Saturday, May 09, 2015

It's Official: Anakin Is a Real Name Now

The Social Security Administration released its annual rankings of baby names on Friday, and naming nerds like me have been combing through the data ever since.

The top boys' name, Noah, was the same as last year — a disappointment for those predicting that Liam would seize the No. 1 spot. Liam would have been the first Irish name to ever lead the rankings (and the first one without Hebrew roots in more than 60 years). But it wasn't to be.

Maybe next year, though. Liam was a close No. 2, with less than 1,000 births separating it from the top position.

On the girls side, Emma crept back into No. 1, unseating Sophia. I wouldn't have predicted this. Frankly, Emma feels pretty shopworn at this point. It was last No. 1 in 2008, and I thought we'd moved on as a nation. It's a lovely name, but Emma doesn't feel as zeitgeisty to me as Olivia or Sophia (currently second and third).

As predicted, Charlotte did enter the top 10. But barely (it was No. 10). I'm sticking with my theory that this is not a top-five name.

As usual, the most interesting data came from the lower end of the charts. Anakin, aka young Darth Vader, cracked the top 1,000 for the first time. It reached No. 957, making it more popular than names such as Howard, Magnus or Foster.

I have to wonder: Why now?

The Star Wars prequels that focused on Anakin's rise came out between 1999 and 2005, and they were kind of bad. Anakin presumably isn't in the new sequels because — three-decade-old spoiler alert here — Darth Vader died in "Return of the Jedi."

But as my wife notes, the generation that would have been impressionable youngsters when the prequels came out are now starting to have children. So maybe Anakin has a certain allure for them.

Elsa's ranking also jumped last year. This was less of a surprise — how could it not? I actually like this name, and I think the nickname Elsie is adorable (no, I don't think the Elsie the Cow association is going to be an issue for children born in 2015). And when it comes to the two sisters from "Frozen," I'd much prefer parents name their baby Elsa than adopt the Ahn-na pronunciation for Anna.

"Game of Thrones" also made its presence felt in the list. Khaleesi, the show's "mother of dragons," continued to climb the charts, debuting in the top 1,000 for the first time. It zoomed all the way to No. 755 and shows no sign of letting up. Consider this: It's now more popular than Ann, Celia, Dana, Gwen, Judith, Magnolia, Renee, Sandra or Wendy. (It also beat out Miley, but I doubt anyone would be upset about that.)


Khaleesi's rise is a bit hard to explain. Though "Game of Thrones" is popular among media elites, it's still a premium-cable show that much of America doesn't watch. (It gets good ratings for cable, but not nearly as much as, say, "Walking Dead.)

I'm trying to imagine the Venn diagram for people who (a) watch "Game of Thrones" and (b) would name their children after a television character. I wouldn't imagine there's a very large amount of overlap there. But apparently I'm wrong.

And in fact, I talked to someone this week who knows a real-life baby Khaleesi.

Imagine what will happen to the name's popularity if the Mother of Dragons ever reaches Westeros.