Where do new names come from?

…it isn’t famous people who drive the name game.  It is the family just a few blocks over, the one with the bigger house and newer car.  The kind of families that were the first to call their daughters Amber or Heather and are now calling them Lauren or Madison.  The kind of families that used to name their sons Justin or Brandon and are now calling them Alexander or Benjamin.  Parents are reluctant to poach a name from someone too near — family members or close friends — but many parents, whether they realize it or not, like the sound of names that sound "successful."

But as a high-end name is adopted en masse, high-end parents begin to abandon it.  Eventually, it is considered so common that even lower-end parents may not want it, whereby it falls out of the rotation entirely.  The lower-end parents, meanwhile, go looking for the next name that the upper-end parents have broken in.

That is from Steve Levitt’s Freakonomics, with Steven Dubner, here is my previous post on this excellent book.  Here is the CD version of the book.  Levitt, by the way, picks "Aviva" as a girl’s name ready to "break out," but even I wouldn’t name my kid after an insurance company.


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