DES MOINES (MCT) – Iowa parents appear to be ahead of the curve in naming their baby boys, but are floating with national mainstream trends when it comes to baby girls’ names, experts say.
Liam ranked as the most-popular name selected for baby boys by Iowa parents last year, while Emma perched atop the list of girls’ names for the eighth time in the last 11 years, according to data compiled by the state Department of Public Health.
Iowa mirrored national trends by ranking Mason No. 2 among names selected for newborn boys. Sophia was Iowa parents’ second most-popular choice in naming girls while nationally it topped the 2012 list issued by the Social Security Administration.
The latest top five baby girls’ names in Iowa were Emma, Sophia, Olivia, Harper and Ava, while the most-popular boys’ names were Liam, Mason, Carter, Owen and William, according to the health agency’s preliminary 2012 vital records report.
The popularity of Liam and Mason among Iowa parents did not surprise Linda Rosenkrantz, a co-author of baby-naming books with Pamela Redmond Satran at nameberry.com, but top-10 finishes for names like Carter, Owen, Henry and Wyatt did – all ranking higher than where they show up nationally.
“In some of these cases, I think Iowa is ahead of the curve because I think Owen is going to move up that high (nationally) and also Harper is No. 4 on the girls’ side (in Iowa) and it’s only 24th nationally,” Rosenkrantz said. “I think in a few of these cases Iowa is avant-garde, which you might not expect.”
She said Iowa parents appear to be leading on the boys’ side with “newish” choices and following on the girls’ side with older, traditional names.
Laura Wattenberg, author of Baby Name Wizard ( www.babynamewizard.com ), said Iowans tend to lean toward more aggressively styled surnames or names with sharp letters, like x and k, that harken to traditional “quiet gentlemanly” sounds or “preppy Cowboy” labels that suggest men of action or modern ruggedness.
Also, Wattenberg noted Iowa parents are choosing baby names that are short and have strong vowel sounds. “Those are very light, very smooth names. These names float,” she said.
At the same time, celebrity and Hollywood influences are present in the choices of young Iowa couples with Mason popularized by reality TV personality Kourtney Kardashian and Liam drawing from Hunger Games actor Liam Hemsworth and One Direction singer Liam Payne, the naming experts said.
“Liam and Mason have gotten a boost from the celebrities, but they were already skyrocketing before the celebrities arrived,” Wattenberg noted. “Mason is at the intersection of every trend you can think of.”
Ironically, the latest trend in naming babies is parents trying not to be trendy, she said.
“Everybody wants to be distinctive,” Wattenberg said. “We all happen to prefer uncommon names in this generation. There’s kind of an arms race going to find the name that sounds interesting but not weird.”
The result has been that selecting a baby name has become more high stakes and more high pressure than ever, she noted.
“The culture has changed. Both statistically and emotionally, there is no such thing as a normal name anymore,” she said. “That means the choice is harder because the menu that you’re choosing from is so much bigger. And, it means that with names being so diverse, we read more into people’s names.”
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