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October 22, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

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Fun With Names: Baby Names and Pop Culture

AV Club reported today that “Khaleesi,” a word from the fictional language Dothraki of the Game of Thrones universe (approximately translating to “queen”), is a trending baby name: 146 “Khaleesi”s were born in 2012, compared to 136 “Betty”s and 106 “May”s.

Baby names serve as a cultural timestamp, with rises and falls frequently influenced by television, music, and film. The #2 name given to baby girls in 2012, “Emma,” saw a 71% boost in popularity over just two years when Rachel Green gave it to her daughter on Friends. The name “Apple” had never appeared on the Social Security database in 2003, but has been used 256 since introduced by Gwyneth Paltrow in 2004. “Adele” doubled in popularity from 2010 to 2012 as the pop superstar of the same name topped the charts with 21.

Some name trends have been less expected: when the Police released “Roxanne,” a song about a prostitute, the name steadily grew in popularity for the next four years. 58 Baracks were born in 2008, up from 5 the year before, marking the first significant increase in popularity of the name of a newly-elected US President since “Franklin” nearly tripled between 1931 and 1932 (and then doubled again in 1933).

In recent years, the biggest pop culture stimulator of name popularity has quite possibly been the Twilight series: 2004 saw 1240 Bellas born; 2009 had 4526. “Renesmee,” the almost universally-mocked name of the vampire baby born in the series final book, has been used 157 times since it was invented by writer Stephanie Meyer. “Cullen” increased from 270 to 683 uses (both male and female) from 2004 to 2010.

So what’s next? The Hunger Games’ “Katniss” was listed for the first time in 2012, with 12 uses, and should explode when the 2013 numbers come out. The five names attached to One Direction: Harry, Liam, Louis, Niall, and Zayn, all grew in popularity in 2012 and shouldn’t be stopping anytime soon. Either way, there should be no shortage of pop culture references showing up on birth certificates in the future.