FREAK-TV: Name Your Kid Fido If You Want


The latest FREAK-TV video features Levitt discussing the ever-interesting topic of naming your kid. We have had many people write to us since the book came out to say they chose their baby’s name (or, just as often, rejected a name they were considering) based on the data in our book.

What nobody knows (until now) is that one of Levitt’s own kids was named according to these data sets. After we’d worked up the list of “high-end” girls’ names that we thought might tip into the mainstream within 10 years (p. 187 of revised edition), Levitt gave his wife Jeannette that list of names to consider for their forthcoming kid. But he didn’t tell her what the list was; he just said they were some names he liked. Sure enough, she went for one of the names on the list: Sophie.

Sophie is a beautiful name, to be sure, but the big lesson here is more important: don’t ever marry an economist.

Rita: Lovely Meter Maid

So, naming your kid "Fido" won't have any negative effect, huh? Yeah, *right*. If you also tell me that "Fido" was on that list Levitt gave his wife, I Might believe that Steven Levitt actually believes *himself* when he says that a well-known doggie name is a perfectly fine handle to inflict upon a child. (And then, of course, I'd have to think that Steven Levitt is out of his mind, naturally).

It's just wrong to put forth this idea to the gullible masses that they can go ahead and give their kid a name like Fido.

Not that celebrities are helping matters much, either, what with names like "Apple", "Sailor Lee", "Kal-el", "Fifi Trixibelle", "Peaches Honeyblossom" and "Little Pixie" (those last three are from Bob Geldof, who should be banned for life from ever giving anyone or any Thing a name. Ever).

Perhaps *the* worst offender is John (Cougar) Mellancamp. Jeez, now here's a guy who just couldn't Bare to have that offensive and trivializing "Cougar" be part of his name, so he dropped it as soon as he could.

Then he goes ahead and has a two kids, one of which is named "Hud" and the other: "Spec *Wildhorse* Mellencamp.

Hearing that name really does "hurt so bad". Mellencamp should also be banned from naming anyone.

I guess with celebs, we are all to meant to see that, because they are so special, so uniquely gifted, talented and *successful*, that they can name their kids in the most outlandish and awkward ways.

I also dislike last names as first names, a trend that should be stopped. Such names come off as mighty pretentious, all these: "Hunters", "Tylers", "Taylors", "Brees",
"Morgans" and so forth.

It's regretful that so many people have such poor ability to give their child a wonderful name.

I do think Sophie is a beautiful name. But Levitt should have been more upfront with his wife about where he got this name.



My daughter is named Claudia. I wonder where that falls. According to some latino friends Claudia is very popular in Colombia. So I wonder if that has any effect on how "high end" the name is.


Sophie, Abigail, Emma - these are names that were big, what 150 years ago?

Now they are coming back


You can find more about which names are popular today vs which names were more popular say 100 yrs ago at

This is a cool application of data visualization to a a very different field.


Fortunately two of our kids names aren't on any of the lists (high or low end). Unfortunately our son's shortened name, Harley is that the bottom of the list you don't want to be on. Given that his name is Harland (our oldest daughter called him Harley from 18 weeks being pregnant and when it came time to name him officially, we couldn't change his name too much), we can rest easy.

But, I do actually agree with the Freakonomics boys on this one - when you spend hours pouring over the name book to give your child a perfect name - you are more likely to put effort into being a parent.

What does that say about Mr Levitt - no effort in naming.............

Another thing - what about the "other children with same name" factor - if every name in the top 10 was the name of a little brat you already knew - there is no way you would name your child's the story behind the name and the meaning of the name that is important - at the same time not giving your child a name that will mean torment for childhood years.



I have no idea if having an unusual name has made any difference. It is memorable, I get a lot of people who "know" me because they recall the name. From school teachers to prospective employers!

I can answer the usual questions in one hit: Yes it is isn't it, French orginally, an old family name.

When at school it's hard, but by the time I was a teenager I realised it was an asset and it has been one ever since. Quite possibly because it isn't a hippy name and I can answer "old family name" instead of "I dunno, my parents thought it was cool". What's the current percentage of "names no one else has"?

- and if you are named Zebee too, get in touch at we might be related!


@4 No effort!? I am sure he and his associates spent a lot of time collecting and analyzing data to come up with those names. Just because he didn't use a baby name book makes it no effort? Or I suppose analyzing data is effortless? I hope you were being facetious?

michael kagan

Name you kid Fido if you want, but not... Wayne?


Here's a question I've been pondering? In the US, are there more first names or last names? I would argue there are more last names. It seems like almost every last name I hear or read about is new to me, but every first name I have heard before, and in many cases I already know someone with that first name.

So... why is that the case. Wouldn't you expect the number of last names to generally shrink, since some names may die out with lack of children, etc., but first names can grow without bound, because they are just invented by the parents? Hmm...


Ha! I *was* named Fido... or just about as close as you can get for a girl: Molly. Which, btw, you list in Freakonomics as the "Whitest" girl's name, if I recall. But it is more often given to Black Labradors than white humans, let me tell you. After meeting about the 500th dog named Molly, I couldn't wait to slough off that name when I got old enough to switch to my middle name. When I got married it was dropped entirely in favor of my middle name and maiden name.

It DOES matter. I hated having a dog's name!!

Most popular female dog names, US:

née Molly


As someone who has a ridiculously common first-name (and quite common surname) please consider these lists before naming your child.
While it's a relief to not be called apple or peaches, I have gone through my life hating my name as it is so common. I go to a bank or doctor and there's invariable two or three of me already on the database - sometimes with the exact same birthdate. I'm always answering to other people as they call out to someone else with the same name as me, or recieving emails addressed to managers with similar names (which has been interesting!) and would love to change my name.


I have what I've read are fairly common names...and the various combinations are also common (those being "Laura Elizabeth" and "Laura Hall"). I've met a lot of other girls with those names and I've even been invited to a facebook group called "People with the name Laura Hall". Our mascot is the pianist from "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

But instead of talking about my own name, I've actually come to share this lovely article I just read about naming conventions in Zimbabwe:


My amusement factor with the names people choose for their children is rather high. Myself, I picked a traditional name for my son, a name straight out of a Tolkein novel for my first daughter (so many years before the movies that she went with me to see them), and a name from Greek Mythology for my youngest. I, personally, enjoy unusual names. It drove me nuts to pick the kids up from daycare and see the 4 Brittany's and 3 Kaela's and 5 Jim's. A name should be something personal, something to individuate oneself from others, IMO. Isn't that the purpose of naming a child?


My grandfather instilled a love of unusal names into our family tree. When I say unusual, I mean an uncommon name and not unusually spelt. It also has to be recognizable as a persons name, not an object. I think that is the key to having an unusal name that can be an asset rather than a detraction. It also needs to have some sort of meaning rather than it 'just sounds nice'.
On saying that I have known two people with what I consider to have names that fall outside the unusual and could possibly be considered a hindrance except for the fact that the names perfectly described each. One was a 15 yo boy named Intrepid and the other was an 8 yo girl named Rebel (not related). The boy was a mad-keen and fearless sailor. The girl had a shock of red hair and was a real spitfire. Which begs the question did the children become the people that they were because of their unusual names?

I'd love to see a more in depth look at naming conventions and life achievements. Are people who share names with well known historical figures more likely to have a sense of historical purpose than those who don't? ie Martin Luther King Jr or William Jefferson Clinton. Is it that gravitas is bestowed upon the bearer of the name regardless of the individuals achievements?



Thanks for sharing the article Laura. :)
I am a mother of four children whose names don't appear on these lists. My husband and I went for traditional, but uncommon old Irish names - my husband was a teacher and had many associations with other names I liked so we went for obscure names that he hadn't taught. Even though these names mean beautiful things (grace; gift; rosebud and wonderful) we have received a lot of criticism from people - strangers even - particularly regarding the spelling. People have said it is 'child abuse' to name children with such unusual names. But I think that firstly, people often have to spell names even where they are more popular (Jane or Jayne, John or Jon etc), they are not always phonetic (Michael springs to mind). Secondly, children will always find reasons to tease other children - if not an unusual name, it is because they have freckles, can't sing, are quiet, etc. And thirdly, people take a bit too much interest in what other people name their children. I wouldn't choose lots of the names my friends have called their children because they are too common or whatever, but in the end that's their decision. I have no problem with celebrities naming children as they wish. In my own case, the meaning is more important to me (some names I liked I ruled out when I found out what the meanings were).
Thanks for reading.


Rita: Lovely Meter Maid

I do like unusual names that have beauty and grace, as well as meaningful historical and ethnic roots. I certainly feel bad for anyone with a name like "Rebel", "Intrepid" and so forth, though. It's too limiting to a child to foist such a name on them.

I think people get a little too coy about this whole, naming business, or else a little too slip-shod. They may mean well, but "Chastity" is a terrible name for anyone. I just glad that Cher was able to refrain from adding "Belt" as the middle name. Kudos, as well, to Paltrow for Not going with "Pie" for her child's middle name.


I always counsel that the baby's name should fit well into these two sentences:

Can X come out and play?

Shall we promote X to be CEO?


Actually, the best baby name site I have found is The Right Baby Name. The web address is:

It's got tools to measure how common names are, how closely associated they are different professions. How memorable they are, etc. It's amazing!


Note to Rita: John Mellencamp named his two sons after a Steve McQueen character (Hud) and HIS OWN GRANDFATHER (Speck).

And FYI, the "Cougar" was not his idea so why not drop it?

Sara Elizabeth Nordmann

My mother thought she was being really classic when she named me "Sara Elizabeth" and now, in my twenties, I've met so many women with the same name that I feel as if I'm faceless. My sister Emily has an equally common name (most popular girls' name for 11 years running). Then again, I hate gratuitously ridiculous names, or at least those which don't have any deeper meaning than being weird for the sake of it.

Thank goodness for my awkward German last name. ("Yes, three Ns total. Two at the end.")