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Reality TV, sports influence baby-naming trends for 2011

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Monday afternoon found Cal Powell and his wife, Miriam, huddled in a hospital delivery suite in Macon, Ga., focused on breathing exercises as their second son was making his way into the world.

The Georgia father said they had already chosen for their newborn the very common name of John. Nothing fancy, but sturdy nonetheless.

"We both just kind of liked it," said Mr. Powell, a private school communications director and multimedia teacher whose first son is named Parks, after his wife's great-great-grandmother.

"It's a strong, traditional name and sounded good paired with the middle name we chose: Welch, which was my maternal great-grandmother's maiden name."

Across the nation, parents are leading a trend that straddles the traditional and the celebrity as they seek inspiration for baby names, according to an annual list released by the Social Security Administration on Monday morning.

Its highlights found that a petite Kardashian sister and a global soccer star likely held a strong influence on new parents, according to new trends in 2011, which included the modern — Mia and Chloe — as well as the old-school, William.

Snooki, Barack or Pippa? Not so much.

The name Mason soared to the No. 2 boys spot spurred in part, the SSA pondered, by the run-on popularity of reality TV's E! Entertainment network shows featuring Kourtney Kardashian's telegenic and well-dressed baby son Mason Disick, now 2. Mason had previously peaked at No. 12 on the list in 2010.

Sports fans are responsible in part for propelling the unique name Iker, to the second-fastest growing name on the boys list, the SSA reported. Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas led Spain to the 2010 World Cup title.

Top 2011 names for girls included Sophia at No. 1 — which means "wisdom" in Greek. It was followed by Isabella, Emma and Olivia.

Jacob, known to many as the Bible's Old Testament character who was the son of Isaac and Rebecca and twin brother of Esau, led the list of boys names. The traditional name William held steady for boys at No. 3, followed by Jaden and Noah.

Biggest jumpers on the Top 500 names list were Briella for girls, due perhaps in small part, the SSA said, to the popularity of Briella Calafiore, a blond hairdresser who stars in the reality TV show "Jerseylicious" and also in its spinoff program, "Glam Fairy."

The name Brantley jumped the most for boys' names, the SSA said. And for those invested in music nostalgia, Elvis has no longer left the building, with the iconic name returning in 2011 to take the No. 904 slot for boys.

"Last year I was all shook up when Elvis dropped way down below the top 1,000, but Elvis is back into the promised land of the top 1,000, and that's all right," Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue joked in a lyric-infused statement announcing the trends.

In the past, the naming list was more static because parents were likelier to follow such traditions as naming babies after family members or for the celebrated saint on the birth date. Even people who haven't abandoned traditional customs still feel freer to tweak or play with names.

In San Antonio, Erin Rodriguez finally got the baby girl she was dreaming of on March 1 ago after giving birth to three boys, Antonio (Tony), 10; Francisco (Frankie), 8; and Ricardo (Ricky), 2.

Her newborn's name: Evelina, a unique derivation honoring her maternal grandmother Evelyn.

"Before my maternal grandmother passed away, shortly before we got pregnant with our first child, I told her if we ever had a girl, I'd name her after her," Mrs. Rodriguez said.

Hoping to "girlify" it a bit, she Googled it and found "Evelina," from a novel written in the 1700s, "The History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World."

"That made the name sound a bit charming to me," she said of the choice. "Plus, when I looked into nicknames, I came across a spelling that meshed with the 'ie' ending we use in (son) Frankie — Evie. We pronounce it "eh-VEE" — reminds me of how my Grandpa would call my Grandma "Ev" for short. It sounded so loving ... so soft."

Although some might think it an unusual choice, Mrs. Rodriguez says it seems a perfect fit.

"Both my husband, Guillermo, and I grew up with unique names. And we survived," she said. "In our family, she's unique, too, since she's our only daughter."

The SSA has been compiling baby-naming trends since 1997. It keeps lists from as far back as 1880 and they are available at www.socialsecurity.gov.

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