Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Name Clouds

I have long been looking for a source of names for people of different ages, and I found one surprising source: The Social Security Administration. Using their baby names search engine, I can pull the top 100 most popular names for U.S. boy and girl babies born every year after 1879.

Finding this site also helped me solve another naming problem that frequently plagues me: what to name married couples. First I just pulled the 100 most popular names of their respective gender and birth year and ran two columns side by side, but I wanted to mix them up and see them in different combinations. Which gave me an excuse to go and play with Wordle.

Here's a cloud that contains the most popular boy and girl names from 2010 (click any image to see a larger version):

Here's another cloud, using the most popular names from fifty years ago:

Finally I Wordled the most popular names for babies born in 1880:

The best thing about feeding my potential lists to Wordle is that I can keep switching around the name cloud to get different combinations if I don't like the first results. This would probably work great with pairing first and last names, too.

Btw, for you folks who love to play with words, art and phone apps, Wordle creator Jonathan Feinberg mentioned on his blog a new app called WordFoto which reimages your photos into photo/word art. Although I can't personally test it out (my mobile phone is the throwaway kind that only makes phone calls), I meandered over to the app store and checked the price. It's $1.99, which seems quite reasonable.


  1. My favorite resource for names is the book BEYOND JENNIFER AND JASON by Linda Rosenkrantz. I love the way the names aren't in lists, but in categories (i.e. "smart" names or "pretty" names or "old fashioned" names).

    I bought it years ago when deciding on a name for my own children. I keep it for naming characters.

  2. This is so awesome! I would have never thought of the SS people for names. Thanks for the info!

  3. Naming a married couple is an odd issue...Just don't make them rhyme, and you should be fine.

  4. Oh, I don't know. We have married friend in real life named Pat and Patty Patrick...sometimes truth is stranger, you know?

  5. Very cool. I love these. *am now going to play*


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