Important Investigations is an ongoing Pulitzer-worthy series where I try to solve the big questions that befuddle even the sharpest mind. Today, we will talk about arguably the most serious problem facing America: a disturbing trend in the most popular baby names in the state of Alabama.
Today we’re tackling one of the big questions: Is it me, or are people getting worse at naming their children? Specifically, are people in Alabama getting worse at naming their children?
The answer may surprise you. (Or not. Because the answer is yes). And there are graphs to prove it. The horrifying naming trend in question is the abuse of the letter “Y.” As my shocking exposé uncovers, Alabamians have been slapping Y’s on any name they can find. More alarmingly, these Y’s are often gratuitously jammed into the middle of a name where they are entirely unnecessary. Now, there are some names where this makes sense: Cynthia, Lydia, Sylvie, and Taylor are all real names with real spellings. But I’m a little less generous in my assessment of Addyson.
And since I wanted to look into at the Gaëtan Dugas of this horrible naming epidemic, I had to go to the place where most of America’s problems originate: Alabama. (Note: I didn’t have to actually go to Alabama * knocks on wood *). I analyzed the last fifty years of Alabama names to try and figure out what the hell happened and put some data behind our hypothesis.
Jayden. Kayden. Cayden. Kaylee. Makayla. Jordyn. Kylee. Kyleigh. Katelyn. Ryleigh. Madelyn. Rylee. Addyson.
These were all among the top 100 names for girls or boys in Alabama in 2011. It’s a brave new world we’re living in, people, and nobody there can spell for shit.
Oh, it’s easy to laugh at Alabama, but if we don’t stop this, it’ll spread to the rest of us. Look at this chart and try not to tremble in fear:
In any case, I did what any real social scientist would do in this situation.
I made a bar graph.
We begin in 1960 because that’s how far back the Social Security Administration’s database goes and continue forward from there in five-year increments because, you know, we just do, ok. The number of “Interior Y’s” represent those names in the top 100 in Alabama with a Y that is neither the first nor the last letter (so Sydney, Cynthia, and sigh, Kaylee would count, but Mary and Yolanda wouldn’t). You’ll notice that while the number of names that include a Y is trending upwards, the numbers with Y’s in the middle–your Kaylas, Makaylas, Londyns and Jordyns–has increased at a dramatic rate since 2000 and shows no sign of slowing. This is a horrible disaster.
And if you prefer the drab colorlessness of Excel spreadsheets, here’s this. The Y peak and Interior Y peak represent the highest ranked name that has a Y anywhere in it and that has a Y other than the first or last letter respectively. Click to embiggen:
Those tables show how we went from Cynthia, Carolyn, Cheryll, Phyllis, Joyce, Gwendolyn and Marilyn in 1960–all names that are real names–to that mess in 2010 that includes such gems as Ashlyn, Brooklynn, Rylee and Kyleigh. Think about the thought process behind the name Kyleigh for one second. It’s like they wanted “Kylie,” (a real name!) and thought Kylee was too trashy, so they went for Kyleigh because silent letters are French. And fancy. And classy.
Long story short, the shitty pointless Y trend is very real, and much affecting Alabamians
all over the world. Not to get all Father Martin Niemöller over here, but we must be vigilant. First they named people Carolyn… And I didn’t speak out because that’s a respectable name. Then they named people Jayla, and there was no one left with a real person’s name to see how dumb a name that is.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO US?
I have no idea. Sorry.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
You should get ready for a wave of Kaylas coming through in a few years. Kayla was in the top 15 nationally from 1990-2000, and only in 2011 fell out of the top 50. Worse, when a name is completely made up, there isn’t really a “right” way to spell it, so there are near-infinite deviations from the original. There’s your McKaylas, Makaylas, Kylahs, Kylas, and (said as a karate sound) Kaiyas. It’s the Brittany/Brittney/Britney of the next generation.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
Load up on fertility pills, have tons of unprotected sex, with strangers if necessary, and when it comes time to pick your daughter’s name, just imagine a DJ saying, “And now dancing on stage 3, [INSERT NAME HERE]!!!” If your desired baby name seems like the natural conclusion to that sentence, then pick a different one.