The Washington Post

Sophia, Jacob and other popular baby names: What the choice says about you

View Photo Gallery: Social Security’s most popular names of 2011 reveal pop-culture roots.

The annual rankings of baby names have just been released by the Social Security Administration, and the results offer an interesting window into what does and doesn’t influence us.

All parents think they are choosing a name for personal reasons, but the list reminds us that the decision may be more of group think than we realize.

Apparently originality is not a motivator as much as familiarity, celebrity influence, age of parent and maybe even political affiliation.

This year, Sophia topped the girls’ list, edging out Isabella, which has reigned for two years. And, making manufacturers of monogrammed trinkets especially happy, Jacob remained the boys champion for the 13th year.

Emma, Olivia and Ava were the other top girl names. Mason jumped to second place for boys, followed by William, Jayden and Noah. Michael came in at sixth, its lowest ranking since 1948.

The pop culture-minded are noting that Kourtney Kardashian named her son Mason in 2009.

Also, the fastest rising girls’ name is Briella (no. 497). Apparently there is a reality TV star with that name on a show called “Jerseylicious”. And that’s not the only obvious selling point — that same “star” is also on a spinoff called “Glam Fairy.”

(I mock from pure defensiveness. I hail from the great Garden State.)

The fastest rising boy name was Brantley (no. 320). It’s the same name of the popular country singer Brantley Gilbert.

A baby naming expert told the Associated Press that parents of newborn Briella are not necessarily seeking fame for their future glam fairies.

“Celebrity naming is just about the exposure, and about everybody hearing that name at the same time,” said Laura Wattenberg, creator of the Web site, “It’s not about the fame, it’s about the name.”

Meanwhile, NPR asked Wattenberg to analyze the name ranking politically.

She told Alan Greenblatt that there’s an obvious divide between popular names in red states and blue states.

The twist is that the left-leaning states tend toward more traditional names like John and Abigail, while the red states have more original names.

Why? Wattenberg thinks that women in conservative states tend to have children at younger ages and therefore may more readily embrace “modern” names like “Rykan.”

But as a good politician or marriage counselor might say, we agree on more than we think.

Visit any playground in the country and its likely that at some point a parent’s voice will pierce the scene with a furious, “Jacoooooooob!”

What affected your choice of a baby name? Was it a “popular” name?

Related Content:

Blue Ivy, daughter of Beyonce and Jay-Z, arrives: The kooky celebrity name trend continues.

Mad Men names as dated as the characters

Number of baby girls named Palin spikes


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