2010 top baby names: Why Khloe is hot and Aaden is not.

What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
May 5 2011 2:39 PM

How Khloe Became Queen

Charting the rise and rise of a trendy baby name.

(Continued from Page 1)

OK, so Khloe's rise was pegged to Chloe. But why was Chloerising in the first place? To start with, it was an old and familiar name that had never been common. It therefore appealed to traditionalists, but unlike old favorites like Helen and Kathy it didn't trigger the dreaded "mom" or "grandma" associations. That's the same recipe that has worked magic for other formerly rare names like Olivia and Gabriel.

Chloe's sound matters, too. The single most powerful trend guiding current name choices is a fondness for vowels. The more a name is packed with long, strong vowels (and not clusters of squishy consonants, like Myrtle or Elmer), the more likely it is to appeal to parents. Look at the long A in Ava, the O in Noah, the E in Ethan. The name Chloe packs two long vowels into two short syllables. Other names in that select family, like Zoe and Eli, have also flown up the popularity charts.

So in short, celebrities may influence naming trends, but in the end it's more about the name than the fame. Parents will only pick up on a name if it has a sound and style they're ready for. A tweak of an already hot name, like Khloe for Chloe, or Miley for Riley and Kylie, is the easiest sell. But herein lies a cautionary tale for Khloe.

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The fastest rising baby name of 2008 was Aaden. The ingredients were perfect. Aiden was already the sound of the decade, with 41 different Aiden rhymes among the top 1,000 boys' names. Then, in 2007, the creatively spelled variant Aaden hit reality TV in the form of one of the Gosselin family's sextuplets on Jon & Kate Plus 8. The double-A spelling was eye-catching and promised a first place in any alphabetical lineup, ahead of even Aaron and Aaliyah. A popularity spike followed.

But in 2010, the fastest falling name in America was, yes, Aaden. The name was brought down by the very factors that fueled its rise. Reality-TV fame is fickle, and in this case, the all-too-public dissolution of Jon and Kate Gosselin's marriage left the public disillusioned. Alternate spellings, too, prove volatile. They're the first to fall when the root name passes its peak. And a rapid rise out of nowhere seldom bodes well for long-term naming power. In names as in stocks, the faster they rise, the harder they fall.

Khloe has seen a longer, stronger rise than Aaden and may buck the trend. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if a generation from now Khloe stands as a crystallized moment in naming style, a name that takes us back to the days when Kardashians—and K's, and vowels—were kings. Or queens. Or kweens.

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