April 5, 2011 at 1:31 PM ET
Met any baby Palins lately? No, this isn't some new political joke -- "Palin" gained some traction as a girl name in 2009. But naming your child after a living politician is a tricky business these days, one naming expert explains.
By Sue Kidd
Could Palin be the next hot baby name?
There are at least a few baby Palins out there. The number of families naming their babies Palin tripled from 2008 to 2009.
Is it an homage to the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin? You betcha! The name’s popularity spiked when she arrived on the national political scene. Of course, many new parents are always on the prowl for new and unusual names – perhaps they just liked the sound of it.
Does that mean baby Palins could be as common as the Olivias, Emilys and Madisons down the road? Nah. Probably not.
The number of Palins recorded by the BabyCenter web site grew from 3 per million in 2008 to 20 in 2009, and down slightly to 16 in 2010. With statistics like that, you’ll have just as much luck running into a baby Biden as a Palin.
“I would be very surprised if we saw a boom in the name Palin. It would be flying in the face of contemporary American history in political names,” says Laura Wattenberg, author of “Baby Name Wizard.” Baby Baracks enjoyed a similar mini-bump in popularity in 2009, but the name still remains even more rare than Palin.
Fewer modern families are naming their children after politicians - period. Today, parents name babies to reflect personal style, not current events, said Wattenberg. That’s also why you’ll see fewer Juniors, too.
Blame Nixon. “It used to be we would have seen Palins everywhere. Up until Watergate, every election reliably brought in a measurable generation of baby names,” said Wattenberg. But post-Watergate, it became too risky to name a baby after a politician. A good politician today could be mired in lifelong scandal tomorrow. “There’s the element of risk. Presidential names are still hot, but only presidents who are safely out of office or dead. Everyone’s a little more jaded today, for good reason.”
But there is one measurable trend with political names – naming babies after politicians' children. While Palin and Barack may not overrun the playgrounds in a couple years, their children will. Malia, Sasha, Bristol, Willow and Piper are all trending upward in name popularity.
“Bristol, Piper, Willow, that’s where you see the effect the politicians (have). It’s a safer thing, politically sort of safer, but you’re not making an homage,” Wattenberg said. “It shows that politicians are celebrities and their kids’ names are in the news,” said Wattenberg.
What do you think about the name Palin? Would you name your child after a politician?
Sue Kidd is a full-time journalist, a sometimes freelancer and overzealous Mama Bear. Reach her at email@example.com.