Know any kids named Sophie? If you don’t, you will soon.
Last Thursday, the Social Security Administration released its annual list of baby names given the previous year. So May is the merriest month for name lovers like me.
Jacob and Sophia were 2012’s winners. Last year, 22,158 Sophias and 18,899 Jacobs were born. For the fourth consecutive year, the top girl’s name beat the boy’s. In fact, the next two names on the girls’ list, Emma (20,971) and Isabella (18,931), also beat Jacob.
Social Security counts every spelling as a separate name. Adding together spellings I think are pronounced the same, the top boy’s name was Aiden, as it’s been since 2009.
The 49 different spellings of Aiden given to five or more boys in 2012 totaled 27,828.
Sophia still topped Aiden after combining spellings, with a total of 30,321. Sophia’s triumph two years in a row is amazing for a girl’s name.
This has more to do with parents giving less common names to sons than with Sophia’s popularity. About 1.6 percent of girls were named Sophia last year. Even when girls with Sophie as their official name are added in, the total is only 1.8 percent.
In 1982, 3.2 percent of girls were named Jennifer. So Sophies will have many fewer namesakes to contend with than Jennys of the previous generation.
On my combined list, the rest of the boys’ top 10 are Jackson, Jayden, Mason, Jacob, Ethan, Kayden, Noah, Michael and Liam. Liam is new for 2012, bumping William back to 11th place.
Jackson was only 22nd and Kayden 99th on Social Security’s list where each spelling is counted separately. Jaxon, with a total of 6,252, was 66th on the list.
Jack was the top name for boys in England and Wales between 2000 and 2008. It still ranked third there in 2011.
Just like the British, American parents think calling a son Jack is cool. But most Yanks are reluctant to put a one-syllable nickname on a birth certificate. Jack was 56th on my combined spellings list in 2012. It’s dropped 10 ranks in popularity since 2005.
If you name your son Jackson or Jaxon, you can call him Jack while still giving him a two-syllable name ending in “n,” the fashionable sound pattern for boys today. If Jackson continues rising at the same rate, it will pass Aiden and soon be number one.
Mason had been slowly rising for years when TV reality show baby Mason Kardashian pushed it into the top 10 in 2011.
The fastest-rising boy’s name among the top thousand was Major in 2012, when 555 Majors were born, almost triple the 196 in 2011.
Carolyn Colvin, Social Security’s acting administrator, said she had no doubt that Major’s rising popularity as a boy’s name is in tribute to the brave members of the U.S. military. She expects to soon see many babies named “General.”
A better explanation is HGTV’s “Home by Novogratz.” This show began in July 2011, featuring designers Robert and Cortney Novogratz and their seven kids. Major, born in 2009, is their youngest child.
Cute toddlers featured on television are often especially good baby name promoters. Major sounds like a “different but not too different” alternative for Mason, and so Major Novogratz, like Mason Kardashian before him, has lots of namesakes.
For girls, Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Emily, Ava, Chloe, Zoey, Abigail and Madison follow Sophia on my combined list. It’s the same 10 names as last year in a slightly different order. Fast-rising Aubrey almost caught Madison, but settled for eleventh place.
Sound similarity also helps explain the top names for girls. Sophia, Chloe and Zoey share the same vowels. Avery, which jumped 13 percent to 24th last year, fits in with Ava, Aubrey and Abigail.
Last March, I said I’d be surprised if the movie “Hunger Games” didn’t lead to more than five girls named Katniss in 2012.
I wasn’t disappointed. Twelve girls were named Katniss in 2012. Another 16 were called Primrose, after Katniss’ younger sister.
The HBO series “Game of Thrones” is another mass-media version of best-sellers — in this case the “A Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin.
The fastest-growing name for girls among the top thousand in 2012 was Arya, inspired by a young girl who becomes a ninja-like warrior in “Game of Thrones.” In 2012, 95 percent more Aryas were born than in 2011.
Martin pronounces Arya in two syllables as “are-yuh.” Many of the English actors in the TV series find saying “r” at the end of syllables difficult, and so say Arya like the word “aria.”
It’s a mystery how most parents inspired by the series are pronouncing Arya, but either way it’s similar to other popular names like Ava and Arianna.
Arya has other derivations besides Martin’s novels. Other “Game of Thrones” terms are purely his invention. For example, the nomadic Dothraki address Daenerys Targaryen, the dragon-loving princess who becomes their ruler, as “Khaleesi,” their word for queen.
In 2012, 146 American babies were named Khaleesi. Fifty-nine more were called Kaleesi, Khalessi, Kalisi, Caleesi or Calisi. Many parents have independently decided Khaleesi is a great “different but not too different” shift from names like Kaylee and Kelsey and turned this fantasy word into a name for girls. Today that’s how the Game of Names is played.