The Washington Post

The top baby names of 2011 — or, what not to name your baby

This post has been updated.

Today the Social Security Administration released the top 10 baby names for 2011. As it turns out, I had great preparation for this last week, when I wrote about the man currently known as Tyrannosaurus Rex Joseph Gold (formerly Tyler Gold).

But another week brings with it another list of popular baby names.

What do these say about us? One line in the Associated Press’s dry report on the subject bears repeating: “a new list of popular baby names heavily influenced by religion and reality TV.”

That’s pretty much our culture in a nutshell.

If you want to know what we care about, look to the babies.

1. Sophia. You love wisdom. Or the wife of the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand! Maybe both.

2. Isabella. Get behind me, “Twilight” fan. The only thing worse than being named Isabella because your mother was a “Twilight” fan is being named Anakin or Obi-Wan because your father was a “Star Wars” fan. At least Bella offers plausible deniability. (“I’m really into monarchs of Spain,” your mother will say, lamely, when you demand an explanation decades later.)

3. Emma. Jane Austen springs eternal, it would appear.

4. Olivia. Shakespeare also springs eternal. Or possibly you saw Olivia Wilde in something and it made a great impression on you.

5. Ava. Uh, misheard Nabokov springs eternal? What is the origin of this? There has to be a motive. You don’t just wake up one morning with a child named Ava and no recollection of how you reached this conclusion. This is the name for people who love palindromes but thought Anna was too much effort to type? For people who understood conceptually that naming the kid Lolita would be a problem? I’m really not sure.

1. Jacob. There really is no other name for a baby conceived at a “Twilight” convention. You were going to call it Edward, but vampires are so 2009. And hey, it’s biblical! Two birds with one stone!

2. Mason. This is a Kardashian name. Shame! And not the kind with lots of Michael Fassbender in it.

3. William. You have great hopes that your son will conquer things. If he doesn’t, he can always put periods in his name at random and write songs about the 2008 election.

4. Jayden. Seriously? Don’t name your kids after Will Smith’s kids. That’s setting them up for a life of coming up second in Google results. I don’t know. Jayden is one of those names like Aloe and Marlo that has nothing technically wrong with it, but you just know in later life that kid is going to be the person in skinny jeans hitting on people by telling them about the time he went to Machu Picchu and had a revelation.

5. Noah. You really love whales paired animals, huh? No, don’t get up, I know you’re a hipster. Expect this child to be ironically attired before he fully understands the concept of irony.

This is a pretty good year for biblical names, but not the usual biblical suspects: Michael plummeted out of the top 10 for the first time in 68 years. Instead, Elijah is making a comeback. This is pretty awkward as 21st-century names go, but on the bright side it’s a ticket to free seders for the rest of your life!

Briella: This name jumped up to No. 497. Apparently its origin is in Briella Calafiore, who stars in something called “Jerseylicious” and its spinoff, “Glam Fairy.” Well done, Briella! I don’t know what this name says about you parents, other than that you have watched “Glam Fairy” at some point in your time on this green earth. At least you aren’t a “Twilight” fan. Presumably your older daughter Snooki will be too busy demanding explanations for the dubious wisdom of this choice to hit home.

But most importantly of all, Elvis is Back! The King lives again! He’s pulling in strong at No. 904. Still below Aaden, though.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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