Have you ever noticed how many lists there are during this time of year? My family and I send out lists of things we’d be excited to receive as Christmas gifts from each other, music channels have “list shows” for the top songs of the year (click here to watch any/all of VH1’s Top 40 videos of the year), even Santa keeps lists of the “naughty” and the “nice” kids around the world.
We are list crazy in America, especially–it seems–at the end of a calendar year.
Apparently information isn’t interesting to us unless it can be organized in some sort of a list, preferably after first be filtered through a ranking system–starting with a large number (at least 10, but 20 or 40 is even better) and moving down to the #1 (random thing) of the year. And it seems we’re not only interested in the top/best things of the year, but also the lowest/worst things. A few examples…my sister brought the year-end issue of People magazine to my parent’s house over Christmas (the issue is dated January 7, 2008; explain to me how that works since I was reading it in December of 2007…was I time traveling while reading it?). Anyway, in big letters across the top of the cover of the “Special Double Issue” reads “BEST (AND WORST!) OF 2007,” and inside the magazine are all sorts of lists of the best (and worst) dresses, couples, stars, etc. of the year (according to the writers of People). Yesterday on msn.com one of the featured stories highlighted the Top 10 “Best housing markets” (listing the cities where home prices increased the most during the 3rd quarter compared with the same period in 2006) as well the Top 10 “Worst housing markets”).
I enjoy getting things I actually like/want for Christmas; I love music and culture, so I watch the video countdown shows on not just VH1, but also MTV, CMT and BET; and I do my best to stay on Santa’s “nice” list (I got some cash in my stocking this year, so the big jolly guy must still like me!). The lists of best/worst housing markets was somewhat interesting to me and I shamefully like reading People magazine, but there were a few other lists I ran across today that I didn’t expect to see. Like Foxsports.com’s “most hateable people, teams” of 2007“; babycenter.com’s Top 10 baby names of 2007 (girl’s and boy’s names); and–also from babycenter–the Top baby names through history, where you can find the Top 100 baby names for each year going back to 1996, the Top 40 baby names for each decade (1930s through 1990s), and the Top 10 baby names for each decade (1880s through 1920s). This is really incredible data. I never knew that my name (Andrew) was the 19th most popular boy’s name in the decade I was born (1980s), or that Margret was the #9 girl’s name in the 1940s (but #4 in the 1880s) and Mildred was the #7 girl’s name in the 1910s.
Perhaps even more interesting than finding humorous grandma names that were common one hundred years ago is looking at trends of popular names today that can be linked to popular culture (whether it be through character names on TV shows and movies, or even the names celebrities give their children). For instance, on NBC’s wildly popular show Friends, Rachel (and Ross) had a baby girl on the last episode of Season 8 and they named her Emma. The year before that episode aired (2001), Emma was only the 29th most popular girl’s name, but in 2002 it moved up to #11 . Friends was America’s most popular show until its last season (Season 10) in 2004. Baby Emma was a consistent character on the show and, as a result, Emma was the second most popular girls name in 2003 and the most popular for three straight years (2004, 2005 and 2006). It was finally de-throned this year, but it is still the third most popular girl’s name (and the final episode of Friends aired almost four years ago).
We’re now seeing a similar trend in baby naming thanks to the popularity of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and the star of its spinoff show Private Practice, Dr. Addison Montgomery (played by Kate Walsh). The name Addison wasn’t even on the Top 100 girl’s name list of 2005 (the year Grey’s Anatomy came out), but as the show quickly became more popular, so did the name. Addison was the 26th most popular girl’s name in 2006 and this year (the same year Private Practice premiered) it cracked the Top 10, coming in at #6.
Do you think we watch too much TV in America? Maybe, but I love shows like Friends and Grey’s Anatomy, and–although I can’t say whether they would influence the decision of naming my own child (thankfully I’m no where close to facing this decision)–I don’t plan to stop watching them anytime soon (and I don’t think it’s such a terrible thing that 15 years from now, there are going to be a lot of college girls telling the story that they were named after a baby on their parent’s favorite TV show).
I’m sure there are plenty of other fascinating lists that I have yet to learn about, not to mention other trends between the popularity of baby names and the world of popular culture, but I’m going to let you discover them on your own. Let me know if you find anything interesting.