According to the current official list of most popular baby names, which was issued by the Social Security Administration this week, the number one boy’s name in America is Noah. And as the SSA’s press release for the unveiling noted yesterday, that’s based on births in 2013 and not reflective of the success or popularity of the movie Noah. Due to the movie’s controversy, in fact, I’d predict a decrease in the name’s popularity for 2014.
Maybe. It’s never been too clear how influential movies are on baby name stats. For a few years there the media made a connection between Twilight and the fact that Jacob and Isabella were at the top. But Jacob was number one from 1999 (long before the first book was even published) through last year. Isabella might have had a slight boost by the series, but it was also already relatively high to begin with.
If anything, perhaps Stephenie Meyer looked to baby name popularity when developing her characters. The SSA’s list and sites like Nameberry are as much of a resource for authors and screenwriters as they are for parents-to-be. It’s a good reference guide, too, if you want a realistic name. For instance, if you want to name a female character who was born in the 1970s, Jennifer is a safe one. But you might not want to give the same name to someone born in the 1870s, as it didn’t really exist then, or in the 2000s, when it’s dropped pretty substantially from popularity — even with Jennifer Lawrence being such a beloved star.
Speaking of her, you’d think that if movie character names influenced parents in the real world that Katniss, from The Hunger Games, would be a regular choice. Yet last year only 17 little girls were given that name. And no boys were named Peeta or Gale or Haymitch. Primrose, though, went to 34 baby girls. Effie went on the birth certificates of 39. What if we look at the top-grossing movie of last year, Iron Man 3, for inspiration? Well, Tony has always been popular (and as itself and not a form of Anthony, it’s really been dropping lately), but how about Stark? That name went to 21 newborn boys last year.
Of course, Stark could also come from TV’s Game of Thrones, just as the increasingly popular Arya plus the so-so showers Daenerys, Khaleesi, Sansa and Tyrion are, as well. Maybe TV is a better source for parents, more of whom are giving their kids names like Finn, Flynn, Piper, Lorelei, Rory, Ari and Archer have been on serious upslopes in recent years. Whereas Ryan, for a girl, dropped in the same year that it was used in Gravity, one of the most popular movies of 2013. Then again, it could be better reflected in the births of this year. Just as everyone is expecting Frozen‘s Anna and Elsa to make huge leaps for 2014.
Then there’s the fact that for most of us the greatest movie characters are not necessarily good baby name fodder. Many of the best names in cinema are not what we’d pass on to our own children. Well, there were 41 boys and 33 girls born in 2013 named Indiana. And 13 boys were named Han. But no Merkin, Keyser, Leeloo, Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf, Legolas, Albus or Morpheus — though Severus and Neo are represented.
What are the greatest movie character names of all time?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter matched with real baby name data from 2013:
Marty: 40 boys and 9 girls
Martin: 1,330 boys
Ricky: 545 boys
Bobby: 356 boys
Ben: 302 boys
Cypher: 9 boys
Luke: 9,497 boys and 5 girls
Fielding: 11 boys
Theodore: 2,397 boys
Trudy: 16 girls
Woodrow: 33 boys
Lafayette: 17 boys
Damian: 3,945 boys and 9 girls
Wolf: 51 boys
Anakin: 143 boys
Apollo: 204 boys
Creed: 127 boys
William: 16,495 boys and 13 girls
Hudson: 4,628 and 76 girls