In 1880, Social Security Administration data show that the 10 most popular baby names were given to 41% of boys and 23% of girls. But in 2006, just 9.5% of boys and roughly 8% of girls were given one of the year's 10 most popular names -- a combined decline of about 33% from the averages in the 1990s, says Cleveland Kent Evans, an associate psychology professor at Bellevue University in Bellevue, Neb. and a past president of the American Name Society. So while a once-ubiquitous name like Mary has fallen from No. 1 during most of the 1950s to No. 84 last year, many new names are taking off.Uber-original parents, however, do their children no favors by choosing recent creations such as Jolt or Zayden (playground taunt: "Zayden! Zayden! His parents must hate 'im!").
This naming fervor puts me in mind of the Biblical account of Zechariah and Elizabeth naming their son. Mom had the task of selecting the name, Dad being mute at the time, and she bucked tradition by refusing to name the lad after his father. Someone handed Dad a tablet and demanded his opinion, and he amazed the crowd by inscribing, "His name is John" -- doubtless the last time anyone was surprised by a baby being named John.
Although hiring a consultant would seem to indicate a weak aesthetic sense and a rather unhealthy preoccupation with image on the part of the parents, I don't have a problem with carefully considering the sound and style of a baby's name. We have a stodgy English last name and for our daughters we selected old-fashioned, multi-syllabic names to soften and compliment our blunt patronymic: Eleanor, Julia, Isabel. For middle names, we chose saints' names that had some significance for us, and that blended nicely with the first name. We've tried to steer clear of names that have become too popular (such as Olivia or Sophie, both of which I like) or names that sound well but are just too much (Georgiana sounds lovely with our last name).
For naming fun and games check out the NameVoyager or Nymbler (h/t Opinionated Homeschooler, who's been busy playing the name game herself).