Western Pennsylvania parents follow baby-naming trends
By Debra Erdley
Published: Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, 8:06 p.m.
They may not be trending on Twitter yet, but give them a few years, and Olivia, Sophia, Mason and Noah are sure to make their mark.
They dominate hospital newborn nurseries across the region.
According to spokesmen for the Allegheny Health Network and UPMC Magee Women's Hospital, the four names — names that have claimed a spot on the Social Security Administration's annual registry of the top 10 baby names for several years — were among the most popular monikers for local newborns in 2013.
Laura Wattenberg, the creator of babynamewizard.com, a forum for choosing the right name, has studied names for a decade and found that new parents like to stress their individuality even when they pile onto name trends.
“It is a mysterious thing how name trends happen. Our tastes feel very individual, but our tastes often turn out to be the same as our neighbor's. With fashion, there are billboards telling you what to wear, but there is nothing like that where names are concerned,” Wattenberg said.
The selection of a name was intensely personal for new parents Brad and Amanda Neumann of Shaler. Brad Neumann, 29, said he and his wife, Amanda, 33, wanted something traditional for their first child.
“We were a little bit different. We wanted something that would go well with our last name,” he said.
They settled on Caroline Grace for the little girl who was born Friday at West Penn Hospital.
Amanda's grandmother's name was Grace, and it is Amanda's middle name as well.
At the Allegheny Health Network, where 3,500 babies were born at Forbes and West Penn Hospitals during the first 11 months of the year, officials said an early tally of the top 10 girls names of 2013 showed Mia and Gianna— numbers three and eight this year—surging ahead.
On the boys' list at Allegheny, Landon and Jace came out of nowhere to claim second and seventh place, while perennial biblical favorites Joseph and Michael claimed 8th and 10th place.
Wattenberg said two trends have emerged among the current generation of popular baby names.
“The key feature with Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Amelia and Ava is they fit our desire for names to be almost liquid. We don't like clusters of consonants together,” Wattenberg said.
While two syllable names ending in “n” seem to dominate among boys, showing up in names such as in Jackson, Mason, Landon and Aiden, she added.
Some names may reflect regional allegiances, such as the four baby boys at Allegheny hospitals — two named Crosby and two named Heath —- who may reflect parental preferences for certain Penguin and Steeler players.
The desire for certain virtues surfaced at Allegheny hospitals, where three boys were named Sincere and three girls went home as Serenity, said Allegheny spokeswoman Stephanie Waite.
Serenity, incidentally, has edged its way into the top 100 names for girls, Wattenberg said.
And there's room for the occasional Ajax or Quinn in the bassinet.
Michelle Corna, director of the Mother Baby Unit at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, where 11,000 babies a year make their debut, said both names popped up there this year.
Corna said Ajax stood out as a rare male name.
And a few baby girls from Magee, as well as boys and girls from Allegheny hospitals, will be answering to Quinn. While the name seems well suited to either sex, it may be more popular among the parents of girls. The Social Security Administration said Quinn ranked 92nd for little girls in Pennsylvania last year.
Magee does not have an official name count for 2013 yet, but Corna said many names on Allegheny's list showed up frequently at Magee this year.
“We see a lot of Jacksons. We see it spelled that way and then Jaxon, Jacksen and Jacksan. Parents like to put their own spin on it,” she said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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