Another example is София България

When I was writing yesterday about sophistication and other related “soph-” words in English, I purposely omitted discussion of the name Sophia. I decided to wait so that I could write a post about the Social Security Administration’s Popular Baby Names search engine. The girl’s name Sophia, which is Greek for “wisdom,” was #4 on the SSA’s 2009 list of most popular girl baby names in the U.S. The #4 ranking is a bit misleading, though. Sofia was #36 and Sophie was #65. If we combined the stats for the different forms, they well might beat out Isabella, Emma or Olivia for one of those top three spots.

The SSA’s baby name page is really fascinating. You can do two types of searches, by date and by name. I pull up my birth year, for example, and find that the top five names are Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen and Linda. So it’s no surprise that I dated a Lisa, that I’m married to a Susan, and that at one time I had among my coworkers all in one department a Mary, a Karen, and a Linda, all similar in age to me. While the birth year function on the SSA site gives you a snapshot in time of what was popular, the name search is much more interesting to me. Enter a name, and it will give you the name’s annual rank as far back as you’d like to go within their 130 years of data (default is ten years if no date range selected).

Coming in at #118, Sophia was fairly popular when the data begins in 1880. From there, it had a steady decline until the mid-’50s. It reached its nadir in 1956, with a #923 ranking. After that, it trudged slowly back up the popularity path over the years. Since 1997, it has appeared in the top 100. Since 2006, it has been in the top 10. Our dedication to wisdom must be increasing!

You’ll enjoy spending some time poking around this site. Discover interesting facts like this: The top girl name over the last century, Mary, has 3.76 million instances, over twice as many as the #2 in that category, Patricia, with 1.57 million. However, the top two boy names, James and John, are very close—4.87 million and 4.77 million respectively. See tables of top names by decade, top names by state, top 5 names over a period of time, popular names for twins. There are all kinds of possibilities. Enjoy!

About Verla

Wordfreak. Linguist. WA State licensed P.I. #3377. Principal, Viera Investigations. Spanish-English interpreter. Sole proprietor, Encanto Language Services. Erstwhile librarian. Texan by birth, cheesehead by upbringing, latina by soul, PacNWer by choice. Jewelry artist, Different Drummer Designs. Owner, world’s most gigantic dachshund. Driver, world’s almost smallest car. Chocoholic. Lover of things purple.
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6 Responses to Another example is София България

  1. Sue says:

    I flipped to 1993 to see the names of those who are turning 18 in 2011. Unsurprisingly, I’m already seeing them show up in class.
    1 Michael Jessica
    2 Christopher Ashley
    3 Matthew Sarah
    4 Joshua Samantha
    5 Tyler Emily
    6 Brandon Brittany
    7 Daniel Taylor
    8 Nicholas Amanda
    9 Jacob Elizabeth
    10 Andrew Stephanie
    11 David Megan
    12 Joseph Lauren
    13 Ryan Nicole
    14 James Rachel
    15 Zachary Jennifer
    16 John Kayla
    17 Robert Amber
    18 William Danielle
    19 Anthony Victoria
    20 Justin Courtney

  2. Michael says:

    Well, since I come from a certain un-named family that utilizes “V” names for girls, I had to do some research. Verla appears in the top 1000 names in the SS database till 1946, highest ranking is 495/1000 in 1922. While, Vassie stops appearing on the list in 1906 and gets its highest ranking at 812/1000 in 1896.

    In contrast to all of this, is my own name which was in the top 100 till the 1940’s when it became a perpetual front runner, only loosing ground it gained from 1953 onward to names this year like Ethan and Jacob. I feel like my birthright has been stolen, like my heel has been grabbed, like my name is no longer chosen. Meanwhile, while my name narcissistically competes for #1, my family members with “V” names will always have names like rare diamonds.

    Thank you Aunt V and the Social Security Administration for making this clear to me.

    • Verla says:

      I’m curious. I know you chose Caleb because it has historical Ethiopian roots. Are there a lot of Calebs there?

      • Michael says:

        I looked that up as well. In terms of SS Administration – Caleb was about as popular as Verla or Vassie from the 1880’s to the 1920’s. Then it drops off the map till 1964 where it rings in at an impressive 999/1000 but then grows constantly in popularity to its current ranking 31/1000. And for anecdotal evidence, in the last 8 years of teaching, I always had at least 1 Caleb in my classrooms, so it is around, but not like my own name or Jacob, Mark, Matt, etc.
        oh, but you were asking about Ethiopia…..
        I would not say “a lot” but it is a commonly known name – here pronounced more like “Kahleb” due to “Ngoos Kaleb” a famous king in Ethiopian history. The most common names here tend to be names from the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition such as various saints or even names like “patience”, “kindness”, or other biblical names.

        • Verla says:

          There was a woman on my hall in the dorm named Patience when I was a college freshman. She was kind of a diva, and always having dramatic conversations on the payphone out in the hall (no cells, remember?) with her boyfriend Drake. I work with a Hope and a Chastity, and we hear Charity and Joy in American English as well.

          In the last 50 years:
          Patience–not in top 1000 until 1994
          Drake–didn’t pick up steam until 1985
          Hope–floats around 200-400 all the time
          Chastity–appears in 1972 and varies widely 300-990
          Charity–appears in 1968 and varies widely 200-900
          Joy–always present, but has had a slow decline since 1969

          Thanks for commenting!

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