There has been a lot of controversy about names in 2020: from what to name the virus responsible for the current pandemic to the unusual name of Elon Musk’s new baby boy (X Æ A-12).
In this post, I will go over some pressing questions you’ve had about baby names (ok maybe not pressing) including some recommendations for Elon Musk, see if Americans wanted their babies to “be like Mike”, and look at how baby name trends have changed since the last pandemic over 100 years ago.
I looked at US baby names from 1880 until the most recent data available (2018). This dataset from the Social Security website includes the Top 1000 baby names per year (for privacy reasons) which represents just over 70% of all US baby names.
Elon - baby “X” Musk?
Judging by Grandma’s latest tweet, it looks like Elon Musk’s, and girlfriend singer Grimes’, new baby already has a nickname: X. However, the original name (or is it a model number?) of baby X Æ A-12 and how to pronounce is quite a mystery and may not be legal under California law. It is very likely that they will need to provide a more traditional name on the birth certificate that has only 26 human…uhhmm I mean English letters or maybe X himself will just want to be a known variable one day?
So I thought I’d take things into my own hands and offer up some suggestions. Let’s look at the two letters, X and A, which appear to be the top two options.
- If they chose a name starting with X, then Xavier sounds like a good bet. However, if they choose the letter A, Angel would be a strong choice since its close to the Archangel-12 plane (X Æ A-12 which was Elon’s contribution to the name). Although not in the Top 10, Ash/Ashley is another strong contender as the character Æ is pronounced as such.
However, Elon and Grimes probably aren’t going for a popular name and clearly want something unique. At this moment, Elon is also selling all his property in California and possibly relocating to Texas or Nevada. So what would be some of the rarest baby names we’ve seen in these states? Would any of these be special enough to put on the birth certificate?
- X: Looks like Nevada follows the national naming conventions since we’ve seen these before, while Texas has some truly unique baby names.
- A: The A names are quiet unique for both states and showcases the increased diversity of the US population over the past decade.
Update: Musk & Grimes have changed their baby’s name slightly to X Æ A-Xii to comply with California regulations.
Would you like to be “like” Mike or would you rather just be “named” like Mike?
Moving on from one billionaire in Silicon Valley to another who became the 1st one in the sports world. Judging from Netflix’s Top 10 charts many, many of you have been watching the super hit ESPN documentary - “The Last Dance” starring Michael “MJ” Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. This entertaining documentary showcases their journey to 6 NBA Championships in the 90s.
In one of the episodes, you may have seen this Gatorade commercial starring Air Jordan himself and you may remember this catchy jingle.
That got me thinking 🤔 how popular had Mike really become? Enough to have babies named after him?
How did his name/nickname compare to the popularity of other basketball greats with much rarer names?
- It looks like more parents wanted their babies to be like Shaq or Kobe with Shaq’s full name having the largest increase from 1992 to his 1993 rookie year with over 1750 Shaquilles born that year. Fun tidbit: Shaq has another 1up on MJ. He and the Orlando magic were the only team to eliminate the Chicago Bulls from the NBA Playoffs after they won their first championship in 1991 until the 6th one in 1998 (at least when Michael was not in retirement).
- We don’t see any major spikes in baby Mikes as we might expect during the 2 major championship runs or any time during MJ’s career in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s (with the Washington Wizards).
But wait a minute, you probably noticed that Mike is just a nickname and of course many parents won’t name their children with a common nickname (Not to mention dozens of other factors that go into the popularity of a baby name. Remember the old adage: correlation does not necessarily imply causation; we could also speculate that the infamous boxer “Iron” Mike Tyson also had an influence?)
So getting back to that point, how popular is/was MJ’s actual first name of Michael? Did we see an uptick in babies named after him once MJ entered the NBA in 1984?
- Actually, quite the contrary, Michael has actually been decreasing in popularity over the past 3 decades. Perhaps, with the recent popularity of the Last Dance, this will turn around as more people will remember how great Mike was and is.
Let’s close this article about baby names with one final plot. No, it’s not what you might be expecting, not another curve that we should try to flatten or doomsday predictions based on different model assumptions.
Rather if you are lucky enough to be expecting during these turbulent times, here is some help in picking a baby name for your little one.
The last comparable pandemic was the Spanish flu of 1918, what were the most popular names then and what are the most popular baby names now?
- If you are looking for a name that is timeless William and James are a good bet since they are still in the Top 10 after a 100 years.
- Or maybe you just finished watching the final episodes of the Last Dance, and you want to go with another one that is in the Top 10…. Michael?
Thank you and closing
If you liked some of these plots and maybe want to take a tackle at generating something similar yourself have at look at the full analysis on GitHub here.