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Identity theft: who's in a name?

In choosing baby names, many soon-to-be parents take inspiration from pop culture. According to the Social Security Administration, the two names that gained the most popularity last year were Bentley (for boys) and Maci (for girls). Though neither name broke the top 100, both rose more than 400 places. Maci Bookout and her son, Bentley, were stars of the MTV reality show Teen Mom in 2010. The second-fastest-rising name for boys was Kellan; Kellan Lutz stars in the Twilight movies. Another newly popular name for boys was Knox, the name of one of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's twins.


Heidi Vandebosch, a communication scholar at the University of Antwerp, has studied the influence of media on baby names. "Names associated with famous persons, who parents might admire or think are good looking or sympathetic, often gain popularity," she says, "while the names of notorious people might lose popularity, as in the decline of the name Adolf after World War II." (Adolf lost its luster earlier in the United States: It last appeared in the top 1,000 in 1928.) Parents also often want names that are unusual, Vandebosch says, and the mass media bring new names to public attention. Before long, of course, they're no longer unusual.

But like pop culture figures themselves, names inspired by pop culture come and go. Last year, for the first time since 1954, Elvis wasn't among the top 1,000 boys' names in the United States. In a press release, Social Security commissioner Michael J. Astrue says the Elvis news leaves him "all shook up."

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Title Annotation:FINDINGS
Publication:The Wilson Quarterly
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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