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What's Wrong with Being Popular?

Is it weird to only like popular names? I tend to love names that are in the top ten or 15 in my state. However, I always hear how they are "overused," "boring," or "he/she will be one of five in their class." On the flip side, I've never really liked any of the more unusual names that I have found. Is there really no more room for another Olivia or Jacob?

–Happy at the Top

You're not weird at all! The popular names are at the top of the charts because lots of people are using them. And yet so many parents put unnecessary pressure on themselves to choose a name that’s not popular (but yet, not odd or … too unpopular).

There are many things a name can and should do: Represent your child to the world; honor a special person or place; highlight a quality or virtue you value. Being wildly creative needn’t be on that list.

Plus, the argument that "he/she will be one of five in the classroom" really doesn't hold water anymore.  Laura Wattenberg explains on our sister site, Baby Name Wizard: "Back in the age of traditional naming [about 1880 to 1980], a very popular boy's name was one given to 1% of all boys born, and a typical baby boy was likely to bear one of those names." Today, "not a single boy's name … reaches the threshold that marked everyday popularity in generations past." And the story is similar for girls.

Instead of asking what's weird about liking popular names, ask yourself: "Is it really weird to like names that are totally fashionable and nobody seems to dislike?" Of course it's not! A frequently used name has advantages, too. These names are easy to recognize, say, and spell. They don’t cause confusion over whether a child is a boy or a girl. And they aren't associated with a particular famous person or pop culture character. 

So embrace Olivia and Jacob, Emma and Mason. They’re popular for good reason!


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

October 2, 2017 9:56 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm increasingly surprised this is a trend. I have a very common name, like Jane Smith. I like the internet anonymity this buys me. When you Google "Jane Smith" the first dozen hits aren't me. If I were "Beyonce Smith", you can bet it would be me. While I'm not impossible to find, embarrassing photos are less likely to catch up with me.

October 2, 2017 2:03 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree... Candidly, sorry, I think it feels like a grasp at straws if a standard and popular name is spelled with untraditional alphabet letters or phonetics too. There are always exceptions like an honorific etc. but it can feel like a lack of the process of life and owning the fact that everyone is indeed intrinsically unique. Every one with my first name (1980's) proves it. :) And I felt a new lease on life when I went to a difficult last name to one that was a bit more recognizable when I decided to marry.

October 3, 2017 3:09 PM
By Juli (not verified)

I asked on a math forum about the probability of 5 kids sharing a name. The answer boils down to "slim to none": the chance of some name occurring five times in a current group of 25 U.S. first-graders is 1 in 250,000.

In other words, out of a quarter million first-grade classrooms, one classroom can be expected to have five children with the same name.

(If you consider entire grade levels -- groups of 100 children -- then the probability goes up to "not impossible": 1 in about 230.)

October 4, 2017 12:25 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My daughter is 16, there were 3 Emilys in her kindergarten class so it does still happen. For my 3 kids, the names in constant repeat in their grade have been Jack, Emily, Sophia and more recently Shreya.

October 4, 2017 7:51 PM
By Anon (not verified)

I work in a daycare, in a class with two year old's. At one point we have three Olivia's in a class of twelve kids.

October 5, 2017 5:57 AM
By Beynotce (not verified)

Names do occasionally still crop up in multiples in one class (my Sunday school classroom has three Charlottes and two Margarets), even though it seems statistically unlikely, because names aren't evenly distributed. Popularity varies based on state, city, and even neighborhood.

However, as someone with a top-ten name from the year/decade I was born: this has never been a real problem. It is at most mildly inconvenient. The worst was sharing a camp cabin when four out of the eleven of us shared a name, but even that only lasted a week. Even now, I work on a team of forty people where two others share my name. We joke about it - as do the duo of Kady/Katie on the team and the trio of Ale/Alec/Alex. It happens, but it's honestly not a big deal. I don't feel like I'm not special or like my name wasn't carefully chosen. My mom had no idea how popular the name was when she used it. It's just a nice name that was stylish at the time, and a lot of other parents loved it, too!

October 7, 2017 3:50 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Any name has the possibility of being in a name pocket. My oldest has a name that was #11 in our state the year he was born. We've encountered a handful here & there, but he has never had another child with the same name in any of his classes.

When my youngest was in preschool, he had a classmate with a name that didn't even rank in the top 500 for our state in the year he was born. However, there were 3 in his class at preschool-and 2 others at the same preschool but in different classes (both younger than my son).

People should go with the name they love best and not worry about popularity. It's not something any of us really have any control over, and even uncommon names can have duplicates.

October 9, 2017 1:00 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a popular 80s name with an unusual spelling and it's very annoying! I've NEVER been the only one with my name, and now even my secretary shares my name. And I agree with others about name pockets. I strongly considered naming my daughter Louisa, which wasn't even top 1000, and in her preschool class of 8, there were 2 of them!

October 21, 2017 7:02 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It depends on area as well. My daughter is an Olivia and has never had another on in any of her classes. Right now the multiple names in her grade are: Harper, Isabella and Ryleigh (Riley)

November 11, 2017 6:36 PM
By Girl from Missouri (not verified)

There's nothing wrong with liking popular names. I think the reason most people avoid them is because they don't want their kids to be Emily B. Or Emily with the curly hair.

Common names depend on area, though. Where I went to school, the most common name for my peer group was Ashley. We had Ashley A, Ashley B. And "Ashley with two E's."

At least they got along and were friends. It was sort of like that show Recess. You know, "The Ashleys"

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