If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, it's full of engagement announcements and new baby pictures. Of course, this could have something to do with the generations represented; I'm surrounded by younger Gen X and Millennial individuals. Statistically, it's our age group's turn to make those life-changing decisions - and pick the names of the next generation.
The average age of a first-time mother in the United States is just over twenty-six years old, but many parents are waiting until their early thirties. It got me thinking - I see a lot of articles in the name community about today's television shows influencing names (Game of Thrones often cited), but very rarely do I find articles mentioning the names these parents grew up with. Alright, so Spongebob is out, but the fact that Ross and Rachel named their daughter Emma as early as 2002 gives some credence to my theory.
Today, I'll be looking at some of the most popular shows that aired in the decade 2000-2010, and see if there are any correlations in the names of characters and baby names rising through the top 1000.
The cast of Buffy, 20 years later
*Note: I don't think these parents are naming children after these characters; rather, I think just getting exposure to a name increases the likelihood it could be used. If you have warm memories associated with laughing at TV shows with family and friends, why not pick a name that keeps those memories alive?*
Though Emma has been the number one girl's name for four years running, it's not necessarily to do with the show - Emma had been rising for years before Rachel took the name from Monica. Still, I think the name's presence in the cultural zeitgeist might have something to do with its continued popularity.
Phoebe gained hundreds of fans in the years after Friends aired - my guess is that many young women were inspired by the funny, offbeat character. It remains in the top 500 but has declined ever-so-slightly over the past two years.
Malcolm in the Middle
Handsome and distinguished Malcolm had a peak in 1992, then declined for about seventeen years, during which the show about wacky family antics aired (2000-2006). After Malcolm had been off the air a few years, suddenly the name started rising again.
The popularity of Reese for girls has something to do with Witherspoon, and the boy's name is in decline. Admittedly, Hal, Lois, Dewey, and Reese (M) don't fit my theory. But Francis began to rise marginally in the year 2009, the same as Malcolm. Since the new pope didn't come on the scene until 2013, those gains can't all be chalked up to him.
That '70s Show
Sure, Mr. Kutcher popularized the name Ashton for years, but remember that his character in the show was named Michael Kelso - not exactly a modern trend in the making. The show purposefully used names common to the era - Eric, Donna, Steven, and Jackie among them - making it a bit difficult to show any meaningful links.
Arguably the most accurate medical show on television - I recently confirmed this with a med student friend - Scrubs is iconic for combining zany fantasies and real-life heartbreak. Another of its major achievements is introducing the character Elliot Reid - just a few years after the show's end in 2010, the name hit the top 1000 for girls and continues to rise.
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Like Emma, I'm sure that one of the reasons Olivia continues to rank on the top 10 is due to Detective Olivia Benson, a fictional heroine for many of us. Still, Olivia was already on the rise before Mariska Hartigay originated the role. The name Elliot (M) had also been increasing during the run of the show, and continues to rise after Detective Stabler left.
One note - Benson jumped onto the scene in 2010, and rose about 350 spots in seven years - not bad for a surname pick! Could the TV detective have this kind of influence as well?
Boy Meets World
Topanga was an inspiration in how to own an unusual name and wear it with pride - and after the show's air, the name increased from total obscurity to adorning about 20-30 girls per year. The other prominent names on the show - Cory, Shawn, Morgan - reflect the names of the 90's, and have been declining over the past few years.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Before Joss Whedon became a household name, before Twilight ushered in the era of vampire TV, there was Buffy. Granted, the protagonist's name didn't quite catch on - this nickname for Elizabeth is a little too over-the-top, in my opinion - but other names have.
Only two years after Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit the airwaves, the name Willow jumped onto the top 1000 and rose quickly. This sweet nature choice now ranks in the top 1000, and could easily get into the top 50. Xander followed suit in 1999, increasingly annually - it's currently at #163 on the US Top 1000. While Cordelia doesn't currently rank on the list, it did hover in the 900's for two years recently.
The popularity of names like Kendra, Angel, and Faith aren't as clear in their peaks and valleys and can't be tied to the show definitively, but their prominence in the top 500 is noted.
The fast-talking ladies of Stars Hollow are absolutely to blame for the rise of Lorelai (and Lorelei) - both spellings of the name appeared in the top 1000 during the final years of the show's original run, and have continued to rise through today. The show also featured characters named Dean, Luke and Logan, all of which rank in the top 200 today (though Dean's rise may have something to do with the never-ending show, Supernatural).
The names Sookie and Jess (M) also appeared on the show but have yet to make a splash in the popularity charts. I think Sookie, with its other connection to True Blood, could rise with the current trend towards nickname-names, like Sadie and Charlie.
I'll stop for now, since I could probably talk about every show of the decade. But this type of amateur study is interesting to me - the names of beloved characters are often wrapped up with positivity in our minds, and therefore make excellent contenders for name inspiration.
Tell me your favorite TV shows and character names in the comments!