What's in a name? This Baby Name Explorer shows when your name was most popular (via Boing Boing), so you can tell whether your parents were trendsetters or not. The explorer was created by data scientist Randal S. Olson using data from the United States Social Security Administration. Though the data powering the Baby Name Explorer contains some systematic bias prior to 1940, it can at least provide a fun estimate of name popularity and becomes especially reliable after 1985. Whether you consider having a popular name to be a good or bad thing remains, of course, kind of up to your personal taste.
What name you give your baby is no small matter, though, because various studies show that names have long-lasting effects on a person's life. And even if your name didn't affect your chances of getting a job or getting rich or getting elected, it would still matter because you're going to have to say, spell, and write that name approximately one billion times before your death. Names are hard to change, too — unless you're getting married (and even then), the name-change process is notoriously annoying. You may have to go through archaic steps like advertising your desired name change in the local paper (as if anyone were still reading it, anyways).
It's too late for your parents to avoid mis-naming you, but you can stop the cycle of suboptimal names, and the Baby Name Explorer is here to help. For example here's my name, Pamela. Being born in 1985, I had always met people whose moms were named Pamela, but never had a classmate with the same name. Looks like my anecdotal evidence was about correct, because Pamela peaked in the 1950's but even then never hit the 1 percent mark for baby girls. This puts Pamela in the category of rare but not bizarre names. I'm cool with it.
The name Rhianna was actually dipping after a then-historical high when it was given to the now-famous singer at her birth in 1988. It got much more popular before Rhianna became famous, though, which means there were relatively many little Rhiannas running around coincidentally at the time her music really took off, though the peak can be attributed to the singer's fame. Absolute frequency is low, though, as indicated by the markings on the left of the chart.
Miley, on the other hand, very clearly became popular as a result of Miley Cyrus' rise to fame.
For an even starker example of pop culture-related baby name popularity, I offer Khaleesi for the record. Enough said.
Images: via Baby Name Explorer/Randy Olson