Being a new grandfather, not an uncommon thing these days for baby boomers, I’ve been particularly interested in the baby-naming habits of new parents: Specifically whether or not they’re naming babies after places they’ve traveled.
My wife Catharine’s and my own travels played a role in naming our son, Grael. The connection is a bit tangential, but here it is: We had played with the idea of naming him ‘Grayle” — after one of my best friends from college — but didn’t care much for that spelling.
Then one day as the birth neared we were driving around Northern California when we came upon a sign for the village of Graeagle, and a light bulb went off simultaneously in both our minds: That was it — “Grael!”
Grael still hasn’t cracked the list of the top 1,000 boys’ names in America (though I’m sure it will go viral at any time). But a number of both boys’ and girls’ popular names can be tied to countries, states, or cities around the United States and the world.
How much of that has to do with travels taken — or, alternatively, celebrity names or just the fashion of the moment — is anybody’s guess.
But I like to think that at least a few of the parents who made “Ireland” the 983rd most popular girls’ name in America in 2014 (the latest year for which statistics are available) had made a trip to the Emerald Isle or perhaps even came from there.
From Georgia to Chad
While Ireland is appropriate to mention on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s by no means the most popular name that shows up on the top 1,000 girl-baby names for 2014.
Top honor for that goes to Georgia (#243), though I’ll be the first to admit the Black Sea country of Georgia probably only figured into one or two newborn American Georgias, if that.
Next come Jordan (#247); Malaysia (#399); Montserrat (#571); Kenya (#702); America (#846); and Holland (#891).
“Malaysia” even has a colonial relative — “Malaya,” which is what Britain called its longtime Southeast Asian colony — which clocks in at number 636.
The only top 1,000 boys’ name I could find that is also a country is “Chad” (#703).
And the only continent to make either list is “Asia,” which ranked number 806 among baby girls in 2014.
From Madison to Milan
When you include U.S. and foreign cities in the list, the numbers grow considerably.
Tops among girls’ names in 2014 in the U.S. and Canada were the cities of Madison (Wisconsin, #9); Charlotte (North Carolina, #10); Victoria (BC, Canada, #19); Brooklyn (New York, #26); and Savannah (Georgia, #39).
Tops among boys’ names domestically were the cities of Jackson (Wyoming; #17); Austin (Texas; #66); Lincoln (Nebraska, number 87); Camden (New Jersey, #100); and Dallas (Texas, #268).
International cities scoring high on the lists were London (#98 girls; #611 boys); Sydney (#109 girls); Cali (#201 girls); Alexandria (#211 girls); Paris (#269 girls); Adelaide (#316 girls); and Milan (#670 girls, #411 boys).
The only U.S. state to make the list was (once again) Georgia at number 243.
Honorable mentions have to go to “Bronx” (NY) which still trails the pack but is rising fast at #1,345 for boys (I used to live there but never thought it would catch on as a name); and Journey (#291 girls), which pretty much sums up what anyone’s name becomes: a big part of your journey through life, whether it’s via traveling or just a part of the impression you make on the world.
And a great place name can leave quite an impression indeed — even if you named your baby after Paris Hilton.