The XX Factor

Baby Wants a Brand-New Name

Why did you name your kid whatever you named your kid? Maybe you always wished you had a cooler, less girlish, more girly, longer, shorter, more common, more unusual name. Maybe you’ve always dreamed you’d spawn a tiny Jago or Kimiera. Maybe you were watching TV one night and can’t quite put your finger on why Peggy suddenly seemed like a great idea. Time magazine’s Claire Suddath looked at the question earlier this year and found that there really is no answer to the question of why certain names trend up and down the list. The easiest thing to conclude is that some name has to be No. 1.

This year, it’s Sophia for girls and Aiden for boys. But BabyCenter knows that’s barely news (unless you’re currently expecting and, in a frenzy of hormone-induced panic, searching baby names hourly). So editor Linda Murray searches her list (compiled from registered BabyCenter users, which Murray says include a somewhat shocking 78 percent of moms in the U.S.) for more intriguing trends. For an interview with Politico , she took a look at how political fortunes affect the monikers of those attached to them and found the Palin girls (Bristol, Willow, and Piper) heading up, along with Elena (Kagan) and Michelle (Obama) and Levi (that would be Bristol’s baby-daddy, as it’s nearly impossible not to know). For the Today Show , she offered a more pop view of culture, describing a Glee effect (and other TV and movie hooks): Quinn and Finn ( Glee ), Betty ( Mad Men ), and Demi and Tiana (Disney) are, it says, rising fast. (No suggestion of a big increase for “Rapunzel,” though.)

Maybe the things that fascinate us about with the list say more about us than the list itself. Do you check for your name? Your kids’ names? Or is it something else that makes us click? Names are fascinating for what they say about where we come from, more than who we are. That may be why Murray says celebrity kid names tend to see more interest than the names of the celebs themselves. Imagining Sarah Palin, 20 years ago, trying “Bristol” on for size, can’t help but give you a little insight into the 1990 Sarah and her dreams for her daughter. Cool, rugged, independent, unisex, a little enigmatic–who else thinks that’s the way Sarah Palin would like to see herself?

Photograph of baby courtesy Wikimedia Commons.