Utah’s trendy baby names

My favorite site on the web is The Baby Name Wizard.  By Common Consent is number two.  Recently, they added a new feature that maps popular names in each state over the course of several decades.  The surprising result: Utah is often the state where baby name trends are incubated.  Check out Natalie, Madison, Jacob, and Jayden on the map.

This post mostly exists to share a cool site.  But there is also a wealth of information here about how names spread and people interact.  Some names become popular in regions; others hit the national scene immediately.  Madison is popular everywhere but Wisconsin.  Who wants to name their child after Madison, Wisconsin?  Dakota, for boys, never became popular in the Dakotas.  On the other hand, Caroline has been popular in the Carolinas.

So enjoy exploring the site, and feel free to speculate in the comments about why Utah leads so many trends.

Comments

  1. My first thought is simply because we have so many babies here.

    They need to be named something right?

  2. “Who wants to name their child after Madison, Wisconsin?”

    Ummm….people who like cheese, cold weather, birkenstocks, and pot.

    I do not like pot.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    I know two women named Utahna. Marty Robbins’ wife’s name was Marizona.

  4. woodboy says:

    This website is really great. I wish there was some information on the methodology though. I can’t figure out exactly what the different color shades mean. I thought at first it was the relative popularity within the state compared to other names in that state, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I would imagine Utah’s high birthrate means trendy names spread quicker because people have more exposure to them. Also, I had no idea “Ava” was such a popular name.

  5. This is fun stuff. My first son’s name was popular in the 90s. He was born in 2000. Utah is the state it was most popular in. (But it was even more popular as a girl’s name). My first three boys’ names all peaked a few years before they were born (meaning I am way behind the trend). And all of them were fairly popular Utah names. My fourth son isn’t even on the map anywhere because we cursed the poor kid with an obscure Biblical name. And my daughter’s name peaked in the 70s. It isn’t on the map at all now.

    Conclusion: we are just not that cool.

    The funny thing about my name is that my mom named me Stephanie because she thought it was so unusual. Not so much. We had three Stephanies on my cheer squad (although it did peak a few years before I was born).

  6. Oh, and I didn’t grow up in Utah. I did go to school at BYU. There are definite LDS themes running through my sons’ names – the first three are all Latter Day prophet names, which I didn’t even notice until my friend asked, “Are you going to name your third son Thomas to keep up the prophet theme?”, and I answered, “Well, um, no, but we are naming him [another prophet name]“. I didn’t even put it all together until she said that. But those Mormon roots run deep.

  7. Mark Brown says:

    We are friends with several families who have named their boys all after general authorities, e.g. McKay, Tanner, Kimball, Hunter, Lee, Spencer, Taylor, etc..

    As you might expect, these name are much more popular in Utah than anywhere else, with two exceptions. Tanner was popular in the Dakotas before it was popular in Utah and Hunter peaked in different states in the South before it moved out West.

  8. Mark Brown says:

    If you want to see something funny, type in the name Dallin.

  9. Cynthia L. says:

    Mapping Dallin is funny. But if you want to get a map of the #1 story in demographics over the last few decades, type in Jose or Jesus.

    Also interesting: do Mark and then Luke. Both standard Bible names, and they kind of replace one another over time. Weird.

  10. esodhiambo says:

    Totally weird: my kids’ names all peaked in VT. I have never been there. Clearly, I must go.

  11. In a conversation with my principle, we discussed how kids with “normal” names often adjust better socially then kids with awkward or weirdly spelled names. We also talked about how there are certain names he never sees in his office for bad behavior. Names like Sarah and Rebecca.

  12. Did you know that Spencer W. Kimball (via Utah/Idaho Mormons) kicked off the Spencer craze in the 1970s? Seriously!

  13. Natalie B. says:

    It is fun to compare different spellings of names–Steven v. Stephen–too.

  14. Ran out of names says:

    With a large extended family, we ran out of baby names. So, we named our 5th child Generica- the no name baby.

  15. Strange — Dallas peaked in Utah in 1995.

  16. Utah probably leads the trends in baby names because it’s the state with the highest birthrate. Lots of opportunity for naming leads to leading the trend.

    I love the Baby Naming Wizard as well, if only to help my husband and I pick names that are not high on the list. Our daughter has an uncommon name but we now live in a town with three other girls with the same name. I blame Sarah Palin-effect though (she has a daughter with the same name as our daughter). Note: we named our daughter before Sarah Palin was in the national spotlight.

  17. It’s interesting how people react to names. We named one of our sons Isaiah. It’s surprising how many people (before they met him) assumed he was black. And people also have a hard time spelling his name right for some reason, but that’s a whole other issue.

  18. StillConfused says:

    I will have to admit that the unusual naming in utah really gets on my nerves. I really hate the goofy spellings too.

  19. Would your moniker look any worse if we spelled it StilKonfoosed?

  20. It's a series of tubes says:

    My name peaked the year I was born (1977), after being practically non-existent until about 1965. Clearly that O’Neal guy was the impetus.

  21. Natalie B. says:

    Jesus is a pretty interesting name to track, too, since it probably tells us something about the spread of immigration.

  22. Re Stephen/Steven: I’ve observed that gentiles are named Stephen (New Testament name) and Jews are named Steven.

  23. I don’t think there is anything wrong with unusual names. I and my two children have unusual first names, all of which reflect our ethnicity and family history.

  24. Ardis,
    # 19, remember when this topic came up once before, and I mentioned that my nieces in Utah were named after a tree, a motorcycle, and a brand of sun glasses, and that my daughter was named after a Stephen King book, and you correctly guessed Box Elder, Kawasaki, RayBan, and Pet Semetary?

  25. What can I say, Kevin? I’m just gifted when it comes to names. How is little Pet Semetary doing these days, anyway?

  26. Mother of two grandchildren, Buick 8 and Dreamcatcher.

  27. Typecast Modulator says:

    I’ve always liked the name Edward, but could never name a son that because of a certain set of books currently very popular in the Mormon Belt. Not cool.

  28. woodboy says:

    hmm, my Gentile dad is named Steven, and my Jewish boss is named Stephen.

  29. Michael says:

    I wonder, in their attempt at uniqueness, if Utah parents realize how the strange names are interpreted outside the “Utah Cultural Bubble”. Saddling a child with a strange or different name does create a first impression that will need to be addressed by that child as they grow up and build their life outside the mountain west. I am always perplexed by Utah names such as ShaNae or EdRoy or LuDonna.

    A rose by other other name is still a rose but there are repercussions to “too much” uniqueness.

  30. Woodboy, they were switched at birth.

  31. Too much uniqueness? Come now, Michael…I am sure that our children will fit right in with bourgeoisie society.

    We named our #2 Shem (though he is our only one not born in Utah). While this is a historical name…it is different. I have wanted the name, but my wife was not sold. One day we mentioned to a lady at a yard sale the name I had in mind. She said: “Don’t name him that…he will get beat up at recess.” Well, we named him that in honor of the son of Noah and as a middle finger to that lady.

    He was picked on a recess this last year…but only for wearing a Utes sweatshirt to school in Provo…and only by kids much older than him..he is huge.

  32. Michael says:

    Chris H.,

    Good for him. I think Shem is a great name for a potential WWF wrestler. LOL.

  33. As a Christopher, I run around claiming to be socialist just to get away from my boring name.

  34. John Mansfield says:

    If Chris H.’s son ever spouts off in the obnoxious Mel Gibson/Oliver Stone manner, when he gets around to his apology he can say “I’m no anti-semite. Look, my name’s Shem.” Hopefully he’ll never put himself in that situation, but he’s ready just in case.

    And since I just made a joke about Chris H.’s son’s name, I’d better return the opportunity. My oldest is named Anson. For my uncle, who shares that name, it was really jarring at first to hear that name called without it referring to him; his Uncle Anson had died about 25 years before my son was born. For us Johns, in contrast, our name is always contextual.

  35. Michael says:

    Wasn’t Anson that Happy Days TV show guy?

  36. We’re still getting used to having a kid named Seven in our ward. He’s still six.

  37. Martin (36) Was he named for his birth order or because his parents didn’t know how to pronounce Sven?

    I’m surprised nobody has brought up the Utah Baby Namer yet! I think that Utah leading the trends is just pure luck.

    Incidentally, my name has been consistently popular since shortly after I was born (1983), while my wife’s name has only ever been popular in the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, and then mostly in Minnesota. (Her name is Gretchen, and she was a BYU baby, named after a girl whose name was actually Bonnie. Seriously.)

  38. John Mansfield says:

    Anson was that guy from Happy Days. He was also the last president of Texas, and blues guitarist Anson Funderburgh. When your son’s name is Anson, you hear about a lot of Ansons you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Anyone ever try Anson’s Eatery in downtown LA? I’ve wondered about that one since driving past it going I don’t remember where, maybe the train station or the bishops’ storehouse cannery.

  39. re: Names “originating” in Utah.

    Has it not occured to anyone that its not that most/many names originate in Utah, but that we, in the mormon culture, on BCC, many of which are from Utah, are searching for names that are particularly popular in our faith/culture/state. Seems like a very high probability of being a false-correlation. Perhaps if we search for names like Tyrone, Mohammed, Chin, or even common bible names like Joseph, we don’t see this Utah origination phenomenon. Just a thought.

    Also, I thought I’d search for “Generica” after seeing comment 14, and came across Genesis as a name, sadly gaining popularity very quickly. Thats a scary thought.

  40. And yes, naming your baby something uber-original can be a bad thing. It is self-important. It correlates with a decline in community-oriented spirit, IMHO. I think we’d do well to stop the self-important, everyone is unique, everyone is special ((Dash: Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of. Our powers made us special.
    Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
    Dash: [sullenly] Which is another way of saying no one is.)) American Idol disillusionment trend that seems to have swept our nation over the last couple decades.

  41. #29 astounds me. I have never met a single person in Utah with those sorts of names.

    Now, the South is another story. You want bad names, try “Chlamydia” or “Roscoe”.

  42. I did a quick run-through of the 20 most popular names each for boys and girls according to http://www.ssa.gov. These are the only ones that indicated a significant beginning specifically in Utah:

    Girls:
    Emily
    Madison
    Chloe
    Natalie

    Boys:
    Ryan

    So Utah isn’t really a trendsetter, least not for the most popular names of last year. And they’re also not horrible names, either.

  43. People are weird no matter where you go. Utah does not have a corner on the market of weird names. Best I’ve heard from there, though, is first name: Justa, middle name: Cowgirl. But that name probably has more to do with rodeo culture and less to do with being from Utah. Maybe.

    My sister on the east coast met a woman who named her child Meconium. Yes, this mother knew what it was, just loved the way it sounded.

    Also heard of someone (in TX) who legally changed their last name to L-A, pronounced “Ledasha” of course. And I believe they changed their son’s first name to Pimp Daddy. This story came up b/c the teacher (the one relating the story) did not want to use that name in a classroom with young kids.

    I’m hoping that none of the people associated with these names actually read this blog…and I think my chances are pretty good.

  44. SilverRain (42) – I chose to be offended by your disparaging of Roscoe’s Chicken N’ Waffles (because I know that was your intent).

  45. 44 – funny, when I read Roscoe, all thought of context went out the window and I had a mental-Homer moment “MMMmmmmmmm Chicken n’ Waffles)

  46. SilverRain, don’t your numbers support the trendsetter claim?

    Utah with 2.8 million people, .9% of the country’s 310 million population, was the source of 12.5% of the most popular names.

  47. My sister on the east coast met a woman who named her child Meconium. Yes, this mother knew what it was, just loved the way it sounded.

    That’s just cruel.

    Martin (36) Was he named for his birth order or because his parents didn’t know how to pronounce Sven?

    And that would be hilarious.

  48. Elouise says:

    A soon-to-be-mom asked my advice a few years ago about naming her daughter Chautauqua.

    It’s a beautiful word, of Iroquois origin, one of its meanings being “a sack tied in the middle.” It is also the name of a county in New York, and of a cultural institution that has been going strong for three centuries now. I love the sound of it.

    But I reminded the young mum-to-be that it is fiercesome hard to spell. I toured one summer on a NEH-funded Chautauqua in five Western states, and STILL had to check just now to be sure I had spelled it right. It may be fun for the new mother to explain and spell the name the first year of the child’s life, but by the time the child is in school, most of the fun will have leaked out for all concerned. My own name is spelled differently than usual, and I’ve gone through my life either correcting the spelling others have used, or saying what the heck and letting “Eloise” stand, although that word never means me to me, but someone I sort of know, like a distant cousin.

    I suggested the mother consider Chautauqua as a middle name. Don’t know what she finally did.

    Odd names and odd spellings can be distinctive and all of that, and surely there is some pride in being the only Kumquat in the fifth grade . But I do think that discretion out-lives novelty, most times.

  49. “Ardis,
    # 19, remember when this topic came up once before, and I mentioned that my nieces in Utah were named after a tree, a motorcycle, and a brand of sun glasses, and that my daughter was named after a Stephen King book, and you correctly guessed Box Elder, Kawasaki, RayBan, and Pet Semetary?”

    I love this.

    But I thought your kids were named Sugar Maple, Ninja, Maui Jim and The Shining. How did I get that so wrong?

  50. It's a series of tubes says:

    45: I ate chicken and waffles for lunch yesterday and they were amazing. With cornbread.

  51. KLC #46;
    Not really, because if you look closer, “Emily” popped out pretty much all over the country at about the same time (probably due to some pop culture phenomenon or something), it is just that Utah has the most. That would seem to indicate that in that case, Utah just followed the trend the most strongly.

    “Madison” and “Chloe” have almost the same pattern. “Natalie” and “Ryan” have a slower popularity growth, indicating an actual trend-setting possibility.

    To me, this would seem to indicate that Utah might throw itself more quickly into baby naming trends, not that they start them.

  52. SR, you originally said that the names you listed had a “significant beginning specifically in Utah” which is a little different from “Utah just following the trend”, no?

  53. Perhaps I didn’t word it the best way possible. What I meant by it was that they were the only names that even show a high level of usage in Utah near the beginning of their popularity.

    But I’m hardly a statistician, so I probably have no idea what I am talking about.

  54. Where’s Ziff when we need him?

  55. I just spoke on the phone with a Shantana (from Utah) . . . I wonder if that trend will spark a bonfire.

  56. If I were she, I’d start that bonfire with my birth certificate.

  57. #29 – AMEN !
    #41 – Perhaps you’ve heard of LaVell Edwards, just to start ? Or maybe all those people moved to the Southeast where we choke back the laughter when they are introduced in Sac. Mtg. Westerners/Utahns seem to love adding a ‘La’ or ‘Sha’, etc. to names. I’ve heard many versions of LaVonda/LaRhonda/LaShonda. And seems like all their toddler boys’ names end in ‘ayden/aiden’. There was a columnist years ago who compared Utah names to NFL players’ names. Hilarious ! Seriously though, I don’t think enough parents take into account how aggravating it can be for a kid to NEVER meet anyone who understands or can spell your name. Not to mention job applications. My sister & I grew up w/ incredibly unusual names. This really made us hate new school yrs & also substitute teachers. My name is kind of common now – it became trendy when I was about 20, but my sister has never gotten a break from the dread of meeting new ppl which will usually get her a reaction including 1 or all of the following: weird looks, lazy pronunciations & aggravating questions. This got really old after her 1st few yrs & my parents have said they regretted it & should have given her the weird family name as a middle name instead. Generica ? Shem ? Kids w/ BOM names ? I pity them & their future completely.

  58. T-NC, for a minute I thought you might be Ta-Nehesi Coates, the writer for the Atlantic Monthly. But when I got to “My name is kind of common now” I quickly realized that could not be.

  59. It’s Tubular-Nookie Christensen. That name did get quite trendy in the 80s.

  60. 57 – Along with La and Sha, lets not forget Mc
    Mckell, Mckayla, Mckenna, Mckenzie, McCade, Mccabe, McKay, McElla, McAnna . . . .

  61. Uh… Natalie… This must become your favorite website: http://wesclark.com/ubn/

    Wes Clark FTW!

  62. Crazy Kids ! Tamara in NC – (the state)

  63. How common does a baby name have to be before it is considered trendy?

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