One obvious one is the influence of pop culture. Parents get name ideas from everything from their favorite celebrities to characters in bestselling books. Or even pop music: In her paper “Brandy, You’re a Fine Name: Popular Music and the Naming of Infant Girls from 1965-1985”, Michelle Napierski-Prancl wondered if there was any correlation between top songs and the names of female children. Indeed, there appeared to be: When Kool and the Gang’s song “Joanna” hit the Billboard Hot 100 List in 1984, the name Joanna shot up in popularity. The same thing happened to “Rosanna” after Toto’s song of that name in 1982. Even some more-unconventional names saw a surge in the wake of a hit song. The names “Candida,” “Windy,” and “Ariel” were so unpopular names for babies that they had never even cracked the top 1,000. But after songs with those names became hummable hits in the 60s and 70s, they all suddenly debuted on the top baby-name charts.
Success was fleeting, though. As Napierski-Prancl found, the popularity of the name generally faded soon after the song itself left the charts. “This ends up creating a cohort of women who share a name that is popular for only a short period of time,” she writes. “Today someone named Windy or Candida is likely to be thought of as having an unusual name.” What’s more, following the pop-culture-name-of-the-moment can leave parents later slightly regretting how they hopped on the bandwagon. A survey of British parents, Napierski-Prancl notes, found that 20% “no longer liked the name they picked for their child,” with one reason being they regretted picking a name that at the time seemed “cool or clever.”