The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby - Laura Wattenberg

I don't often post about books that I haven't actually finished reading, but this one gets an exception because it's not the sort of book you read straight through anyway. It's a baby name book, but unlike any you've seen before. My friend Elizabeth (who doesn't have kids, but loves baby names) told me about this woman, who has done oodles of research about baby naming trends, meanings, popularity, and all sorts of other factors you probably never thought about in association with baby names before. Her website,, has a fun feature called the Name Voyager which shows you the popularity of the top 1000 names in the US from roughly 1880.

Unlike most baby name books, which may tell you the origin and meaning of a name, this one also gives a little graph charting the usage frequency and when the name peaked. Wattenberg explains that this is more useful than simply the rank: Mary has been one of the highest-ranked names for as long as we can track it; but though it's still in the top 100, the actual frequency of its appearance has dropped off significantly. She has also, using a custom computer software, provided "brother and sister" names; that is, names that (according to this mysterious program) have a similar style and tone. Jason, for example, could have sisters Jennifer, Amy, Michelle, Melissa, and Heather, and brothers Brian, Jeremy, Christopher, Chad, nd Eric. On the other hand, the up-and-coming Caleb would be matched with Abigail, Chloe, Hannah, Sophie, Isabel, Gabriel, Cole, Connor, Elijah, and Noah.

She has names grouped by style families (Androgynous, Antique Charm, Fanciful, Nickname-Proof, Timeless, to name just a few) and some tips about naming conventions and tricky situations ("I wanted to name MY daughter that!").

It's a great resource to add to your baby names books, and the little factoids about some of the names are really entertaining and sometimes surprising. Who would've guessed that Nevaeh ("Heaven" spelled backwards) would have become so popular?

And, just in case you're wondering, no, we're not expecting ... yet.

Fed to jonathan's brain | September 09, 2005 | Comments (1)


Yeah, Jonathan!
I'm so glad you checked out that book. Make sure to check out the name news blog on the website. Every week she writes an excellent essay on a different topic. Each treated with scientific integrity and entertaining wit!
Look up the Jennifer entry.

Posted by: Elizabeth at September 9, 2005 02:43 PM

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