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Least Popular Baby Names

Photograph by Getty Images

Celebrities—and hipsters with aspirations—take a lot of heat for what they name their babies. Though her daughter is a tween, Gwyneth Paltrow still gets trotted out as the height of baby-naming audacity after penning "Apple" on her firstborn's birth certificate. (Future discussion: has Apple's dad, rocker Chris Martin, been called out?)

We think of creative monikers as a completely modern phenomenon fueled by celebrity worship, personal branding and everybody moving to Brooklyn. But historically? Americans have been saddling kids with weird names for more than a century.

Arika Okrent, reporting for The Week, dug deep into the Social Security Administration's online naming records and found the Apples, Blues, Norths and Kal-Els of the late 1800s. And just look at what she found. Some poor SOB had to grow up with the name Lillian—for a boy.

In 1916, the originalists went with color: Green for boys, Golden for girls.

In the first 52 years that the SSA started keeping records, the least popular list of the most popular 1,000 names reads like a slightly creakier version of what you might see in certain neighborhoods today—boys named Lillian, girls named Jack (compare that with today's Averys and Charlies). In 1896, the lowest ranked boys name was Josephine. The lowest ranked girls name that year? Clifford. Not an error!

What's especially interesting is that, even though these names are unpopular, more than one child was given the name. Which makes me wonder: Is there another Apple out there? Because in 1893, there was a baby boy named Orange. Two decades later, along came a few Lemons. In 1899, there were a few girls named Cuba. In 1919, someone who really enjoyed Paris named her sons Metro. In 1916, the originalists went with color: Green for boys, Golden for girls.

The list has alternative spellings like you might see today: Dorathy and Estel (a boy). And slight variants on popular names Hildred and Bobbye (girls). And boy have place names stood the test of time. Phoenix, Brooklyn and even little Bronx didn't just come out of nowhere. Back in the day, more than one family called their sons or daughters Okey, Erie, Texie, Indiana, Reno and Bama.

No wonder great-grandma Jack and great-grandpa Dock love your little Foster so.

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