Friday, November 09, 2012

Do Hurricanes Influence Baby Names?

Unsurprisingly, at least one couple in New York has named their newborn Sandy in honor of the storm.

From the Daily News:
This Borough Park couple wanted to give their baby a name no one would ever forget. 
So proud parents Anahi Sanchez Moreno, 29, and Fernando Dimas Martinez, 29, knew just what to name their daughter, who arrived the day of the massive hurricane: Sandy. 
“When something happens — good or bad — it gets stuck in your mind,” said Martinez. “It’s a coincidence that my daughter was born during the hurricane. Now, we will never forget it.” 
Sandra (Sandy) Sanchez was born at 5:43 p.m. at Maimonides Medical Center hours before superstorm Sandy unleashed her fury on the city. Baby Sandy weighed a healthy 5.4 pounds. 
Martinez had been considering “Jacqueline,” but after hearing nonstop storm reports at the restaurant where he works, he opted for a name reflecting current events.

How often do people name their kids after hurricanes? That's hard to say, but there have been a few times when hurricanes appeared to influence naming trends.

Take a look at the eight deadliest U.S. hurricanes over the past 30 years:
1. Katrina (2005): 1,833 deaths
2. Sandra (2012): 121-plus
3. Rita (2005): 119
4. Ike (2008): 112
5. Hugo (1989): 86
6. Floyd (1999): 77
7. Juan (1985): 63
8. Andrew (1989): 61
Now check out the popularity charts for those names, courtesy of the Baby Name Wizard site. I marked the time when the hurricane hit with a little graphic. (Obviously since the data only goes through 2011, Sandra's effect wouldn't show up yet on its chart.)

The only ones that show a discernible spike are Katrina and Ike (and Katrina's blip only briefly staved off a long-term decline for the name).

I would chalk up the Katrina rise to the dark sense of humor of New Orleanians. But what about Ike? Did the storm help reintroduce the name to America? Possibly. It was already a century name, so it may have been due for a resurgence anyway.

I don't expect a similar trend for Sandy. It peaked in the 1960s, which means it's mostly a name for middle-aged women.

That makes it a hard sell for today's parents, with or without the hurricane association.