News / USA

    Popular Culture Inspires Top US Baby Names

    Hot book and film characters are popular

    The lead characters in the "Twilight Saga," (from left) Edward, Bella and Jacob.
    The lead characters in the "Twilight Saga," (from left) Edward, Bella and Jacob.

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    Ted Landphair

    There’s a better-than-random chance that babies born in the United States last year, 2010, were named “Bella” or “Edward.”

    Those were among the 10 most popular girls’ and boys’ names, respectively, and it was more than a coincidence that they are also leading characters in the wildly popular “Twilight” series of young adult novels and films about vampires.

    The choice of baby names, you see, can be somewhat faddish.

    Certain ones, such as “Tiffany” and “Justin,” which were popular in the 1980s, become the rage, then fall from fashion.

    TOP 10 US BABY NAMES

      GIRLS
      1. Sophia
      2. Emma
      3. Isabella
      4. Olivia
      5. Ava
      6. Lily
      7. Chloe
      8. Madison
      9. Emily
      10. Abigail

      BOYS
      1. Aiden
      2. Jackson
      3. Mason
      4. Liam
      5. Jacob
      6. Jayden
      7. Ethan
      8. Noah
      9. Lucas
      10. Logan

    The other day, a VOA staffer met a little boy, age two, named “Aiden.”  Our colleague had never heard that name. Turns out, Aiden is the most popular boy baby’s name this year, as reported by the website BabyCenter.com. For what it’s worth, Aiden was a leading character on the highly-rated TV show “Sex and the City.”

    It certainly does appear that pop culture influences Americans’ choice of baby names.  Isabella, the third-most-popular girl’s name, for instance, may be an adaptation of Bella, the vampire lover in the "Twilight" movies. “Jacob” is in the top 10, too. That’s the good-looking shape-shifter who phases into a wolf in the same series.

    Sophia Loren in the movie, “Five Miles to Midnight,” in 1962.
    Sophia Loren in the movie, “Five Miles to Midnight,” in 1962.

    Curiously, “Sophia” ranks first among this year’s girl-baby names, and “Ava” is fifth. Sophia Loren and Ava Gardner were glamorous actresses on the silver screen half a century ago.

    But, as another colleague, who follows romance novels, told us, “Old-fashioned names, especially for girls, are big.”

    We should point out that the top-10 list of boy and girl names refers almost exclusively to white, non-Hispanic babies. You won’t find many “Aidens” or “Masons” on the African-American and Latino baby-name lists.

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