Please make sure you write your last initial!

Think of the most common name in the English language and you’ll probably think of mine: Hannah. There have always been at least one other Hannah at the very minimum. Six on my soccer team, four on my crew team, three in my English class, two on my dorm floor…and the list goes on. In high school people would call me by my last name to help separate all the Hannahs. Coming into college I thought it would be beneficial to have such a common name because its easy to remember: WRONG. Since I have arrived at here I have been called Bridgette and Caroline and I have even been referred to by my Crocs before some people were able to remember my oh-so-common label of “Hannah.”


I started contemplating what makes people name their babies the way they do. My mom always told me she loved my name because “when I named you Hannah it wasn’t popular yet.” Right.

We see a lot of different trends in baby names, some very unfortunete for the upcoming generations but definitely a lot of trends.  According to, my name has moved from #1 in 2000 as I was growing up (there were no specifics to the year I was actually born) to a whopping #30 now in 2016. There must be some sort of causation for the fluxuation in name popularity.

Popularity in name has been seen simply as trends. On one hand it is, and on the other it isn’t. Names are seen to be most influenced by various casual variables such as: the media, celestial themes, and royal birth announcements as described at Names can also be influenced by the most obvious causal variable popularity. Therefore, overall, the arguement stands that name choice among parents depends heavily on social influences. In this instance its important to consider the third variables. Soemthing to think about are family traditions. Names chosen could simply be a creation of the past or in other words a personal trend which could overall link back to the social influences that started the trend within the family in the first place.


Something else to consider is sex/name relationships. Although some parents now see the connection between gender and name as obsolete, most focus on the sex of their baby before putting names to them. There has been a recent spike in gender neutral names but however when looking at sex and names specifically, there is a science behind it. Professors Adam Galinsky and Michael Slepian of Colombia Business School bring forth the idea that the causal variable in the catagorization of names under different sexes are the phonetics behind the names. Therefore, the dependent variable is the name itself. The phonetics of these names themselves, if being looked at as the dependent variable, are caused by the vibration of the vocal cords. The professors suggest that names find their masculinity or femininity through the presence or absense of a vocal cord vibration. Masculine names tend to be pronounced with a strong definition of vocal cord vibration such as Gregory, James, or William. Feminine names such as Heather, Sarah, or Tiffany lack that vibration and help differentiate between the gender specific names.

A good way to look at baby names are simply trends, however it is very interesting how names differ phonetically and bring about different feelings and associations.

3 thoughts on “Please make sure you write your last initial!

  1. Gulianna E Garry

    When deciding to read your blog I had no clue what to expect because of it’s title. However, I found it extremely interesting. I actually know a lot of Hannah’s – one being my closest cousin – and she explains how she also knows a bunch of Hannah’s. Unlike you and my cousin, my name is very uncommon – Gulianna, with a G. Growing up I was the only ‘Julianna’ in my grade until my senior year, so whenever someone was saying ‘Julianna’ I figured they were talking about me. My mother decided to spell my name with a G, which is the way the Italian’s spell it since they do not have a G in their alphabet, because I am partially Italian. Yet, the end of my name is spelt how American’s spell Julianna, because she believed I live in America so I should have at least partially an American name. The older I got the more interesting I found when people thought it was strange to spell Julianna with a G. I find it very interesting how if I went to Italy no one would question why my name started with a G and instead would think of it as a norm. Here is a little discussion amongst people who talk about why Italy excludes some letters in the English alphabet.

  2. rlw5445

    I fully relate to this post. My name is Rachel and I have yet to encounter a situation, whether that be in a classroom, work or social setting, where I am unique in my name. When I asked my parents the same question you did, about the origin of my name and its popularity today, I was met with the same answer of “It was not a popular name when you were born”. I have always been curious as to what drives baby name trends and your post opened my eyes to some options I have yet to consider. Some additional research I would be interested in seeing would be the breakdown of the influences of the name choosing process. I know that you mentioned family, social and other influences but to see a numerical data breakdown of just how much impact those methods have when choosing a name I think would really open the discussion up even farther. Also to look at that data across generations and to see if there has been a recent shift in the social influence and a decline in the family influence because that would be my initial hypothesis.

  3. Hannah Curran

    I relate to this completely (considering my name is also Hannah). Although i agree that our name is pretty common, I believe that there are so many names out there that are even more common. Heres a link to the top 100 names over the last 100 years: You’d probably be surprised to find out that were number 77 on that list. So even though we’re pretty basic, at least we aren’t even in the top 50.

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