Tag Archives: baby name

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Picking a Baby Name That’s Uniquely Popular

We’re letting the whole Internet vote on the name for our baby, so it might seem a little strange that I’m posting about picking a name that’s unique. Why bother with a poll if you don’t want a popular name? What does uniquely popular mean, anyway?

Looking at the data right now, Alexander is comfortably in the lead. But Alexander is also a very popular name in general right now – it was the 9th most popular name for boys in 2012 according to the U.S. SSA. So, I’d like to see if some names are getting more votes in our poll than you would expect just by general popularity.

I did a similar analysis when we did this for my daughter five years ago. Back then I used SPSS and a little more statistical rigor, but I haven’t had a chance to play around with R to do something similar yet. For now I’ll stick to what I can do in Google Spreadsheets.

Here’s a plot of each name, showing the number of votes in our poll vs the number of babies with that name in 2012:

So what does this tell us? First off, the names seem to line up more or less on a line going up and to the right. This means there’s probably a correlation between our poll and popularity in the U.S. Google Spreadsheets has a function to give you the correlation coefficient called CORREL(). Right now this is 0.69, which is a pretty strong correlation.

Second, if we guesstimate where we would have to put a straight line to best fit these points, we can see which names are above the line – right now, it’s Nikola, Luka, and Finn, with Soren maybe just peeking over the top. If we want to pick names that are uniquely popular in our poll, those are good choices.

I’ve plotted the U.S. Babies in 2012 totals on a log scale for two reasons – first, it’s much easier to read this way, and second, it doesn’t look like baby names are distributed very evenly:

This is from U.S. SSA data again. In this chart you can see that a very small number of the most popular names (at the left side of the graph) are given to a very large number of babies. Looking toward the right of the graph, there’s a very long tail of many names given to much smaller numbers of babies.

This looks like it might be a Zipf distribution, which is a pretty common distribution for data like wordcounts and website popularity. If we shift that graph to a log scale it starts to look more like a straight line.

By the way, if you haven’t voted on our baby name poll yet, go ahead and vote now – this baby is coming soon!

How to Predict Your Baby’s Eye Color – You May Be Surprised

Familiy eye color

One of the most fun things about having a baby is seeing which traits they inherit from each parent. It’s fun to try to guess before the baby is born, too – for example, what eye color will my baby have?

If you’ve met my family (or just looked at the picture in the post) you might not think eye color was a particularly interesting trait for us to speculate about. My wife and I have brown eyes, as does my daughter, and brown is far and away the most common eye color for people of African ancestry. Mixed kids can have all sorts of delightful variation of facial features, skin tone, hair, but we pretty much know our new baby will have brown eyes, right?

It turns out that our baby has a 26% chance of green/hazel eyes and even a 4% chance of blue eyes:

Using 23andme to predict eye color

This is from our report at 23andme. It’s pretty cool that we can get this information at all – we are living in the future, in a time genetic sequencing is done for fun.

How can this be? If you remember back to high school biology class, it’s all about genetics. Brown is the dominant gene, so you need the recessive gene from both parents in order to get another eye color. There’s a good explanation of it here.

Even though my eyes are brown, I must have inherited the recessive gene from my mom. My wife has some European ancestry in her family tree, so it looks like that recessive gene was passed down generation after generation all the way to her.

If you don’t have 23andme, you can get a reasonable prediction with this tool from the Tech Museum:


One other thing to note about a newborn’s eye color – you might not even know their eye color after they are born. Newborns often have gray-colored eyes, which change over time. No one told me this before my first daughter was born, so I was pretty surprised when she looked at me with those silvery gray eyes.

By the way, we are asking the internet to vote on the name of our baby boy! For each vote, $1 will be donated to Save the Children.

If you have a minute, please give us your vote.

Further reading about eye color in mixed populations:

1000 Votes in our Baby Name Poll – Which Name is Winning?

We’ve passed 1,000 votes in our baby name poll!

Now we have enough data to start showing off the top names:

Looks like Alexander, Isaac and Finn have taken an early lead. I haven’t done any real data analysis yet, but we’re getting enough votes now that I won’t be able to resist for long.

If you haven’t voted, please follow this link to the form. For each vote, we (and some other folks at Google) have pledged to donate $1 to Save the Children. Just by voting, you ensure a child receives a polio vaccine.

See the original post and the FAQ for more info.