfect place to dig a little deeper — for more names in the family tree, or for names that aren’t technically in the family tree, but that are strongly associated with your family in some other way.
All you have to do is start asking questions.
Essentially, you want to ask your older relatives about their personal history and best memories. This won’t just benefit you — it’ll make your relatives feel valued, it’ll make the occasion memorable for everyone, and it’ll keep the conversation focused (so that no one can veer off into, say, politics).
Here are some questions you could use. They’re geared toward uncovering important people, places, events, symbols, and other noun-y type things that might make good baby names. (If you have any other question ideas, leave a comment!)
Family Member Interview Questions
Where and when were you born? What’s your full name? Is there a story behind your name? What nicknames have you had, as a child and as an adult?
If you had siblings, what were their names/nicknames?
Where and when were they born? What are their full names? Is there a story behind their names? Did they have nicknames? What were they like? What is your fondest memory of them? (Did this happen at a particular place or event?) What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with them?
Aunts & Uncles
If you had aunts and uncles, what were their names/nicknames?
Where and when were they born? What are their names? Is there a story behind any of their names? Did they have nicknames? What is your fondest memory of them? (Did this happen at a particular place or event?) What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with them?
Do you remember your great-grandparents or any other older relatives? What were their names? What stories have come down to you about the ancestors you never met? (Do you have any famous ancestors?) What items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth are associated with any of these ancestors?
What significant family friends do you remember? What other people have helped your family in some significant way?
What did your family do together? Think activities, traditions, locations, etc. What is your fondest family memory? (Did this happen at a particular place or event?) What special items in your home do you remember?
Personal Memories (childhood & teen years)
What did you like to do? Where did you like to spend time? Who were your good friends? What special places did you travel? What people (teachers, coaches, community members) were particularly helpful to you? What is your fondest childhood memory? What is your fondest memory of your teenage years? What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with these times in your life?
Personal Memories (adulthood)
What did you like to do? Where did you like to spend time? Who were your good friends? What special places did you travel? What people (friends, mentors, coworkers, community members) were particularly helpful to you? What is your fondest adulthood memory? What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with this time in your life?
What is/was his/her name? When and where did you meet? If you married, when and where did you marry? What is your fondest memory of him/her? (Did this happen at a particular place or event?) What other items, places, events, people, ideas, and so forth do you associate with this person/relationship?
Describe the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to you. Describe the time/place you remember feeling the most content and at peace. Which person (either friend or public figure) has had the biggest positive influence on your life?
As you take notes, remember to be open-minded. Try not to dismiss any name right away.
First, because many names have other forms. So you might not like Grandpa Ivan’s name, but “Ivan” could lead you to something you do like: Evan, Sean, Gianni, Johnny…
Second, any name could end up being associated with multiple family members, and hence have a greater overall significance than you would have expected. Maybe you’re not so sure about your mother-in-law’s maiden name, Lloyd…until you hear some hilarious story involving your own great-grandfather and an ill-fated fishing trip to a place called Lloyd’s Creek, which helps you see “Lloyd” in a whole new light.
If you end up finding a great baby name this year after talking with your relatives, come back and lets us know!
On August 21, the United States will see its first coast-to-coast solar eclipse since 1918. If you’re planning to have — or conceive! — a baby around the time of the eclipse, you might be interested in a name that marks the event (but that isn’t as audacious as Eclipse itself). So what are your options?
Names with “celestial” associations
A solar eclipse involves the alignment of three celestial bodies — the sun (a star), the moon, and the Earth — in the sky. You could use a name that is associated in some way with one of these elements, such as…
The main event, from an Earthling’s perspective, is the darkening of the sun thanks to the moon getting in the way and casting its shadow over us. You could use a name associated in some way with darkness, such as…
Which boy names increased the most in popularity from 2015 to 2016? And which ones decreased the most?
The U.S. SSA likes to answer this question by analyzing ranking differences within the top 1,000. I prefer to answer it by looking at raw number differences, and to take the full list into account. So let’s check out the results using both methods…
Boy Names: Biggest Increases, 2015 to 2016
1. Kylo, +2,368 spots — up from 3,269th to 901st
2. Creed, +370 spots — up from 1,352nd to 982nd
3. Benicio, +356 spots — up from 1,331st to 975th
4. Adonis, +307 spots — up from 701st to 394th
5. Fox, +288 spots — up from 1034th to 746th
6. Kye, +281 spots — up from 984th to 703rd
7. Hakeem, +256 spots — up from 1,161st to 905th
8. Shepherd, +242 spots — up from 1,105th to 863rd
9. Wilder, +238 spots — up from 961st to 723rd
10. Zayn, +222 spots — up from 643rd to 421st
Kylo was influenced by the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).
Creed and Adonis were influenced by the movie Creed (2015).
Hakeem was influenced by the TV show Empire (2015-). So was Bryshere, which debuted last year.
Wilder could have been influenced by either Gene Wilder or by boxer Deontay Wilder, or both. (Or neither.)
Zayn was influenced by British singer/songwriter Zain “Zayn” Malik.
1. Mateo, +1,516 baby boys — up from 5,010 to 6,526
2. Oliver, +1,340 baby boys — up from 11,635 to 12,975
3. Bryson, +1,239 baby boys — up from 3,094 to 4,333
4. Lincoln, +1,094 baby boys — up from 5,982 to 7,076
5. Benjamin, +899 baby boys — up from 13,670 to 14,569
6. Grayson, +735 baby boys — up from 7,887 to 8,622
7. Theodore, +723 baby boys — up from 4,136 to 4,859
8. Greyson, +704 baby boys — up from 3,591 to 4,295
9. Leo, +678 baby boys — up from 4,582 to 5,260
10. Maverick, +675 baby boys — up from 2,265 to 2,940
Other names that saw raw number increases in the 200+ range included Owen, Sebastian, Ezekiel, Lucas, Ezra, Leonardo, Santiago, Conor, Gael, Everett, Rhett, Jameson, Killian, Tobias, Arlo, Easton, Finn, Rowan, Elias, Asher, Calvin, Thiago, Bodhi, Legend, Lukas, River, Elliot, Harrison, Roman, Adriel, Paxton, Julian, Ace, Josiah, Waylon, Messiah, Nash, Ellis, Matias, George, Barrett, Connor, Wade, Kyrie, Milo, Amir, Bennett, Elliott, Silas, Matteo, and Axel.
Rowan is rising quickly for both boys and girls right now.
Kyrie, which was once given primarily to girls, is now being given primarily for boys thanks to basketball player Kyrie Irving.
Boy Names: Biggest Decreases, 2015 to 2016
1. Jonael, -475 spots — down from 921st to 1,396th
2. Aaden, -239 spots — down from 784th to 1,023rd
3. Triston, -230 spots — down from 957th to 1,187th
4. Freddy, -222 spots — down from 993rd to 1,215th
5. Yaakov, -213 spots — down from 992nd to 1,205th
6. Braeden, -203 spots — down from 792nd to 995th
7. Chace, -202 spots — down from 935th to 1,137th
8. Brantlee, -176 spots — down from 777th to 953rd
9. Gannon, -173 spots — down from 533rd to 706th
10. Robin, -171 spots — down from 969th to 1,140th
The name Jonael got a lot of exposure in 2015 thanks to 11-year-old Puerto Rican singer Jonael Santiago, who won the 3rd season of La Voz Kids, which aired from March to June. It didn’t get as much exposure in 2016, which accounts for the drop in usage.
1. Logan, -1,697 baby boys (12,897 to 11,200)
2. Jacob, -1,498 baby boys (15,914 to 14,416)
3. Jayden, -1,455 baby boys (11,518 to 10,063)
4. Mason, -1,399 baby boys (16,591 to 15,192)
5. Ethan, -1,291 baby boys — down from 15,049 to 13,758
6. Aiden, -1,271 baby boys (13,429 to 12,158)
7. Alexander, -1,186 baby boys (14,507 to 13,321)
8. Jackson, -1,032 baby boys (12,242 to 11,210)
9. Brandon, -1,024 baby boys (5,100 to 4,076)
10. Blake, -951 baby boys (4,220 to 3,269)
Unlike Rowan, Blake is falling on the boys’ list, but rising on the girls’ list. In fact, the graph (right) makes a gender switch look inevitable. This is not something I would have anticipated a decade ago, before the emergence of Blake Lively.
Other names that saw raw number drops in the 200+ range included Landon, Caleb, Gavin, Anthony, Christopher, Andrew, David, Parker, Colton, Jase, Hunter, Brody, Brantley, Gabriel, Jonathan, Jordan, Tyler, Kevin, Nathan, Joshua, Carter, Daniel, Joseph, Dylan, Christian, Noah, Angel, Brayden, Iker, Chase, Nicholas, Austin, Dominic, Camden, John, Ayden, Michael, Colin, Bryan, Riley, Kyle, Hayden, Bradley, Nathaniel, Jake, Samuel, Luke, Cayden, Evan, Zachary, Steven, Kaden, Cooper, Marcus, Ryan, Tristan, Bryce, Ryder, Micah, Brady, Bentley, Kaleb, Levi, Alex, Conner, Jeremy, Isaac, Ian, Gage, Brian, Kayden, Jaden, Carlos, Sean, Jeremiah, Abel, Devin, Adrian, Giovanni, Garrett, and Adam.
Jase has seen a dramatic rise and fall over the last few years: big gains in 2012 and 2013, followed by big losses in 2014, 2015, and now 2016.
Similarly, Iker was on the rise for a while, with partcularly big leaps in 2011 and 2012, but usage is now on the wane.
Do you have any other explanations/guesses about any of the names above? If so, please leave a comment.
(In 2015, the big winners were Oliver and Riaan, and the big losers were Jase and Arnav.)