The XX Factor

Baby-Naming Styles of the Rich and Elite

Over at the Daily Beast, Pamela Redmond Satran has written what’s being billed as ” The Elite’s Top 50 Baby Names .” Actually, it’s just a list of names that users have been searching for on Satran’s Web site, nameberry , which the author-if she does say so herself-calls “the high-quality, intelligent source for stylish names” for “discerning parents.” I’m not quite sure how she’s defining “elite”-it seems to be some combination of cultural savvy, wealth, and not going to Applebee’s-or how we’re supposed to know that her users fall into this particular demographic.

But at the very least, these are names I could easily imagine being yelled over the Putumayo jams at the hip-mom cafes of brownstone Brooklyn-names like Sophia, Atticus, Milo, and Imogen (a name that elicited many wistful sighs here in the DoubleX cubicle pod). Satran definitely puts her finger on the way that, for some parents, picking out a baby name is like curating the perfect bookshelf or outfit-it should telegraph refinement without snobbishness, exclusivity without gaucheness, uniqueness without declassé wackiness. ( DoubleX er Noreen notes that her sister complains about non-Irish parents who give their kids Gaelic-ish names, like Finnegan , perhaps because they’re “exotic” while still being “white”-or what I like to call the Tory Burch effect.)

Satran then took her top 50 list and compared it with the Social Security Administration’s list of popular baby names from around the country. A few conclusions that seemed worth pulling out:

In a reversal of the naming habits of the general population. Elite parents are more likely to give their sons non-traditional names than they are their daughters. … Rich boys can get away with a quirky name like Quinn or Phineas, while upscale girls are more often given conventional, non-hoochie names such as Caroline and Jane.

Names on the Elite boys’ list more often have soft sounds-Asher, Silas-and vowel endings-Kai, Milo-which telegraph a greater acceptance of an unconventional style of masculinity.

Obviously, Satran hasn’t done a robust study here, but what do you think of these hypotheses-are “elite” boys really allowed to be zanier than their sisters? And are “nonelite” boys’ names really that much more macho-or are we just more used to them? (After all, five of the top 10 boys names in the United States have “soft sounds.”)

While you’re pondering, I leave you with this little gem of weirdness from the A/V department of the Social Security Administration: