We looked at the top baby name rises last month, so this month let’s look at the opposite: the top drops. That is, the baby names that decreased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next in the Social Security Administration’s data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year slides in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Clementine dropped 68% and usage of the boy name Neil dropped 76%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does become more accurate in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about a few of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it — leave a comment and let us know why you think any of these names saw dropped in usage when they did.
Back in 1907, the baby name Theta debuted on the SSA’s baby name list, making the top 1,000 for the first and only time:
1909: 7 baby girls named Theta
1908: 6 baby girls named Theta
1907: 20 baby girls named Theta (rank: 868th) [debut]
Theta was not only the top debut name that year, but it was also one of the top debut names of the entire decade (tied with Rosevelt, a misspelling of Roosevelt that debuted in 1900 with 20 baby boys).
Here are the SSA and SSDI numbers side by side:
While neither set of data is perfect, both indicate that Theta saw increased usage in 1907. I can’t figure out why, though. Literature is often a good bet for this time period, but so far I’ve been unable to link Theta to a particular book or story.
Do you have any idea where Theta came from?
P.S. If you’d like to try a search and want to eliminate all the other Greek letters from your results, add this to your search string:
I’m a baby name blogger, but sometimes I feel more like a baby name detective. Because so much of my blogging time is spent doing detective work: trying to figure out where a particular baby name comes from, or why a name saw a sudden jump (or drop) in usage during a particular year.
If a name itself doesn’t make the answer obvious (e.g., Lindbergh) and a simple Google search hasn’t helped, my first bit of detective work involves scanning the baby name charts. I’ve learned that many search-resistant baby names (like Deatra) are merely alternative spellings of more common names (Deirdre).
If that doesn’t do it, I go back to Google for some advanced-level ninja searching, to help me zero in on specific types of historical or pop culture events. This is how I traced Irmalee back to a character in a short story in a very old issue of the once-popular McCall’s Magazine.
But if I haven’t gotten anywhere after a few rounds of ninja searching, I officially give up and turn the mystery baby name over to you guys. Together we’ve cracked a couple of cases (yay!) but, unfortunately, most of the mystery baby names I’ve blogged about are still big fat mysteries.
Though vast majority of the baby names on the Social Security Administration’s yearly baby name lists are repeats, every list does contain a handful of brand-new names.
Below are the highest-charting debut names for every single year on record, after the first.
Why bother with an analysis like this? Because debut names often have cool stories behind them, and high-hitting debuts are especially likely to have intriguing pop culture explanations. So this is more than a list of names — it’s also a list of stories.
Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!