How to Tell If You’ve Given Your Baby an ‘Elite’ Name

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I lost all ability to make fun of the name Grover when I named my son Dudley. Photo: HBO

Today, a delightful post from The Hollywood Reporter explains a practice called “elite naming.” Experts on naming — including the author of ten books and a popular naming blogger — say “elite parents in urban areas” tend to give their babies unpopular, hard-to-pull-off names, which exposes those names to teeming masses of regular people, who go on to ruin them with their commonness. Which kind of baby-namer are you?

The quickest way to know is to examine the wisdom of the experts, who offered examples of “the top emerging mini monikers,” broken down by location. According to the post, New York (“trendy, literary”) has Dashiell, Sophie, Matilda, and Ophelia; Los Angeles (“playful, unisex”), Zen, River, Story, James (“for girls”); and D.C. (“classic, conservative”), Sam, Charlotte, Jack, Lily. (Note: While the post mentions the 50,000-name database of Nameberry, a site founded by one of the experts consulted, it’s not quite clear how this list came about.)

Is your baby’s name among those above? Congratulations, you’re an elite namer — soon, the name you chose will be sullied by all the commoners copying you.

If your name is not included in the experts’ list, I have an alternative method for discerning its status. Go to the handy website WolframAlpha, and enter “[name] name popularity” in the search bar. You’ll be taken to a page that pulls from data of 2015 U.S. births and Social Security registrations. You’ll see a rank, a fraction, and the number of people per year whose parents give them that name. You’ll even see a graph depicting popularity over time. In other words, you will instantly know how popular your baby’s name is — and therefore how elite your naming.

My son’s name is Dudley, a name choice I did not make blindly. I have visited the WolframAlpha page for “Dudley name popularity” many times. Currently, seven people per year are named Dudley, or one in every 271,265. Out of all names, it ranks 9,512th, i.e., extremely unpopular. Have I committed elite naming so successfully no commoner will ever catch a glimpse of my triumph?

Perhaps. By WolframAlpha’s calculations, another seemingly unpopular — but now visible — name is more popular than Dudley. Grover, the name Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath chooses for her baby in the final season of Girls, ranks 4,852nd, and is given to 19 people per year. Right now, my naming choice is more elite than a fictional character’s. Only time will tell whose is more influential.

How to Tell If You’ve Given Your Baby an ‘Elite’ Name