I graduated from high school with 8 Jessicas, 6 Michaels, 5 Jennifers, 4 Kevins and 4 Christophers. Even though my class wasn't particularly large, I still needed to use a last names to clarify which Jess or which Mike I was talking about. If I didn't, people became confused.
Many expectant parents have similar memories, and they would like to avoid giving their children names that will have to be shared with classmates.
How do they find out which names to avoid? Logically, they track down the current baby name rankings for their region and choose a cut-off point. For instance, parents who want to avoid only the trendiest baby names may steer clear of the top 10 or 20 most popular names in their region. Those who want something less common might keep out of the top 50 or 100. Parents in the U.S. who want a very unusual moniker could decide to avoid the top 1,000 names in the nation altogether.
Generally speaking, this is a smart method to use. But it definitely isn't fool-proof. Here are two big reasons why:
- Lists of popular baby names won't reveal which names are relatively more or less popular in your immediate area (i.e. in your school district). For a more realistic snapshot of your area, look at locally popular names -- birth announcements are a great place to start. Or ask parents you meet in the neighborhood what names they've used, or have seen other parents use.
- Lists of popular baby names won't be much help in trying to predict sudden popularity surges. They may give you a feel for the trajectory of a certain name, but some names (e.g. Neveah, Aaliyah) just come out of nowhere and skyrocket up the charts. To avoid these, you'll need to keep an eye on pop culture -- what names are being used in movies, TV shows, songs, and by celebrities for their own children?
While rankings are certainly helpful, I recommend using them along with the two tips above to get a more complete picture of which names to watch out for.