, you intriguing mystery

The folks at reached out to me the other day. Was I familiar with the site? No, I was not. But I gave it a try and liked it — with one hesitation.

Positives from the Patrick page:

  • Hearing a British child pronounce my name
  • Finding my name peaked in the United States in 1964
  • “From 1880 to 2015, the Social Security Administration has recorded 670,580 babies born with the first name Patrick in the United States. That’s more than enough people named Patrick to occupy the country of Montenegro….”


  • Here’s my hesitation: The data sourcing is pretty vague, as is the proprietorship of the site at large. It’s possible this site is doing an amazing job with the Social Security Administration’s trove of birth data, but it’s hard to tell for sure.
  • Seeing my name’s years of decline

Other fascinating things about the site, should the data be accurate?

  • The most popular baby names of all-time. Put aside your fancy yearly data. This chart takes all the yearly data since 1879, adds it up and determines who comes out on top. Five million Jameses and Johns! Four million Marys! This is a page where I’d really like more sourcing, though. As much as I love my brother and mother, I’m skeptical about Robert coming in third all-time for men and Patricia third all-time for women. Both benefit from huge middle-of-the-century numbers. Could those be accurate?
  • The fastest yearly rises of all-time. This chart is wild. Could read all day about the people and events who led to these spikes. Douglas Fairbanks is obvious, but who were the others?

638 Patrick Coopers

Today’s Sunday Longread email has led me to Julie Beck’s story “All the Other Julie Becks and Me: What a quest for my namesakes taught me about the meaning of names in the internet age,” which in turn led me to a site called The site uses 1990 and 2000 Census data to estimate how many people in the United States share your first and last name, something for which I am the target audience. According to these estimates, there are 636,847 first-named Patricks, 325,325 last-named Coopers, and 638 people in the United States named Patrick Cooper.

This is cool. But my wife wins. According to the site, there are 402,903 people with the first name Lori, 8,186 people with the last name Grisham, and only 10 — 10! — people named Lori Grisham.

Meanwhile, Julie Beck’s story gets into who has the top Google ranking, what conversations are like with other Julie Becks, how a name feels to the brain, the desire to be found or not found online, and so on. I love it.

Last but not least, while we’re on the topic, where does Patrick stand in Social Security’s baby-name popularity rankings? Awful. In the 2016 data, Patrick fell to 170th place among boys and secured the name’s worst showing ever, surpassing 1919’s previous record of 166th place.

‘Patrick’ nears record worst

The possibility of a comeback teases so.

After losing ground every year since 1984, “Patrick” finally leveled off in 2010 in the Social Security boy-baby name rankings: holding at spot 129. But in 2011, the name dropped to 144, its biggest tumble in years.

In 2012, my hopes rose again — an improvement to 141st position. But 2013 brought a dive to 154th. I was guarded when 2014 came in at 153rd. And rightly so. I just checked the numbers for 2015, and Patricks now sat at 164.

This spot is the name’s second worst showing since 1900, the beginning of Social Security’s name data. Patrick finished 164th in 1915 and 166th in 1919. We are alarmingly close to our worst showing in a hundred years.

Meanwhile, Cooper as a first name for boys hit 77 in 2015, near its peak of 75 in 2010. The biggest gaining names for boys in 2016? Riann, Huxley, Wilder, Jazien, Canaan.


So much for that comeback

“This is where the Patrick comeback begins,” I wrote in 2013, with so much hope. In the Social Security baby-name index in 2012, Patrick had moved from 144 (or 143, depending on your source) to 142 among boys. The upward move was my name’s first rise since 1994. I truly believed we Patricks were on our way back.

Checking the data tonight, because why not, I find the gain was sadly short-lived. In 2013’s Social Security data, Patrick fell to 154, Patrick’s worst showing since 1920 (at position 159). In 2014, my name didn’t do much better, finishing at 153. Patrick’s all-time worst showing was 1919, at position 166. We’re not far away.

The ten boy names that finished ahead of Patrick in 2014 were: Victor, Ryker (named after the island?), Jayce (sure), Preston (come on), Bryan, Kaleb, Miguel, Axel (that one kills me every year), Steven, and (this is why they hate us) Ashton.

Cooper, thankfully, has plateaued as a first name. (The blog is long on the record as being pro-Cooper-last-name, anti-Cooper-first-name.) After hitting spot 75 in 2010, subsequent years saw Cooper fall to spots 82, 83, 84, and (in 2014) 86.

Even in Ireland these days, it’s bad for babies named Patrick

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (and as of last month, you’ve had 12 years to do so), you know about the slow demise of Patrick as a first name in the United States. Yes, we’re seeing the first uptick since 1994, but it’s going to take more than one good year to reverse the trend.  Turns out, it’s also going to take recovery in Patrick central: Ireland. According to the Independent, the name is struggling in the land of St. Patrick as well.

Not only has Mary — the top name in 1901 — fallen back to a three-way tie for 71st place among girls. But Patrick — once third-most popular there — has dropped to 21st among boys. It turns out traditionally Irish names are taking a beating in the country, “Margaret, Anne, Jane, Catherine, Annie, and even our patron saint Bridget have all disappeared off the records.”

The trend actually looks much like ours: “Other former heavyweights that have fallen out of favour include Jeremiah and Cornelius. They’ve been replaced by the previously unheard of Leon, Mason, Logan and even Kacper which ranks at 98th.” Yes, my friends, it’s the attack of the Ns. 

Hat-tip to Lori on this article. The io9 headline is “America, Why Are You Naming All Your Boys Like This?” From the piece, we learn: “The rise in popularity of boys’ names that end in ‘n’ has been unprecedented. … A full 36% of boys’ names now end in the letter.” Pushing Patrick downward.

The comments on the Gizmodo piece are excellent almost across the board. Just in the first few, we get: a father-to-be rethinking what he and his wife will name their child, another poster promoting the name Walter and a third referencing a Bill Cosby line, “Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name the sound will carry.

Or, I would propose, end the name with a K. It’s a strong consonant that says what it thinks and means what it says. For your arriving baby, vote Patrick in 2014. When it learns how to talk, your baby will thank you.

This is where the Patrick comeback begins

Good news, people. Fantastic news. Not fantastic in an outright or Oxford-definition fantastic way, but on a relative scale, fantastic, really. For the first time since 1994, “Patrick” has increased in baby-name popularity.

Those were different days then, when Patrick went from 44 to 42. But in 2012, according to Social Security data, Patrick jumped from 143 to 142. This leap wasn’t enormous. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was any comeback. One game at a time. One foot in front of the other.

Last year, Patrick had its worst showing since 1925. I’m taking this win.

How did we do it? I’m going to say hard work and ingenuity. We’re giving it all we’ve got day-in, day-out, and people are seeing how we’re hanging in and keeping our focus. They like that. They say, “Those Patricks, they’re fighters. They’re lovable feisty underdogs. And they’re awfully personable and good-looking. And we — the people who name babies — want that.”

I’d also like to thanks Jesse for dropping to 153, Caden for dropping to 152, Axel for dropping to 160 (let’s be honest, you never deserved it), Joel for dropping to 145, Alejandro for dropping to 148, and a host of others for falling or limiting their rise just the right amount. I owe you big time.

Previously in this blog:
The declining Patrick birthrate? It could be worse
Patrick’s worst showing since 1925
As New York goes, so goes Patrick?
Patrick: The bleeding continues
Cooper Patrick still trouble for Patrick Cooper
Through the looking glass, and what Patricks found there
-2003: Patrick popularity declines

The saddest trends always begin with a boring headline. Reversal time.