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The Boom & Bust Of Baby names Is Why You’ll Only See Middle-Aged People With Certain Names

New research discovers why some baby names are perceived as too common by parents, and die off.

How many 21st birthday parties have you been to for a Linda recently? Probably zero because all Lindas are over 50.   

A new study suggests that baby names all go through a 'boom and bust', as popular names are perceived as too common by some parents. 

'Boom-bust cycles by themselves can disfavour common types and promote diversity,' said Dr Mitchell Newberry, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Michigan, who led the study.  

'If people are always thirsting after the newest thing, then it's going to create a lot of new things.  

'Every time a new thing is created, it's promoted, and so more rare things rise to a higher frequency, and you have more diversity in the population.' 

'Think of how we use millions of different names to refer to people but we almost always use the same word to refer to baseball,' Dr Newberry said.  

'For words, there's pressure to conform, but my work shows that the diversity of names results from pressures against conformity.'  

It's the same for dog breeds, according to the research, with Greyhounds being popular in the 1940s, and Rottweilers in the 1990s.   

'Biologists basically think these frequency-dependent pressures are fundamental in determining so many things,' Dr Newberry said.  

'The long list includes genetic diversity, immune escape, host-pathogen dynamics, the fact that there's basically a one-to-one ratio of males and females—and even what different populations think is sexy.  

'Why do birds like long tails? Why do bamboos take so long to flower? Why do populations split into different species? All of these relate at a fundamental level to either pressure of conformity or anticonformity within populations.'  

'Life is this dance of when do we have to cohere, and when do we have to separate?' Dr Newberry concluded.  

'Natural selection is incredibly hard to measure. You're asking, for an entire population, who lived, who died and why. And that's just a crazy thing to try to ask.  

'By contrast, in names, we literally know every single name for the entire country for a hundred years.'