‘Twilight’ effect strikes popular baby names

First family also exerts influence on parents

Associated Press WriterMay 8, 2010 

WASHINGTON — Mom and Dad may be looking to popular vampire books and the first family for baby names: Cullen is on the rise for boys and Malia for girls. But Miley and Jonas are down, proving that acclaim can be fleeting.

Isabella is now the top baby name for girls, Jacob for boys, the Social Security Administration said Friday. Isabella’s climb to the top in 2009 ends Emma’s one-year reign. Jacob is on an 11-year run at the top.

“Anything can influence baby names, from pop culture to literature to music and celebrities,” said Jennifer Moss, author of “The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book” and founder of Babynames.com.

Barack still didn’t crack the top 1,000 for boys, but a version of the president’s daughter’s name, Malia, was the fastest riser for girls. Maliyah moved up 342 spots, to No. 296, while Malia, which is how Obama’s daughter spells it, came in at No. 192, rising 153 spots.

Blame the author

Many of the top names — and the fastest risers — match the popular “Twilight” series movies based on books by Stephenie Mayer, stories about teen romance and vampires.

Edward Cullen is one of the lead characters. Edward moved up 11 spots, to No. 137 on the list, and Cullen was the biggest riser among boys’ names, up 297 spots to No. 485.

Edward Cullen is, of course, a vampire. His girlfriend? Bella, a common nickname for Isabella.

Jacob is another character in the stories, but Jacob’s rule at the top started well before the first “Twilight” book was published in 2005. Isabella has been in the top 10 since 2004.

“People seem to be a little bit more creative, inventive and flexible with their daughters’ names,” said Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue. “With boys, I think we tend to be a little bit more consistent. The names don’t change quite as much.”

A little more than 22,000 girls born in 2009 were named Isabella, followed by Emma, Olivia, Sophia and Ava. Nearly 21,000 boys were named Jacob, followed by Ethan, Michael, Alexander and William.

Mia was the only newcomer to the top 10 for girls, rising from 14th to 10th. Among the boys, Jayden moved up from 11th to 8th, and Noah moved up from 15th to 9th.

Long list

The Social Security Administration started compiling name lists in 1997. The agency offers lists of baby names dating to 1880.

Miley, as in teen singer Miley Cyrus, soared up the charts in 2008 but slipped last year, dropping 61 spots to No. 189. A different version, Mylee, fell even further, dropping 420 spots to No. 853. Marely fell the most among girls, dropping 517 spots to No. 851.

Jonas, as in the boy band Jonas Brothers, followed a similar path, peaking in 2008 before falling 105 spots last year, to No. 379. Alvin fell the most among boys, dropping 133 spots to No. 570.

“Make sure the name can grow with your child and make sure they can live with it,” Moss said. “Don’t make it too cutesy because think, can it work in the board room? Can they be a CEO?”

“Don’t make the name a burden on your child,” she added.

Some 69 boys born in 2009 were named Barack, making it the 1,993rd most popular name for boys. That’s up from No. 2,424 the year before.

Michelle, as in Michelle Obama, dropped a spot, to No. 104. Sasha, the name of Obama’s other daughter, moved up 101 spots, to No. 261.

“Before the president came on the scene, Barack was at the absolute bottom of the list, and it does take a while usually to move up,” Astrue said. “Most politicians will take an increase however they get it.”

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