We all know popular baby names get plenty of time in the spotlight and prominent placement in baby name books every year. But what about trendy names? Apparently, they’re not at all the same thing — as everyone named Linda (including activist Linda Sarsour, above) is just now learning, probably with mixed feelings.
According to BuzzFeed, biotechnologist David Taylor used data from the Social Security database to look at names that super-peaked in popularity and then subsequently fizzled out fast. Yep, “popular” names have longevity over time, appearing again and again in the database, whereas “trendy” ones get crazy-popular crazy-fast and then… flop. The one name that stood out for flying too close to the sun only to get burned? Linda. According to Taylor’s findings, at one point, 5.5 percent of all girls in the U.S. were named Linda. And given the myriad name choices out there, 5.5 percent is quite a lot.
Taylor points to the fact that in 1955, singer Jack Lawrence released a song called “Linda” that hit the top of the charts. Mental Floss reports Lawrence wrote the song specifically for Linda Eastman, the daughter of his attorney, who would later go on to be Paul McCartney’s first wife. Thanks to the hit song, the name Linda got a huge bump in short-term popularity. But what marks it as trendiest is that its decline in popularity was just as sudden. After ’55, the name fell out of favor.
Some of the other short-lived name trends Taylor discovered through his data mining include Shirley, which peaked in the late 1930s; Debra, which had its heyday in the ’50s; and Ashley, which rose to prominence in the mid-1980s. But those names spent a bit more time rising and falling in popularity, so Linda is definitely the unquestionable winner when it comes to trendiness.
Taylor’s data also supported findings that in general, boy names don’t have as much flux in popularity as girl names. “There are really only two boys’ names that one would consider a sharp peak [Jason and Dewey],” Taylor wrote. “The other three are presidents’ names or, in the case of Dewey, that of the hero of the Spanish-American war.” He also mentions that any information gathered using data before 1936 should be taken lightly since the Social Security Administration didn’t issue Social Security numbers before then.