Don't Call Me Caitlyn: Baby Name Plunges in Popularity
Don’t call me Caitlyn.
A year after Caitlyn Jenner announced her new name and gender, the popularity of the name Caitlyn plummeted more than any other baby name, according to Social Security’s annual list of the most popular baby names.
In fact, the four names that dropped the most were all variations of the same name: Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelynn and Kaitlynn.
“It was inevitable,” said Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabynameWizard.com. “Caitlyn was already falling in popularity. Now it is suddenly controversial.”
The Social Security Administration released its annual list of the 1,000 most popular baby names for 2016 on Friday. The agency uses the announcement to drive traffic to its website, where workers can start tracking their benefits long before they retire.
Emma was the top baby name for girls for the third year in a row. It was followed by Olivia, Ava, Sophia and Isabella.
Noah was the top baby name for boys for the fourth year in a row. It was followed by Liam, William, Mason and James.
The agency also lists the baby names that increase — and decrease — the most in popularity. All four versions of Caitlyn fell out of the top 1,000.
In 2015, the former Bruce Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist, shocked the world when she announced that she is now a transgender woman. The iconic cover of Vanity Fair magazine was emblazoned with the quote, “Call me Caitlyn,” on top of a picture of a very feminine Jenner.
The issue sparked much debate and an outpouring of support for Jenner in a country that is still evolving in its views of gay marriage and equal rights for the LGBT community.
Wattenberg said it would be wrong to blame Caitlyn’s drop in popularity solely to the fact that Jenner is transgender. In general, she said, parents don’t want to give their children names that might attract controversy.
It’s one reason few parents name their children after politicians.
“Even parents who are huge Donald Trump supporters are unlikely to name their child Donald,” Wattenberg said. “In part, we just want to avoid controversy in picking names.” For the record, Donald fell 45 spots last year, to No. 488. Hillary fell out of the top 1,000 names in 2009 and has not returned.
The Social Security Administration’s website provides lists of the top 1,000 baby names for each year, dating to 1880. The top baby names that year were John and Mary. John is now No. 28 and Mary has fallen to No. 127.
Sometimes old is new: Emma was the third most popular name in 1880.
The top 10 baby names for girls stayed the same in 2016, though the order shuffled a bit. For boys, Alexander dropped to No. 11 and Elijah cracked the top 10 for the first time ever, at No. 9.
Baby naming experts said parents have long used biblical names for their children. However, there has been a decided shift from the New Testament to the Old.
“Elijah to our grandparents would be unimaginable,” Wattenberg said.
Also, parents are getting more creative in naming the little ones. As a result, today’s top names aren’t nearly as popular as the top names from 50 years ago.
For example, a little more than 19,000 baby boys were named Noah last year. In 1966, about 80,000 babies were named Michael, the top name for baby boys that year.
“Once parents see that a name is super popular, they are going to start avoiding it,” said Jennifer Moss, founder of Babynames.com.
Pop culture often influences the names that increase and decrease in popularity, and it happened again 2016.
For boys, the named that skyrocketed in popularity was Kylo, as in Kylo Ren, a character in the 2015 movie, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” For girls, it was Kehlani, as in Kehlani Parrish, a singer and songwriter nominated for a Grammy in 2016.
Neither of these names is among the most popular, but they jumped more spots than any other names. Kylo jumped 2,368 spots to No. 901. Kehlani jumped 2,487 spots to No. 872. After the “Star Wars” movie was released, Wattenberg said she asked a focus group of people who had seen the movie whether any of the character names would become popular.
The kids and the teenagers were big on Kylo. But the older participants would have none of it.
Wattenberg recalled one grandparent saying Kylo “sounds like a brand of laundry detergent or toothpaste.”
The name Kylo follows another trend: Villains are now more popular than heroes, Wattenberg said.
Toward the end of the movie, Kylo kills his father, Han Solo.
That wouldn’t make for a popular baby name a generation ago, Wattenberg said.
“Imagine naming your child after a character who kills his father!” she said.