A highly readable article by Michael R. Sisak of Associated Press about Brooklyn (whose rise in appeal as a popular borough of New York seems to have produced an extraordinary rise in interest in Brooklyn as a place name for girls) provides an interesting new perspective on place names.
It turns out that Brooklyn has moved up in the popularity rankings from #912 in 1990 to the top 30—where it seems to have leveled off over the past three years. The strange thing is, according to Sisak:
“Of the 41 states where Brooklyn is now the most popular girl’s name beginning with B, New York is not among them. Real Brooklynites say naming your child Brooklyn is strictly for out-of towners.”
Sisak tells the story of a girl named Brooklyn Presta who was born in Kansas and now lives in Brooklyn.
“Brooklyn Presta says her parents in Kansas were thinking unique, not New York, when they named her. Now 26 and living in Brooklyn, Presta says she often gets questions about whether she changed her name to fit her chosen borough. ‘It’s kind of crazy to be Brooklyn in Brooklyn, Presta says.’”
Apparently, Brooklyn is an appealing name for girls—as long as you don’t live there. If you live in Brooklyn, fuhgeddaboutit. I wonder if that’s the case for girls named Madison who live in Madison, Wisconsin (or work on Madison Avenue) or girls named Charlotte who live in Charlotte, North Carolina.
FYI, Madison is currently the most popular place name for girls. It rose from #627 in 1985 to #2 in 2001–a rise fueled by interest in the mermaid character played by Darryl Hannah in “Splash.” Twelve years later, the name is still among the top ten girls’ names, but it’s now #9.
Charlotte was ranked at #306 in 1984, the year “Splash” was released. And it was ranked #307 fifteen years later in 1999. That must have been when the “place-name” trend (popularized by Madison) caused parents to realize that Charlotte was a place name in addition to being a literary name (made famous by Charlotte Bronte, whose popular romance novel, Jane Eyre, was published in 1847). Since 1999, Charlotte has ridden the “place-name” trend all the way up to #11–and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Charlotte hop into the 1014 girls’ top-ten list when it is published by SSA next May.
Speaking of the SSA popularity statistics, my recent article about the most rapidly rising girls’ names in 2013 mentioned fifteen girls’ names that were streaking up the list. (And because both Brooklyn and Madison both seem to have peaked, the place-name baton seems to have been passed on to names like Ireland, Milan, Phoenix, Asia, Dakota and Londyn, and others.)
P.S. I’d love to hear from you if you have a place name and you live or work in that place. Is your experience like Brooklyn Presta’s? Or is it different? In my most popular article about place names, I discuss places that sound like they would be appropriate as names for people and places that might not work well for people. But I didn’t discuss what it’s like to live in a place you’re named after. If that describes you, please write a comment.