Even the Top 10 is Not Necessarily the Kiss of Death

Last time, we talked about how just because a name is in the Top 100 doesn’t mean it’s too common to use. Today, we take it further.

I would declare this: that EVEN A TOP 10 NAME is not too common to use. I know, right? Pretty bold, yes?

Check out the name Emily. It has been the #1 most popular girl name in the U.S. for the last twelve years. It was no slacker before then, either: it’s been in the Top 50 since 1975. That is a long time to be popular—and yet I don’t know ONE SINGLE CHILD with the name Emily. Between them, my first two children have been in nine classrooms and three summer camps, and not one single Emily. You’d think you’d be stepping on a heap of Emilys every time you turned around, and yet at least some of us are not.

Aside from the occasional fluke (in one of William’s classes—but only one—there were two Isabellas, two Abigails, two Emmas, two Jacobs, and three Williams), this is true of all the Top 10 names: even though they’re the most popular names, they’re still not born so often that there are “five in every classroom.” The expression “five in every classroom” is an exaggeration I would love to see die out, because it is scaring the people who think it means they have to name their daughter Xzathianna unless they basically want her to be Jennifer.

Waiting for a parent-teacher conference with a teacher who was way behind schedule, I walked up one side of the school hallway and down the other. Outside of each door was a decoration made from the students’ first names. Just about every single classroom had a Jacob: Jacob has been the most popular name for boys in the U.S. for the last nine years, and it’s been in the Top 50 since 1978. But none of the classrooms had TWO Jacobs. I saw quite a few Emmas and Madisons and Laurens—but not TWO per classroom. Just one.

Even my assertion that there was a Jacob in every classroom is highly suspect: just over 1.5% of boys were given that name in 2001. That’s roughly 3 Jacobs per 200 boys. If classrooms are about half boys, and there are about 20 kids in a class, that’s 3 Jacobs per TWENTY classes. And that is the most popular boy name. Let’s just pause a moment so this can sink in. Number ONE most popular boy name. Three of them per twenty classrooms. Not per class.

In 2001 when my son was born, 32,493 U.S. boys were named Jacob; 25,043 U.S. girls were named Emily. Jacob was the most popular name for boys, and Emily the most popular name for girls. In 1973, the most popular name for boys was Michael, and there were 67,799 new ones born that year. The most popular name for girls was Jennifer, and there were 62,434 new ones born that year.

See that? Significantly more than DOUBLE the number of children had the top name in 1973 than in 2001. Since class size has also been decreasing in some areas (classes were often 25 to 30 in my childhood schools, but my kids’ classes have been around 20), you can see how that would dramatically impact the “five in every class” problem. If there were 2-1/2 times more Jennifers than Emilys, in a class 1-1/2 times as large, then a classroom with 1 Emily born in 2001 would have had 3 to 4 Jennifers born in 1973.

Well, goodness! That does explain the near paranoia the current parents have about using an overly-popular name! Although, my numbers are unrealistic: there ISN’T one Emily per classroom, but more like…[IMPENDING MATH ALERT! Feel free to duck out for a few lines]…let’s see…1.27 Emilys per 100 female births is 1 Emily per 79 female births. Those 79 girls would divide into about 8 classrooms of 20 children (approximately half of them girls). So that’s 1 Emily per 8 classes, on average across the United States. At their highest peak in 1973-1974, there were 4.03 Jennifers per 100 female births: about 4 Jennifers for every 10 classes of 20 kids, or about 4 Jennifers for 6.66 classrooms of the 30-kid classes I remember in the ’70s. Still fewer than 1 Jennifer on average per class, even for a name so legendary in its overuse it is STILL mentioned as the prime example of name people don’t want to give their kids. “I don’t want her to be, like, a JENNIFER,” they say.

Well, don’t worry about it, because there aren’t any names as overused as Jennifer right now. In 2007, the #1 girl name was not even 1% of all female births; compare that once again to Jennifer, which in its prime was more than 4% of all female births.

If you like a Top 10 name, and it is your favorite, and you love it—then go ahead and use it. Take the rising and falling of names into account, take the ranking of names into account—but if the name you want is a Top 10 name, you really don’t have to worry that there will be five in every classroom.

50 thoughts on “Even the Top 10 is Not Necessarily the Kiss of Death

  1. Clarabella

    Wow, way to do math, Swistle! I commend you. I just wanted to add my own two cents that if the list is made up of what’s on birth certificates, that might have a say too. Emily could be the first name, but the child is called by the middle name. The girl’s name could be Emily Jane and she could go by E.J. (I know a little stretch, but you see what I’m saying? Please). I just thought of that because my son’s two given names are Sean and William (top 10!), but we call him Liam, which is somewhere after 100. But still, your math is much more convincing than my two cents.

  2. heather

    I think your perspective would be a little different if you were, say, a teacher, being exposed to the trends of names. I taught preschool for 10 years and there were most definitely obvious name trends in bursts. I spent 6 years with 2 year olds from about 1996-2002 and in my classes of only 8-10 kids I had at times doubles of each of these… 2 Michaels, 2 Jacobs, 2 Madisons, 2 Emmas, 2 Morgans, 2 Peytons, 3 Ellie’s (one was an Elizabeth and 2 were Eliannas but all 3 went by Ellie), a Kate and Katy.
    That’s a pretty small class size to get sets of two like that.

    For me, having a “popular” name isn’t so much about knowing others in your same circles with the same name… My name is Heather (#3 the year I was born) and I spent half my school years with another Heather in my class. Yeah, it was at times annoying, but not a big enough deal that that was a factor in naming my own kids.
    For me, and the names I wanted for my kids, it was more the aspect of popularity as in originality rather than simply duplication. It wasn’t whether my kids would know other children with that same name, but the reaction that name got. For example, when I hear the name Emily or Emma, (of which I do personally know 2 or 3 of each, BTW) whether I know someone by that name or not, even though I think those are absolutely beautiful names, I tend to think “oh, Emily. Heard it a million times.” Kind of like been there, done that you know? But when you come across a name that isn’t top of the list common, most of the time you get a different reaction. More of a reflection on it or a compliment of some sort… whether it’s how pretty it is or just the fact that “now that’s not a name you hear every day!”. It seems in a way refreshing to people.
    I’m lucky that I feel (for now– my daughter’s name is slowly creeping up on the list!) I ended up naming my kids a couple of names that are like that… familiar, but not so common they’re overlooked. People stop and give them pause because you don’t hear them every day, but they’re not so obnoxiously unique that they’ve never heard it before.
    My Savannah actually had another Savannah in her pre-k class this year, and she loved it! She thought it was pretty special.

    Wow! Sorry for the novel of a comment! I just think all this stuff is so fun to think about. I say fun because I’m not pregnant…

  3. Linda

    In my multiples playgroup of 11 children, we had THREE Ellas and Ella is a top #25 name for the last few years. It made me very sad and has caused me mucho regrets. You have given me hope, though! Thanks!

  4. alison @ pennythoughts

    This is an encouraging post. It reminds me that if a name is classic, even if it’s in the top 10, it’s worth using. (For a trendy top 10 name like Ava or Madison, I still wouldn’t go for it.) I just adore the name William, but I’ve been concerned about it’s popularity. Maybe I just need to let that go and use it! That is, assuming we have a boy.

  5. alison @ pennythoughts

    On second thought, my name was only in the top 50 for my birth year, yet I feel like I run into Alison/Allison/Alyson/Allysons all the time. I really hate that and don’t want my children to experience the same thing. So maybe William isn’t worth it afterall.

  6. Barb @ getupandplay

    Swistle, you are a lucky lady! Where I live, class sizes are INCREASING and have since I was in school. We’re talking 35 kids, here. :( Other than that, I agree with your math wholeheartedly!

  7. Bird

    Ok, I wrote it down there and I’ll say it again: I had four Jennifers and a Jennie in both my fourth and fifth grade classes. I was living in the urban legend.

    I agree with what you’re saying–name usage is so spread out that your child proably won’t have to go by Jacob C. For me, my aversion to the top 10 was less about popularity and more about a date stamp. Jennifer is a perfectly nice name, but it has a certain time period attached to it. I feel the same about Heather and Tiffany and Jeremy and Kristin. I much prefer a name that has been used over time. My own child’s name is Charles nn Charlie and while that name was never really a rock star, people aren’t confused by it and I don’t think it has a date stamp.

    And gosh, I said it last post and I’ll say it again: Popularity isn’t the worst thing in the world. My college roommate, Ella, got teased because she had a strange name. These days everyone is in love with Ella. I’ve never heard of anyone getting teased for being named michael (#2)!

  8. Luna

    One positive to being Emily or Jacob (or Jennifer/Michael) is that you’ll never have to correct people on spelling or pronunciation of your name! To me, this is a BIG plus.
    Unless, of course, you are Emilie or Jakob, which look lovely but are probably destined for a lifetime of incorrect spelling

  9. JMC

    I agree. Though there does seem to be clustering in certain areas. I was ALWAYS in a class with 1 to 3 other Jennifers, and I knew several others beyond those that weren’t in my classes, but were in my grade. My brother Michael (yes, my parents weren’t all that creative), however, didn’t have any other Michaels in his classes. Oh wait, I take that back. There was one for a short time, but he moved. We did know several other Michaels, though.

  10. JMC

    Oh, I didn’t finish…

    Like you said, though, no other name has approached 4% of births (with the exception of Jessica) in a given year, so the chances of there being more than one of even the #1 name in a class are much lower than in the 70s with Jennifer. Though there is that regional clustering… I wonder if a cluster study of naming trends has been done.

  11. Mairzy

    I grew up with marked regional clustering. Is a name on the Top 10? Then I probably can count at least three children that I know of with that name. They’re not all the same age, but when they’re three or four years apart, they still show up together a lot.

    However, as one person pointed out: if it’s a classic Top 10 name you like, then it doesn’t flash the Top 10 tag as brightly. Someone hears “Emily” (I’ve known my share of Emilys) and thinks, “I hear that name a lot.” Someone hears “Madison” (OH the Madisons in my hometown!) and thinks, “That is SUCH a Jennifer name!”

    Variations skew the list some, too. Names like Brianna (Briana, Bryanna, Bryahna) don’t show up on the Top 10, but you still hear it so often it sounds like a Jennifer name.

    But kids USUALLY don’t care that they have a popular, repeating name. Some kids, it’s true, develop strange yearnings to have an Interesting Name and resent the popular ones… but those kids usually grow up to be name fanatics who contribute to Baby Naming websites.

    I do wonder, though: are we the first culture to worry about repeating names? It never seemed to worry anybody in the past. Why do you think Elizabeth has so many nicknames?

  12. Jill

    I will say that once these kids get to high school the whole “only 20 kids per class” thing becomes 300+ kids per ‘class’ in which case I don’t think it would be odd to have 2 or 3 or 5 of anyone with the same name.
    Possibly the reason that hasn’t been brought up is that we assume by high school kids know which Jennifer goes by Jenn or Jenny or Jennifer (or Mike or Michael, etc) so it’s less of an issue for the kids?
    So, oddly enough, my husband emailed me the link to the 2007 list yesterday to point out that Sage (a name he loves) came in around 400. And then proceeded to email that “no way are we using a name in the top 100.” It was like the twilight zone. I responded with a link to your post on the top 100. And then reiterated that Sage is not a name, it’s an herb, and since my husband is a chef that just will not fly. See also: Saffron. Gah.

  13. Tessie

    Math! It makes the world go round!

    I can’t help but notice that even after this intelligent and well-thought-out post, many of us still seem to have strong negative feelings about the Top 10. Which is, of course, fine. Just interesting that this is so ingrained.

    I also can’t help but notice that SOME names have to make the top 10. Even if NO name is really all that common anymore, there will always be a Top 10, and that doesn’t make those names automatically repugnant in my book. In fact, I like ALL of the names in the Top 10 for both boys and girls.

  14. Erin

    Tessie told me about your post and I love it! Both of my kids have top 10 names. It doesn’t bother me though, My name was somewhat popular when I was born, but not in the top 10 and yet there were still 4 of us in one class (the advanced Algebra class in 8th grade) and we were the only 4 Erins in our grade. I don’t see why it is bad to have the same name, I think people are more worried about being “creative” than the possible headache that their kid might face later with a wierd spelling, or a wierd name.

  15. Swistle

    Clarabella- Yes, that definitely contributes, and that’s probably why Richard and Robert are in the Top 100 even though I don’t know any little boys with that name: they’re named for grandparents or parents, but they go by middle names or by “Jack” or “Trey” or whatever. That’s not a large percentage of the population—but it’s worth taking into account.

    Heather- There will always be SOME doubling, just as when you flip a coin you don’t get heads-tails-heads-tails in perfectly even quantities. As you point out, even much more unusual names occasionally meet with other people who have the same name. My point is that (1) doubling is not the end of the world and (2) it’s not literally “five in every class,” which is what people say when they’re avoiding the Top 10.

    Linda- There will always be these odd little clusters. But you probably didn’t also have three Abigails and three Isabellas, even though those names are ranked higher. It was just one flukey cluster, and flukey clusters can’t be avoided.

    Alison- I agree about “trendy” versus “common.” I’d use Emily and William long before I’d use Madison and Caden. I also think boys are more okay with having common names than girls are, in general. Another good point you make is about FEELING like you run into the name all the time: it makes a disproportionately big impression on us when we encounter someone with our own name, and almost no impression when we encounter someone with NOT our own name. I think this is why people say things like “five in every class”: they FELT like it was five in every class, even though it wasn’t.

    Barb- Yes, it does vary by area. MORE EDUCATIONAL FUNDING PLS, NEXT PRESIDENT.

    Bird- It does occasionally happen, and look what a huge impression it makes! You remember that one example vividly, but you probably DON’T remember every class where you DIDN’T have that many Jennifers. I’m not saying it NEVER HAPPENS, I’m saying it doesn’t happen the way people say and remember it happens, which is “every time.” It happens occasionally, but Jennifers are still only 4 per 200 children (4% of girls). Flukes happen, but if there were literally 5 Jennifers per 30-kid classroom, that would mean 33% of baby girls were named Jennifer, and we know that to be untrue.

    JMC- Definitely there are regional differences, and the SS site lets you search by state which helps a little. But a lot of it is what people remember: if you had access to every class list, you might find that although you OFTEN had more than one Jennifer in your class, you also often DIDN’T—but you’d remember the times you did, and the times you didn’t wouldn’t make an impression. Or, maybe you did literally always have two or three, but then other classrooms in your school had zero. Or maybe every classroom literally did have three Jennifers and you were in a crazy area where the birth rate for Jennifers was 20% instead of the national 4%—but 1 in every 5 kids being Jennifer is something I think is very unlikely.

    Mairzy- I wonder, too, what the big deal is about repeating names. My own name was not uncommon in the ’70s, and I periodically had a double in a class–but I didn’t grow up swearing my child would never have to repeat my sad childhood.

    Jill- True: in a college class of 300 (assuming half boys, half girls), there would have been on average 6 Jennifers. In a group of mostly girls, it might be 12 Jennifers. Still: today’s names aren’t Jennifer-level common. The most popular girl name, Emily, is more like 3 Emilys on average in a class of 300 girls; 1-2 Emilys in a class of mixed boys and girls. That’s not bad for the most popular name in the United States.

    Tessie- YES! The Top 10 will always be with us.

  16. Swistle

    LoriD- I agree that it’s nice to get a good reaction to a name. But I rank my own reaction to the name higher: if I love a Top 10 name and want to use it, I won’t reject it just because other people will react with boredom the first time they hear it.

  17. Saly

    I went to catholic school until I was 11 and never once encountered another Sara(h) in my small class of about 25. When we moved and I transferred to middle school, there was a larger population—I would guess a class of about 300—there were three of us, all spelled Sara. Moving on to high school, where our two middle schools combined to have a graduating class of close to 700, there were 7 of us, all born in 1978 when Sarah was the #8 name and Sara was number 28. In the grand scheme……not so many. Though if you combined freshmen through seniors there were probably closer to 30 Sara(h)’s.

    In blogland alone, I know of 4 other Sarah’s and we are all pretty close to the same age. My sister-in-law shares my name and that is a little bit weird.

    I am surprised with the popularity of Caitlyn (etc.) in Lori’s area. One co-worker has a 13-year-old with that name and she is the only other one I know. I’ve never run in to another Edmund. Both of my children have a Madison and Liam in their class.

    I think you know overall how I feel about all of this, and reading what you have to say over and over again is very reassuring as we are naming our third child Hannah (#9). I have heard of many Hannah’s, for sure. Three babies born in 08 alone, one with a direct link to my family. Hannah’s in Toys R Us and McDonalds. But there is not a single Hannah in our daycare center—at least not according to the names they have festooned on the doors. Based on my experience with my own name though I am very secure in the name we have chosen and I don’t feel like having a common name is “a cross to bear” or anything like that.

  18. Erica

    My opinion is that if I really like a name, I’m going to use it regardless of where it falls on the list. I do hope that Maddie doesn’t have to be known as “Maddie A” in school, but if she is, it’s not the end of the world.

  19. Bird

    Swistle: You are right. i’m trying ot remember Jennifers from high school and I can think of one. I think i had one class with her in four years. Oh, I remember another, so roughly 1% of my graduating class. And for the record, when there were four jennifers in my class I didn’t think it was a bad thing–only as an adult do i worry about these things.

  20. Lara

    What a great post! You’re right about the names being more “spread out” than we usually think, but I’m guessing this is a more recent “trend” with naming.

    The Jennifer example is a good one, as I had 3 in my class all the way through elementary (Thanks, Dad, for not allowing Mom to name me that!!!!).

    And my niece Brittany was born in 1990 and she and the 2 other Brittanys — as well as the 2 or 3 Ashleys — in her class always had to use their last initial.

    It seems like over the last decade we’re trying harder to give our children “unique” names, hence those atrocious “kreativ” spellings. Maybe that’s why there aren’t as many duplicates these days.

    Thanks for the reply to my other post! I hadn’t realized you could search the list by state, and the trending thing is a neat feature, too!

  21. -R-

    I have never heard someone’s name and thought, “Oh no, not that name again!” It surprises me that other people have that reaction. I either like the name or I don’t.

  22. JMC

    swistle – Yes, you are right, many of the other classes didn’t have any Jennifers, we all just happened to be of similar academic ability, which is how our school divided classes, so we all always ended up in the same classes through middle and high school. There were seven of us in total (that I remember anyway) out of a class of about 300, I think, so that’s still only 2.3% of the total class population. I don’t remember anything at all about elementary school, let alone what people’s names were. Anyway, that’s all beside the point you are making, with which I completely agree.

    There are so many variables that go into whether there will be a duplicate name in any given situation, and the overall popularity of a given name is just one of them. Names that are typically found in a particular ethnic group and the density of that ethnic group in a particular area, I would think (without actually thinking) would have more to do with the presence of someone else with your child’s name. For example, I have a nephew named Giovanni. He lives in South Carolina. I would bet my house and my entire life savings that he will NEVER encounter another Giovanni in one of his classes (so long as he continues to live where he is and there isn’t a sudden influx of Italians in that area). There are just not very many Italians down there. Here in southeastern PA, however, there are a couple Giovannis that I know of in one of my kids’ grades (but NO Daniels, Christophers or Matthews). Not to mention Giuseppes and Vincenzos. There are a lot of Italians here. Yet Giovanni, Giuseppe and Vincenzo are most certainly NOT in the top 10, while Daniel, Christopher and Matthew are. So that is a long-winded way of saying, if you’re worried about duplicating a name, you have a hell of a lot more crap to look at than the top 10 baby name rankings.

  23. Swistle

    JMC- Yes, good point: the state figures are good to look at, but even they won’t tell you the story in your own neighborhood. You know, it’s too bad hospitals can’t post lists of newborns’ names. That would be SO HELPFUL.

    Also, the national info is still useful since families sometimes move, and since lots of kids will move away when they’re grown.

  24. Katie

    You may have answered this in the past, but I keep wondering….are the SSA names just FIRST names? Or do they add middle names into that mix as well?

  25. Becky

    I tend to agree… a name’s ranking wouldn’t be the deciding factor for me on whether or not I used it.

    However, there are definitely some names I would avoid because I perceive as being more popular than they actually are. Names ending in “N” are all the rage right now. I teach at a pretty small school. Our kindergarten doesn’t have any repeating names, but we do have a Peyton, a Kayden, a Cailen, a Jaylyn, an Ethan, a Gavin and a Landon. To me, they are all so similar that I FEEL as if I know seven kids with the same name, even though of course I technically don’t.

    I don’t know how I’m going to keep track of then next year. :)

  26. Motherhood Uncensored

    Depending on the u/s tomorrow, I’m just going with Swistle.

    Based on the huz’s recos, that should actually go over well, unless he dated you in high school or college and then I’m just going to have to say “no.”

  27. Swistle

    Motherhood Uncensored- An excellent, classic choice. And statistically, unlikely to be the name of an ex-girlfriend. Really, you might be on to the next hotness.

  28. Bird

    Ach. I’ve been to the baby namescape website and while very, very cool, I don’t think it’s particularly statistically accurate. For example, where I live a lot of women choose to have their babies in “the big city” where they have higher tech facilities. For this reason, one of the top names for my area was Honey. I know every area is different, but I’d be willing to bet that there just aren’t a lot of babies being born in that particular hospital. I am such a name nerd. Just shoot me.

  29. Hope

    I’m late, but I wanted to chime in. I totally agree with bird, in that it’s not necessarily about the popularity, but also whether the name is classic or will seem dated in the future.

    As someone named Hope, I can tell you that I hated having a unique name growing up. I wanted to be another Sarah or Katie. Now, of course, I love it.

    My older brother is named Ben, and although that name was ranked 32 the year he was born, he had 3 of them in his second grade class, one whom he is still friends with today, and we all still refer to as Ben C. even as he’s closing in on 30.

    So, you never know how things will get mixed up, and I agree that the top 10 isn’t the kiss of death.

  30. Jenni

    The math makes sense, but I am a Jennifer and there was AT LEAST one other Jennifer in every single class I ever had elementry-high school. So, even though the odds are against it, it can happen.

  31. Swistle

    Jenni- Definitely it can, just as if you flip a coin twice you might get two tails even though the odds are still 50-50. But what people SAY–which is what I’m refuting–is that there are ALWAYS duplicates (FIVE duplicates) in EVERY class, and that that’s true of ALL the Top 10 names. And that’s not true.

  32. Isabel & Company

    One of the triplets is named Alex. (Alexander). It was #1 in the rankings this year, and #20 in 2000. Still, I have not met another Alexander in real life. Brody name has just exited the top 100 this year, so we don’t need to worry about the “doubling”, although to tell you the truth, we didn’t worry that much about it in the first place!
    I don’t think we need to worry about meeting any other Schuylers…

  33. Isabel & Company

    One of the triplets is named Alex. (Alexander). It was #1 in the rankings this year, and #20 in 2000. Still, I have not met another Alexander in real life. Brody name has just exited the top 100 this year, so we don’t need to worry about the “doubling”, although to tell you the truth, we didn’t worry that much about it in the first place!
    I don’t think we need to worry about meeting any other Schuylers…

  34. Katie

    Didn’t Brody just almost enter the top 100 this year for the first time ever? If I’m not mistaken, the Name Voyager at the Baby Name Wizard’s site has it at 147 last year and 105 this year. Still – top 100 is definitely not the kiss of death!

  35. Shoeaddict

    I tend to lean towards “classic” names when listing names I like for my own children and if they happen to be in the top whatever then I’m not going change my mind.

    I would rather “classic” over “trendy” any day though.

  36. Katherine

    There was not only another Katie in my class, but she was another Katie B. So the teacher that year had us sign our names with a star and a heart dotting the “I”, and when we responded to questions in class, we were “Katie Star” and “Katie Heart”. I was “Katie Star”. I don’t remember it being a terribly common name, but we felt very special. Seriously, the other girls were jealous. So I never thought of sharing a common name as a kiss of death.

  37. Angie

    Ok, I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here. Swistle’s math is solid, but when people say they remember “like 5 Jennifer’s in a class” I always think of a high school class with about 300 kids, not an elementary school classroom with 20 kids. Therefore the 5 Jennifer’s in a class is not an exaggeration when out of a high school class of say 300… Just my two cents.

    However, the popular names aren’t as widely used as they were 30 years ago. That’s true. Therefore, in about 15 years, you will probably have about 2-3 Emily’s in a high school class of 300, which isn’t terrible.

    My name was the #4 name the year I was born, in 1974, and there were 3 of us in a class of about 318 (if I remember correctly). Which is similar to the numbers for Emily today. And while I never felt my name was unique, I didn’t think it was terribly overused. But I was glad my name wasn’t as overused as Jennifer.

  38. wheelmaker

    My name has not been in the top 1,000 ever (or, not in the past 50 years according to the SSA site), but it is the name of a famous historical figure (who I was not named after), so I get a lot of comments about being hamed after her. I used to explain that it was a family name but now I just go along with it. So, I personally would try to give my kid a name that wouldn’t cause too much confusion.

  39. Alexandra

    Emily was one of the most popular name of the decade I was born in. It accounted for 1.2% of all births that decade. When I was born (mid-90s) my parents chose between Emily and Alexandra. They named me Alexandra (#28 for my decade, 0.4%) because they thought Emily was too popular. I somehow made it until age 11 never meeting another Emily, but in my neighborhood there were 7 girls in my grade: 2 Alexandra’s and 2 Alexa’s. (Alexa – #109 for the decade, 0.1% of births) Combined thats 0.5% of all births, yet 57% of us were one of the two. So, I think popularity has something to do with where you’re raised.

    Just checked my high school yearbook: out of 429 kids in my class, 8 were either Alexa or Alexandra. There’s exactly one Emily. I’ll be the first to say that I hated having such a popular name. Maybe it’s because when you add all the boys named Alex/Alexander it feels like even more, but there is ALWAYS an Alexandra/Alexa in each one of my classes (never mind the occasional Alexandria, Alexis, Alexia, Allie, or even Allison). So I don’t know, but I always wished I had a more unique name. Just my two cents.

  40. lasselanta

    Fun coincidence from the teacher’s perspective (also highly unlikely from the mathematical perspective): I had a class of 16 high schoolers with two Emilys… not so uncommon. However, they also had the same (fairly common) last name. Even better? They had the same middle initial! (I never got a chance to figure out if they actually had the same middle name.) We had quite a time figuring out what we would call them, until one dropped the class right before school started.

    I don’t suppose this relates very directly to your post, except to point out that just because statistically unlikely experiences do occur doesn’t make them less statistically unlikely. :-)

  41. AmyRenee

    From another teacher perspective – I worked in a small school in southern New Mexico and we had 2 students in the same grade named “Stephanie Nicole Avalos”. It was a paperwork and record keeping nightmare, although the 2 girls didn’t seem to care so much, other than occasionally getting the wrong paperwork sent home. In that area Spanish telenovellas had a huge influence on names – so there would be 4 Adriannas in 5th grade, or 3 Yesenias in 3rd grade, for instance but no others in the school (average kids per grade approx 75)

  42. Jennie

    Here’s my advice to any Jennifer or equally-as-popular name out there: marry someone with an impossible last name. I’ve never been so glad to be Jennifer than since I got married.

  43. Anonymous

    I am a teacher and I have very few overlapping names amongst my students, so when there are two (or more!) of the same name, it is a bit jarring.

    Oddly enough, the most often duplicated names at my school were NOT that popular during the year that the kid was born.

    Most of my students were born in 1997. There are three Lily’s (out of about 50 female students in that grade), and yet Lily was only #220 that year. (Note, all of these students were born as “Lily”s and not Lillian’s, Liliana’s, etc.) I have two Sophias, but Sophia was barely in the top 100 back in 1997. It’s kind of a weird It kind of made me wonder whether my state was just “ahead of the curve” when it came to these names, and indeed, Sophia was ranked higher in my state at the time (57 versus 94). But Lily still wasn’t even in the top 100, and according to the SSA data, there were only 38 Lily’s born in the entire state that year — and three of them are amongst my 50 eighth grade girls! Even more strange is that I don’t have a single Emily, which was the most popular name for that year — in fact, in my state, there were nearly six times as many Emily’s born as Sophia’s, and yet I have two Sophia’s and no Emily’s.

    So now I’m wondering about the significance of truly local data. Sure, my favorite name isn’t even in the top 100 right now, but it’s #78 in my state as of 2010 (have to wait until tomorrow to find out what it will be as of 2011). And I would bet that most of the kids with that name are living in my general area (it’s a more cosmopolitan name and there’s just one main metropolitan area in our state). So I really wonder whether there was a high concentration of those 38 Lily’s being born in my city back in 1997, rather than out in other areas of the state. And I also wonder whether, of the 67 girls with my favorite name that were born last year in my state, a big chunk of them are also living in my neighborhood.

    I wish that there was more local data available — individual cities or metropolitan areas have so much more clear-cut name trends than states as a whole. One of our local (city) hospitals publishes the most common baby names (of babies born at THAT hospital) and it’s always so interesting to see the differences between those names and the state or national data. For instance, Mohammed is a top ten name at that hospital, even though it’s only #562 nationally.

  44. Umiyyad

    When I was at college (class of 2000) in the UK, there were seven Tims in my circle of friends. No one cared, it was just fun coming up with nicknames. So we had Tall Tim (he was 6’6), Little Tim, Maths Tim, Chinese Tim (who wasn’t Chinese, he just had a lot of Chinese friends), etc etc..

    We had a similar issue with Andys, of which I knew another 7 or so. But that’s because they are GREAT names!

    Even so I like being a bit different and have opted for names which WERE really popular when I was a kid but you hardly hear (at least in the UK) on babies now. I have an Andrew, and a Philip and have yet to meet another of either in their age range.

    Now we’re expecting no3 and I am seriously considering a name which used to be the no 1 name in the UK – but has since totally dropped out of the top 200.

    But your math has made me wonder again if I should consider maybe checking out the most popular lists again!


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