Zebulon: “Hot” baby name in 2012?

Not long ago I stumbled upon a post about baby names at the blog North Carolina Miscellany. It ended with this footnote:

After seeing a baby-names website tout North Carolina’s most historically distinctive names, Zebulon and Zeb, as among 2012’s “hottest,” I was expecting to see them rise in the national rankings. Alas, no. How hot can a name be and still not crack the top 1,000?

Good question. Because, not only did Zebulon not make the top 1,000 in 2012, it sank from 25 baby boys in 2011 to a mere 19 in 2012.

(The names are “historically distinctive” in the state thanks to politician Zebulon Baird Vance.)

The footnote linked to an earlier post at the same blog called Zebulon on the Rise, which reads:

The News and Observer reported yesterday that the name Zebulon is increasingly popular among parents today, and was listed on a website as one of the “14 hottest” names of the year.

The News and Observer article on Zebulon revealed that the “14 hottest” list had been put out by Nameberry.com.

What were their 13 other “hot” names? Arya, Blue, Caia, Calix, Decimus, Django, Gatsby, Halcyon, Niall, Nova, Senna, Sybil and Theon.

Three of these names — Arya, Calix and Nova — did see big jumps in usage in 2012. But the rest either stayed about the same or were used less often. So, only 3 clear winners out of 14 guesses. Just 21% correct.

How could a site that specializes in names get it so wrong?

I think it has to do with metrics. Nameberry no doubt came up with that list by looking at their own website traffic, not by looking at any sort of genuine usage data (e.g., public records, birth announcements).

The problem with this, of course, is that the names people search for online often have nothing to do with the names they use in real life. (How many of us like to look up weird celebrity baby names, for instance? *raises hand*)

Just remember this next time you see a list of purported “hot” baby names…

2 thoughts on “Zebulon: “Hot” baby name in 2012?

  1. I actually love Zebulon… but I’ve never noticed any support from pretty much anyone I’ve *ever* mentioned it to, barring the mothers of a couple Zevuluns. ;)

  2. My son’s name is Zebulon. He was born in 2002. I am actually glad it’s not becoming popular….I cringed when I read that article that it was trending in 2012. I am glad I picked such an uncommon name for my son. When his name is called, there is absolutely no question that he’s the one people are calling. :)

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