Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Initial Letters and Name Fashions

There is a game on The Baby Name Wizard's forums going on where a list of names featuring the most popular one from each of the letters of the alphabet is given, and you guess which birthyear it's from based on the SSA list. I decided to compose a list myself from the year I was born; on the girl's list many of them are what you'd expect, such as the perennial favorite Elizabeth and names that were in style at the time such as Heather and Nicole. On the other hand there are some surprises, such as the O and P tops: Olivia (ahead of its prime) and Patricia (behind its prime). The names like the latter two got my attention and led me to do some NameVoyager experiments to observe the general trends of each of the initial letters from the alphabet. As with individual names, many of the letters exhibit style peaks and troughs.

A - Shows an "antique revival" pattern - popular in the early years of the SSA list, had its low point around the mid-20th century, and has come back stronger than ever before in recorded history.
B - No strong trends, although Barbara and Betty spiked the letter around the 1930s.
C - Once again no strong generational trends.
D - The opposite of "A": A mid-century favorite letter, less popular before and after that time.
E - Similar trajectory to "A" but more popular at its original peak as opposed to its second one.
F - A letter that was more common at the commencement of the SSA-list era but hasn't come back into vogue.
G - More common among Boomers and earlier generations than after; had its low around the time most of today's new parents were born, and is showing signs of coming back.
H - Another "older" letter, with its low point in the 1960s and a lesser return since.
I - Notice how the vowels are showing the classic "100-year revival" pattern, similar to how "A" and "E" have followed.
J - Despite the plethora of Jasons, Jennifers, and Jessicas among today's parents, this letter has been pretty perennial but is now showing signs of falling.
K - A "modern" letter, much more popular from the second half of the 20th century forward than before (although starting to decline).
L - Gradually declined through the 1990s, but is now returning fairly strongly.
M - Another perennial letter, although a little less common now than in the past.
N - Fairly perennial, but more common in recent years (Nancy did most of the mid-century propping for the letter).
O - Same pattern as the other vowels (hence Olivia sneaking in a generation earlier as I described when not many "O" names were popular).
P - Like "D" a letter that peaked mid-century (once again allowing Patricia to show up a generation later when the letter was going out of style).
Q - You'll start to notice that many of the "high Scrabble value" letters were pretty uncommon until recently, and have spiked in the past decade or two.
R - Another "mid-century consonant" now in more of a fashion limbo than at its height.
S - More common among today's living adults than in earlier or later years, but only modestly lower now.
T - A Gen-X favorite letter, at its highest in the 1960s and '70s.
U - Follows the same "vowel pattern" as the more common vowels, apart from the "Unknown" placeholder.
V - Most common in the early years of the 20th century, but on name forums is showing growing approval (and thus a potential for coming back in style in a few years).
W - Like "F" a letter more common with the early years of the stats than later, although William itself did most of that contribution.
X - Same path I cued you in on with Q's entry.
Y - Uncommon at the start of the chart, but among the living generations has had its ups and downs (with a limited set of names though).
Z - Similar to "Q" and "X" but did show some use earlier on the charts.

No comments:

Post a Comment