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WHAT'S IN A NAME

A baby name expert says Isis is one of the fastest-falling names of all time

By Dan Kopf

 

Naming your daughter after the Egyptian goddess Isis first became popular in the US 40 years ago.

“Isis enjoyed a burst of popularity in the mid-’70s thanks to a Saturday morning TV show,” says Laura Wattenberg, an analyst at Baby Name Wizard. Isis, she said, was the first of a number of names to ride “a little wave of female superhero shows at the time, followed by Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman.”

The name’s popularity increased for the next several decades, peaking in 2005, when nearly 140 babies out of every million born were named Isis—making it one of the 600 most popular names in the US. The name was part of the rise of “goddess style” names, like Athena and Juno, which continue to be popular.

In early 2014, the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began taking over large swaths land in the Middle East. In the US, the media commonly refers to this group by the acronym ISIS. The association with a religious fundamental militant group led to a huge decrease in the use of the name.

This steep of a decline in the popularity of a name is rare. “Publicity usually makes names rise, not fall, at least in the short term,” says Wattenberg, who discovered the trend.

For women named Isis, the name has become a burden. A petition calling for news outlets to stop using ISIS to refer to the militant group because it was causing problems for women with the name gained 63,000 signatures earlier this year.

What parent could have ever imagined?