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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Wanda

Number of Babies Named Wanda

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Wanda

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

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 of the Boston Duck Boats

I’m in Boston right now visiting family, and earlier this week some of us went on a Duck Tour for the first time. The tour was pretty good — I’m on the fence about whether or not I’d recommend it to others — but one thing I did like was finding this list of duck boat names in the pamphlet they gave us:

Boston duck boats
Names of the Boston duck boats
  • Annie Aquarium
  • Arborway Alex
  • Back Bay Bertha
  • Beacon Hilda
  • Beantown Betty
  • Charlie River
  • Commonwealth Curley
  • Copley Squire
  • Dorchester Dottie
  • Espla Nadia
  • Faneuil Holly
  • Fenway Fanny
  • Frog Pond Lily
  • Haymarket Hannah
  • Kenmore Karla
  • Liberty Teresa
  • Longfellow Bridget
  • Miss Emma Science
  • Molly Molasses
  • North End Norma
  • Old Gloria
  • Olga Ironsides
  • Penelope Pru
  • Red Sox Nathan
  • South End Sara
  • Symphony Hal
  • Tub of the Hub
  • Waterfront Wanda

I especially like Espla Nadia and Molly Molasses — the first for the wordplay (a take on “Esplanade”) the second for the historical reference (the Great Molasses Flood).

Which of the above do you like best?

110+ Hidden Gems: Rare Baby Girl Names

gemstoneWant a girl name that’s not popular, but also not made-up?

I looked through the names at the bottom of SSA’s 2011 mega-list and found a bunch of hidden gems:

  1. Alberta (9 baby girls)
  2. Alexandrina (6)
  3. Amity (28)
  4. Apollonia (21)
  5. Augusta (31)
  6. Augustina (15)
  7. Avelina (34)
  8. Bernadine (6)
  9. Bertha (45)
  10. Bettina (8)
  11. Blanche (6)
  12. Bryony (5); Briony (16)
  13. Carlotta (20)
  14. Celestina (19)
  15. Celestine (7)
  16. Cicely (14)
  17. Claribel (19)
  18. Clarice (37)
  19. Clarity (17)
  20. Claudette (9)
  21. Claudine (9)
  22. Clementina (7)
  23. Constantina (5)
  24. Coretta (5)
  25. Corinna (37)
  26. Cornelia (17)
  27. Damiana (10)
  28. Davida (10)
  29. Delphine (26)
  30. Dinah (44)
  31. Dolores (39)
  32. Dorothea (15)
  33. Edwina (8)
  34. Eloisa (42)
  35. Enid (15)
  36. Ernestina (5)
  37. Eugenia (29)
  38. Eugenie (8)
  39. Eulalia (25)
  40. Euphemia (5)
  41. Evita (13)
  42. Fabiana (47)
  43. Faustina (21)
  44. Flavia (12)
  45. Floriana (6)
  46. Florina (6)
  47. Georgette (24)
  48. Gertrude (16)
  49. Gloriana (22)
  50. Golda (34)
  51. Goldie (37)
  52. Heloise (8)
  53. Henrietta (34)
  54. Hilda (40)
  55. Imelda (23)
  56. Io (9)
  57. Ione (26)
  58. Isidora (13)
  59. Jeanne (39)
  60. Josette (27)
  61. Junia (17)
  62. Linnaea (12)
  63. Lucette (7)
  64. Lucienne (43)
  65. Lucilla (12)
  66. Marietta (22)
  67. Maude (9)
  68. Mavis (38)
  69. Minerva (38)
  70. Nanette (8)
  71. Nell (32)
  72. Nella (38)
  73. Nicola (30)
  74. Nicoletta (19)
  75. Nicolina (29)
  76. Odette (48)
  77. Olympia (22)
  78. Orla (28); Orlagh (6)
  79. Phillipa (10)
  80. Philomena (41)
  81. Phyllis (20)
  82. Rhoda (28)
  83. Romana (6)
  84. Rosabella (46)
  85. Rosalba (17)
  86. Rosaline (20)
  87. Rosella (26)
  88. Rosetta (25)
  89. Rosette (5)
  90. Rosina (17)
  91. Rowena (15)
  92. Rubina (5)
  93. Rue (13)
  94. Sebastiana (5)
  95. Seraphine (19)
  96. Sigrid (15)
  97. Stephania (32)
  98. Sybilla (5)
  99. Talulla (5)
  100. Therese (47)
  101. Thomasina (6)
  102. Thora (19)
  103. Tova (43)
  104. Ulyssa (8)
  105. Ursula (25)
  106. Vashti (16)
  107. Verity (38)
  108. Violetta (46)
  109. Vita (36)
  110. Wanda (23)
  111. Winifred (30)
  112. Winona (20)
  113. Xanthe (7)
  114. Zenaida (36)
  115. Zenobia (22)
  116. Zillah (9)
  117. Zipporah (41); Tzipporah (12)

(In some cases, a different spelling of the name is more popular than what’s shown here. For instance, Isidora is rare, but Isadora is more common.)

Like any of these?

Did you spot any other great end-of-the-list names?

See the boys’ list, or check out the Rare Baby Names page.

Where Did Wanza Come From?

Wanza was a top newbie baby name of 1915. That year, at least 33 U.S. babies were named Wanza:

  • 1919: 8 baby girls named Wanza
  • 1918: 12 baby girls named Wanza
  • 1917: 7 baby girls named Wanza
  • 1916: 13 baby girls named Wanza
  • 1915: 33 baby girls named Wanza [debut]
  • 1914: unlisted

The name appeared on the SSA’s baby name list most years until the ’60s, but it never hit as high as 33 again.

Where did it come from?

I have no idea.

The name Wanda was on the rise from the late 1800s through the 1930s, and Wanda’s surge in popularity gave other Wan-names (e.g., Waneta, Wanita) a boost. This probably helped Wanza a bit. But it doesn’t explain why dozens babies were suddenly named Wanza in 1915.

I thought I’d found the answer in Mae Van Norman Long’s novel The Wonder Woman, which features a character named Wanza, but the book wasn’t published until 1917 — following the trend, not sparking it.

Any ideas on this one?