The first babies born in 2012 got monikers both traditional and creative, with a trend of alternative spellings for old names continuing into the New Year.
On Jan. 2, the website namecandy.com released a list of the names of the first babies born in each U.S. state in 2012. The names run the gamut from Melissa to Kay'lyn among the girls and from Ezekiel to Jayden among the boys.
Though baby-naming trends can't be extrapolated from a tiny sample of babies who happened to be born on the same day, the list isn't a bad representation of modern baby names, said Laura Wattenberg, a statistician and baby-name expert who runs babynamewizard.com.
"If you had just stepped outside your time machine and wanted to understand 2012 baby names, you could do worse than look at this list," Wattenberg told LiveScience.
What you'd find is that the letters "K" and "A" are popular as the first letters of many names, with parents picking names such as Karis, Kyren and Kalylah for their infants. Traditional names are on the decline, but show up more frequently in the Northeast.
"This goes back to the red-state, blue-state naming styles," Wattenberg said. "The mountain West and the deep South tend to be much more wide-open creative naming cultures."
Parents are also putting new twists on old traditions in recent years, Wattenberg said, another trend that holds up on the NameCandy list. Biblical names, like Rhode Island's new baby Ezekiel, are as popular as ever, but parents are digging deeper for fresh-sounding monikers.
"Christian parents are increasingly using Old-Testament names that used to sound Jewish," Wattenberg said. For example, she said, in 2010, 236 American boys were named Hezekiah, the name of the 14th king of Judah. Texas' 2012 baby Shekinah is another example of an obscure Biblical reference. The word is a Hebrew term referring to the divine presence. [See the state-by-state list of first baby names]
The first baby born in the U.S. in 2012 was a little girl named Jenna Carly Tuedla, born in Guam on Chammorro Standard Time, according to NameCandy. Jenna was the 141st most popular name in the United States in 2010, the last year for which data are available.
Other name trends to look for in 2012 include the use of punctuation (see Kentucky's Kay'lyn, for an example), Wattenberg said. Punctuation has long been a trend in black families, but parents of many races are getting in on the trend, she said.
"One interesting meta-trend over the past generation is that since African American naming has been so creative for so long, often African American families are leading trends that white families then follow," she said. "Some of the Biblical trends, like Isiah and Elijah are examples of that."
Another small-but-growing trend is the use of firearms-inspired names like Colt, Remington and Gauge, Wattenberg said. This trend may be in part because parents are looking for strong, macho-sounding names for boys as more and more boy names get used for girls, she said. But there are likely cultural reasons, too.
"You don't name children after something you don't value," Wattenberg said. "So just as you had children named Grace and Pearl in the last generation, if your children are named Luger and Beretta today, that has to say something about your values."
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.