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Name game goes over to the Dark Side: ‘Kylo’ is now one of the top 1,000 names for baby boys

By Matt Pearce • May 14, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Apparently parents think the Dark Side looks super fun.

The name Kylo — as in the “Star Wars” villain Kylo Ren — is now one of the top 1,000 most popular names for boys in the United States, according to new data on baby names released Friday by the federal Social Security Administration.

There were a total of 238 Social Security card applicants named Kylo born in 2016, making it the 901st most popular boy’s name for the year. It’s by far the boy’s name that has grown the fastest in popularity since 2015, when the year’s highest-grossing movie, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” introduced movie fans to Kylo Ren, who — spoiler alert — kills his dad with a lightsaber. Insert Freud joke here.

The most popular boy’s name in 2016, by contrast, was about as old and biblical as it gets: Noah. Of 3,929,560 applications for Social Security cards for people born in 2016, a total of 19,015 — or nearly 1 percent of the boys — were for Noah, which has now occupied the top spot for four straight years.

Rounding out the top five most popular boys names are Liam, William, Mason and James.

The big story for girls is in the four names that dropped the furthest in popularity in 2016: Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelynn and Kaitlynn. All four variations dropped out of the top 1,000.

The shift corresponds with a landmark cultural event in 2015: the former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner coming out as a transgender woman.

Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair and was the focus of widespread media coverage about transgender issues at a time when more and more lawmakers began battling over whether to restrict transgender people’s use of public bathrooms.

A Quinnipiac poll from June 2015 showed that swing-state voters had deeply mixed or uncertain feelings about their attitudes toward Jenner.

That kind of unease can put off parents who might be thinking about giving a similar name to their new child, according to Jennifer Moss, the founder of BabyNames.com, a website that provides assistance for parents trying to figure out how to name their kids.

“Baby names can be affected by pop culture, definitely. Other than family, pop culture has come out No. 2 for what influences baby naming,” said Moss, whose website has surveyed new parents about the struggles they face in naming children.

Moss recalled another example in the annals of baby-naming: the decline of “Monica” babies.

“The name Monica was on the rise in the ’90s because of the show ‘Friends’ when it first came out,” said Moss, referring to the character of Monica Geller, played by Courteney Cox. In 1997, Monica had risen to become the 79th most popular name for baby girls.

But in early 1998, news reports first identified White House intern Monica Lewinsky as having an affair with President Bill Clinton. The name Monica turned into the punchline for a million raunchy jokes as a sensational scandal unfolded.

“It just dropped off the chart after that,” Moss said. In 2016, Monica was the 589th most popular baby girl’s name.

The most popular girls’ names in 2016 were Emma — No. 1 for the third year in a row — followed by Olivia, Ava, Sophia and Isabella. Emma and Olivia each accounted for about 1 percent of all baby girls.

“The old-fashioned — kind of what they call the grandma names — are still in for girls,” Moss said.

Here are other tidbits from Social Security Administration:

• The agency began compiling the baby name list in 1997, with names dating back to 1880. At the time of a child’s birth, parents supply the name to the agency when applying for a child’s Social Security card, thus making Social Security America’s source for the most popular baby names.

• Each year, the list reveals the effect of pop-culture on naming trends. This year’s winners for biggest jump in popularity in the Top 1,000 are Kehlani and Kylo.

• Kehlani rose 2,487 spots on the girls’ side to number 872, from number 3,359 in 2015. Perhaps this can be attributed to Kehlani Parrish, a singer/songwriter who was nominated for a Grammy in 2016. She was named an artist to watch and clearly new parents agree her star is rising. Kehlani collaborated with Zayn Malik, the former One Direction star and current solo artist, on a song in 2016. The name Zayn also made the boys fastest riser list.

• The force was strong for Kylo in 2016 as he soared 2,368 spots for the boys, from number 3,269 in 2015 to number 901. Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia and the grandson of Darth Vader, was a character in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Perhaps Kylo can continue to harness the force and climb even higher in the coming years.

• The second fastest riser for girls was Royalty. The royal family likely had something to do with this increase in popularity, or the 2015 World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals, may have influenced parents-to-be.

• For boys, it was Creed. This could be attributed to the return to the silver screen of America’s favorite boxer Rocky Balboa in the 2015 movie Creed, where Rocky trains and mentors Adonis Johnson Creed, the son of his late friend and boxing rival, Apollo Creed. The name Adonis just happens to be the number four fastest riser on the list for boys.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov to view the entire list.

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©2017 Los Angeles Times

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