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Is Cecelia The New Emma?

Over nine million viewers tuned in to watch The Office last week, when Pam and Jim welcomed their daughter, Cecelia Marie Halpert. For most of us, the event was totally Awwwww- worthy. But for parents-to-be who had ‘Cecelia’ at the top of their potential baby name lists, the reaction was probably more like NOOOOOOOOO!

Why? Because of the Emma factor, of course.

In 2002, the season finale of Friends culminated in the birth of Ross and Rachel’s daughter, Emma Geller-Green. That year, Emma became the 4th most common name for baby girls in the United States—and currently tops the list. The surge in baby Emmas has been widely credited to the Friends baby.

But is Rachel really to blame? Probably not. After all, pre-Friends, Emma was already #13 on the Social Security Administration’s list of names culled from birth records, which means that it was already super-popular. Moreover, Emily, which is fairly similar, had been #1 on the list since the late 1990s. So it seems that Emma was well on its way, with or without Friends.

Other sit-com births have likewise failed to ignite a baby-naming revolution. The birth of Avery Brown on Murphy Brown in 1992 didn’t initially produce a noticeable spike. (For boys, Avery went from being #494 on the list in 1991 to #462 in 1992. By 1993 it jumped to #297, where it has hovered ever since.  Interestingly, it is more popular now as a girl’s name—but that popularity didn’t appear until nearly 10 years after Murphy Brown used it for her son.)

Other examples produce similar results. The birth of Brady Hobbes on Sex and the City did nothing for the name Brady. And Mabel, the moniker given to Paul and Jamie Buchman’s daughter on Mad About You didn’t even register on the list. (I guess some names actually are too ‘old lady’ for today’s parents.)

So go ahead, name your daughter Cecelia. (#756, in 2008) Or, if its a boy, there’s always Dwight. (#887, in 2004)

(Photo courtesy of NBC; stats compiled from the Social Security Administration’s database of popular baby names)

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