- A Southwest Airlines employee was recently caught making fun of a 5-year-old girl named Abcde (pronounced “AB-si-dee”).
- There are, at minimum, 373 women named Abcde in the United States right now.
- Sure, it’s no Olivia or Emma, but there are 16 5-year-olds named Abcde.
Southwest Airlines stepped into the fraught world of innovative naming several weeks ago when a gate agent at John Wayne Airport in California was overheard mocking a 5-year-old girl named Abcde. Southwest apologised, but the saga is still ripping through social media.
While mocking children is generally considered in poor taste, lots of people on social media aren’t particularly sympathetic to the family, who chose to name their child a five-letter sequence that is also the first five letters of the alphabet.
How uncommon is the name, though? Turns out it’s not even one in a million.
There are, at minimum 373 women and girls named Abcde in the US. There are probably closer to 400.
The Social Security Administration publishes an annual list of baby names. Using the database, you can find out how many babies born in a given year dating back to 1880 were given a certain name. The big caveat is that numbers are only given for names that appear more than five times in a given year for a given gender.
Abcde first entered the federal records in 1990, when five newborn girls were given the name.
From 1991 to 1996, Abcde charts a single time, in 1992, when six girls were given the name. That doesn’t mean there were only six girls named Abcde from ’91 to ’96, just that in those other years there were fewer than five. That’s where our “closer to 400” estimate comes from.
Then, in 1997, Abcde began its dizzying ascent. In 1997 and 1998, five babies a year were named Abcde. That jumped to 13 in 1999, and 16 Abcdes entered the world in 2001. The Bush administration was the golden age of Abcde, jumping from just a handful of Abcdes at the beginning to more than two dozen a year by the end. The high-water mark for Abcde was 2009, when 32 babies were named the first five letters of the alphabet.
But the recession hit Abcde hard. Popularity began to slip in 2010, with a mere 25 Abcde babies, down to 21 babies in 2011. In 2013, the Abcde who would eventually make waves after flying on Southwest Airlines entered the world, along with 15 others. There were 11 in 2014 and six in 2017.
The name continued to decline – until, perhaps, next year.Name trends are notoriously swingy. The name Wells for males jumped from 1,419th most popular to 915th most popular between 2016 and 2017, and, as far as I can tell, the only difference was that it was the name of a popular bartender on “Bachelor in Paradise.” Melania also saw a jump between 2016 and 2017, from the 1,650th most popular girls name to 930th – right when Melania Trump became first lady. On the same token, Kylo as a name for boys crashed 245 spots in 2017, when Kylo was the antagonist in the new “Star Wars.”
And in case you’re wondering, Abcde seems exclusively reserved for girls. There’s not a single male Abcde in the Social Security registry – at most, fewer than five have been born in a given year.
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