Baby naming trends come and go (just ask all of the girls in your second-grade class named "Jennifer”), but which one reigns supreme? David Taylor, a biotechnologist and blogger at Proofreader.com, analyzed the Social Security database to determine the trendiest baby name in U.S. history (or at least since 1880, which is as far back as the data goes). The winner is…drumroll please… Linda. As in, Linda McCartney. Or Evangelista. Or Hamilton.
Linda might not seem as flash-in-the-pan as, say, Khaleesi, but it makes sense as the “trendiest name” when you look at Taylor’s methodology. In a blog post at Proofreader.com, Taylor explains that his study approaches trendiness a little differently than previous analyses. In earlier research, “trendiness” has been defined by the speed with which a name has gained popularity and lost it. Thus, a study of names by FlowingData found that the trendiest girl’s name in U.S. history is “Catina,” which spiked in popularity in 1972 when a baby in the soap opera Where the Heart Is was given that name. However, Taylor points out that, although the rise and fall of “Catina” were steep, it wasn’t ever that popular, comprising only 0.0097% of girls’ names at the height of its popularity.
With this in mind, Taylor designed his analysis to take into account both the swiftness with which a name enters and then exits the naming pool, as well as the intensity of its popularity. The names on his list are therefore ones that both had a sharp rise and fall and had a major impact. At the top? Linda.
Linda isn’t a very common name for babies these days, but it used to be very popular. According to Mental Floss, it had a massive rise in 1947, due to the release of a hit song named, “Linda,” by Jack Lawrence in 1946 That year, 5.48 percent of all baby girls were named “Linda.” The name remained the most popular girls' name in America from 1947 to 1952, but the fervor for “Linda” eventually fell off, and the name ceased to be one of the top five girls’ names in 1964. Also on the lists for trendiest girls’ names are “Brittany,” “Ashley,” “Shirley,” and “Debra.”
Topping the boy’s list is “Dewey” (popular from 1897 to 1903), followed by “Jason,” “Grover,” “Mark,” and “Woodrow.” As Taylor points out, girls’ names tend to be a lot trendier (that is, liable to rise and fall quickly) than boys’ names. Only “Dewey” cracked his list of top ten trendiest names.
Only time will tell what currently popular names will end up being trendy (What about all those Emmas and Aidens?), but, as Mental Floss points out, it’s unlikely that any will be as popular as “Linda.” The general trend in naming right now is toward a greater variety of names, so even the popular ones aren’t being as widely used as names like “Mary” and “Linda”once were. For example, in 1947, 5.48 percent of baby girls were dubbed “Linda,” the most popular name that year. In 2012, “Sophia” was the top name for girls, but it only went to 1.2 percent of the year's babies.