Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The plot to take over the world continues

Remember when I told you that we Bridgets were going to take over the world, starting with Vermont?

Well, once again, I've been proven right by somebody else's painstaking research.

The Baby Name Wizard was already super cool for her NameVoyager chart. Now she's kicked it up a notch and added NameMapper, a feature that lets us see not only when a name was popular, but where.

Take my name, for example. Bridget has never been outlandishly popular, but check out its stalwart status in Vermont's tiny corner of the northeast, padded occasionally by neighbors New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. (Somewhat inexplicably, the name Bridget is also popular in Minnesota and Louisiana.)

The people who name their daughters Bridget come from all along the class spectrum and from both major political persuasions. The availability of this data (as well as population density) makes me want to investigate and find out what kinds of names Republicans and Democrats, and rich and poor people, tend to migrate toward.

Speaking of investigating, here's a fun project to try - figuring out if a particular event in history or pop culture spurred a naming trend in a specific area. On a national level, these kinds of trends are not always easy to spot, but when it's narrowed down to a particular state, it can be very obvious.

For instance, in 1972, the name Spencer was not on the charts in any state. In 1973, however, it jumped to being the 87th most popular name in Utah.

What happened in Utah in 1973? Spencer W. Kimball became the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that's what. Check out the name's spread through the "Mormon corridor" of Utah and Idaho over the next few years:

From there, Spencer reached mainstream status through the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, and then quietly retreated back to the land that gave it birth. In 2007, Spencer was popular in only Utah and Idaho (and Maine and New Hampshire. Go figure).

Anyway, I'll stop before your eyes completely glaze over. And I won't even get into the other new feature on the BabyName Wizard's site, Namipedia. Maybe another time.

What did you find out about your name?


Suzanne Bubnash said...

Well I found out my first name has been almost completely obsolete in the US for two-thirds of my life. Am not complaining because I'm named after my wonderful grandmother, who was born 1896 in Eastern Europe, where the only naming trend was using the same 5 male & 5 female given names generation after generation, making family history research a twisted, tangled web.

Liz Johnson said...

Apparently Connor is a very Democratic name, and Nathan is popular in the very Democratic and very Republican states, but not in the middle. Huh. That is really strange.

Funny, I haven't seen an upswing in the name "Gordon," have you? :)

Jeremy Palmer said...

My parents are wonderful, but what happened with my name? My name happens to have been the most popular in the year I was born...and the name was more popular in our state than anywhere else in the nation at the time. Mom and Dad, you should have named me Forest like you were considering. My life would have only been difficult for a year or two during the popularity of a certain Hollywood film. At least I don't do track.

Britney said...

I had fun comparing my name to the traditional spelling, Brittany, which was popular across the board in every region, peaking around 1989. Britney wasn’t even on the radar the year I was born, but started cracking some top 100 lists when Brittany grew in popularity. My parents said they preferred the unusual spelling because of the two syllable pronunciation, as in Whitney.

I thought it was funny that two states, NY and WV, decided to revisit the Britney spelling in 2000, suspiciously close to the time a Ms. Spears entered the scene. Coincidence? I think not. In other words: “Oops, you did it again.” You gave your daughter the untraditional spelling of a once semi-popular hit of the late 80’s. :)


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