Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Bernadette, Rhonda and Jacquelyn

Anybody here, seen those three names lately? Do you wonder where they've gone? Do pop songs have a big influence on girls' names?

I'm guessing that there are a lot of 39 year old Rhondas out there. Why? Because in 1965 the Beach Boys had a big hit with "Help Me, Rhonda". (Who was Rhonda, anyway? I've been scrounging on the web and haven't found any clues yet. Or was it just a name chosen at random?)

If her name is "Bernadette", I'm guessing she's probably around 37, because that's when the 4 Tops had their big hit. Along the way there has also been a novel "The Song of Bernadette" and the Irish woman Bernadette Devlin, so they may confound the data.

And then there are other pop culture figures - how about Jackie Kennedy? I'm guessing that about any Jacquelyn you meet is pushing 40...

Alright, in the name of science I simply must know if these things have any influence. So, from the top 1000 names lists from the Social Security Administration we have the following name frequencies by decade:

1940 Rhonda 340
Jacquelyn 206
Bernadette 240

1950 Ronda 345 (Rhonda did not show)
Jacquelyn 218
Bernadette 271

1960 Rhonda 46 (and Ronda was 218)
Jacquelyn 266
Bernadette 287

1970 Rhonda 92 (and Ronda was 348)
Jacquelyn 340
Bernadette 426

1980 Rhonda 303 (Ronda was N/S)
Jacquelyn N/S
Bernadette 555

1990 Rhonda 853
Jacquelyn 271
Bernadette 891

N/S=No show - not in the listing.

Hmm. Rhonda/Ronda spiked bigtime in the 60's, stayed respectable until the 80's, then dropped like a rock in the 90's. Bernadette was actually falling and continued to fall after the 4 Tops (I wonder what this would look like if broken down by race). Jacquelyn was gone by the 80's but recovered in the 1990's (I'm guessing that that coincided with the death of Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis, but the data cannot distinguish this).

Is this scientific? Not particularly. I used ranks, not frequencies. I haven't worried about name variations except in the case of Rhonda, and the data I'm using has some significant limitations itself. And if you even asked, you're no fun anyway.

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