In the 1880s, American babies were eight times as likely to be given a first name beginning with the letter F than they were a century later:
This is fascinating. Or maybe to get with the times, I should say it’s xascinating. In the inclusive spirit of our age, the three most expendable consonants in the English language–Q, X, and Z–all shot up in popularity during the latter half of the 20th century and into the first decades of the 21st:
What happened in the middle of the 20th century that caused a turning away from names beginning in vowels? Remarkable:
The only vowel that doesn’t crisply follow the pattern is U. That could be an artifact of the entries for “Unknown” spiking in the 40s and 50s, which I assume has something to do with orphaned urchins rather than nutcases actually naming their babies Unknown. In any case, U names are a rounding error among those starting with a vowel. Today, 1 in 10 names begin with an A, while just 1 in 2,000 names start with a U. As random as American forenames may seem to be at first blush, for every one baby who has a name beginning in U, there are 200 babies with a name that starts with an A.
Though A is the most common first letter for baby names today, the letter’s strong position isn’t the most dominant one any letter has enjoyed over the last 150 years. That honor goes to the humble J, the letter that started the names of a staggering 1 in 7 babies in the 1970s:
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down and broke his crown and Alex came tumbling after!
*Boo, Hiss* Okay, I’ll end the post here. Tough crowd.
My thanks to Haruto Rat for sending me down this rabbit hole.