American Names

“Stranger Things” in Naming

By Lowtrucks – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Something that’s been on mind lately is the possibility of Stranger Things affecting baby names.  The sci-fi/horror series, released on Netflix in July, has set the internet abuzz.  The show is so successful that a second season was announced today!  Disclaimer: I was already formulating this post before they announced it.  Good timing, I guess?

Since Stranger Things takes place in the early 1980s, the characters’ names generally reflect mid-century American names.  Some of them are rapidly losing popularity, but I expect them to recover at least temporarily. 

Joyce – This name has been in the top 1000 almost every year since 1880, but popularity has been declining for decades.  Peak popularity was in the 1940s, around the time when Joyce Byers likely would have been born.  Joyce was persistent in finding her son, even when everyone else thought he was dead and she was crazy; for that, I think Joyce will grow higher than her current U.S. rank of #837.

NancyNancy Wheeler is Mike’s older sister, who helps search for Will and for her friend Barb.  Nancy has been in the top 1000 every year since 1880, but that may not last much longer.  Still, the character may be enough to slow or even reverse the decline.  Current rank: #819.     

BarbaraBarb“- The name Barbara ranks similarly to Joyce and Nancy, but usage has been a little more stable this decade; she currently ranks #836.  Although the character doesn’t have much screen time or many lines, she’s become a huge meme.  I’m convinced Barb is going to reappear in the extended data because of this. 

Eleven I would be shocked if Eleven doesn’t debut in the extended data next year.  She’s too major a character, and even if her real name might be Jane, we all lovingly know her as El.  Yes, English numbers generally aren’t used as names.  The current exception to that rule is Seven, who was a character in the show Married With Children, if memory serves me.

Dustin – Dustin is friends with Mike, Will, and Lucas.  If his character was 12 or 13 in 1983, that would likely mean he was named after Dustin Hoffman.  Dustin has been in the top 1000 in 1968, the year after The Graduate hit cinemas.   Although declining in usage, Dustin still fares better than the more traditional women’s names above.  With the adorable kid from Stranger Things, I expect Dustin will be a more popular choice for parents in 2016 and 2017 than it was in 2015.  Current rank: #505. 

Mike – Mike Wheeler is Nancy’s brother, best friends with Lucas, Will, and Dustin, and later with Eleven.  Mike fell out of the top 1000 last year after being there all the way since 1880…but, with 194 uses in 2015, don’t be surprised if this name returns from the Upside-Down of the American onomastic lexicon in 2016.  The #1000 ranking name in 2015 was given to 202 boys.  

Lucas – Unlike the other names on this list, Lucas is actually much more popular or trendy now than in 1983, or in the early 70s when the character would have been born.  Last year, Lucas ranked #16…top 20!  But before 1973, this name wasn’t even top 100.  Lucas needed no boost, but the cool, nerdy character behind him grants him one by default. 

Hopper – Hawkins’ police chief Hopper’s first name is actually Jim, but it seems like he was always referred to by his surname.  Hopper isn’t a top 1000 name at all; in fact, only 5 boys were named Hopper in 2015.  I don’t expect 200 baby boys to suddenly be called  Hopper by the end of 2016, but whenever this year’s data is released, there will almost certainly be more than 5. 

Jonathan – A top 50 name for over as many years, Jonathan is the kind of name I’d describe as popular but un-trendy.  Yes, it’s still a top 100 name, but hundreds fewer boys are given this name each succeeding year.  I think the show could stabilize Jonathan for a little while, but I’m not as certain as with the other names.  Personally, I’d look more towards his surname – Byers – and see if that shows up in the extended data next year.

Steve – Steve Harrington is Nancy’s boyfriend.  He has his pros and cons, but you never know with this name.  Steve barely remains in the top 1000, and I’m guessing that Mr. Harrington is the test for whether this name stays or goes.  Ironically, it’s Jonathan who’s a fan of The Clash…

Brenner – Dr. Brenner is the “scary government guy.”  Brenner was the name of 35 baby boys born last year.  I’d tell you to look for a drop in the 2016 data, but villainy hasn’t stopped Harry Potter fans from naming their daughters Bellatrix

Thoughts?  Stranger Things is one of my favorite TV shows, and I can’t wait to see how Season 2 pans out.  Naturally, I’m also very curious about the names! 


3 thoughts on ““Stranger Things” in Naming

  1. I’ve never seen Stranger Things. I think baby naming is a long process that takes much thought. I of course wouldn’t want to name my kid after a TV show character, but people do. One important thing to remeber out baby naming is that the name you give your kid will follow them their entire life.


    1. Fantastic show…you should watch it!

      I agree that it’s a long process requiring much thought, but naming a child after a TV character isn’t inherently a bad thing. TV characters, and also book and movie characters, can make good namesakes because they have qualities parents value. Intelligence, kindness, etc. Nothing wrong with that! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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