Liam, Emma most popular baby names in Wyoming in 2012

2013-05-06T23:45:00Z 2013-05-07T07:49:04Z Liam, Emma most popular baby names in Wyoming in 2012By LAURA HANCOCK Star-Tribune staff writer The Billings Gazette

CASPER — No son of Kasha Ralph will ever respond to “Michael,” “Robert” or “Steven.”

Ralph, 32, and her fiancé Dustin Glosser wanted a unique name for their baby. They considered Mason. She liked Gentry.

“I have a very different name. My two daughters have different names,” said Ralph, whose first name is pronounced KAY-sha and whose daughters are named Parker and Oakley. “I have always liked different names.”

A month before the baby was born, they agreed to name him Liam.

Unconventional? Probably.

Unique? Not a chance.

Liam was the most common name for baby boys born in Wyoming in 2012, according to the Wyoming Department of Health Vital Statistics Services Program, which recently released a list of most common baby names, based on birth certificate records the department maintains.

In 2011, Liam was the sixth most popular baby boy name.

“I guess we still kind of knew that (the name had become popular), but we liked it so much that we didn’t care,” Ralph said. “It’s still not ‘Matthew.’”

Baby names continue to become more unique. In Wyoming last year, Mason, Logan and Wyatt rounded out the top five baby boy names, along with one traditional name, William.

For the past 30 years, more Americans have been giving their babies unique names. Researchers have concluded that’s because our culture is becoming more individualistic, said Ben Wilkowski, a University of Wyoming social psychology professor.

At the same time, some Wyoming parents are embracing Christian and Victorian names, at least for girls. While more trendy, Madison, made the top five baby girls’ names, the others were Emma, Sophia, Elizabeth, and Olivia.

“Even though people want unique names  — and that seems to be growing — people are still choosing names that are known,” said Wilkowski, who has a daughter named Sofia — the No. 2 most popular girls' name in 2012. “Some people are creating names out of thin air, but that is relatively uncommon, even with the trends you are seeing.”

Even if the names are recognizable, Vital Statistics Services program manager Jim McBride found that spellings aren't very straight-forward.

“One phenomenon we’re seeing is that ‘alternative’ spellings of names seem to be very popular among new parents,” he said in an email statement.

Wyoming parents found creative spellings of common names, modifying Jackson into names such as Jaxon and Jaxen, and Madison into Madyson and Madisyn.

In the American West, unique names are more common than in the country as a whole. That’s because the West has a frontier mentality, Wilkowski said.

“To head out to the frontier takes an amount of individualism and self-reliance,” Wilkowski said. “So Wyoming and the rest of the West, compared to the East Coast, we show more of this where we’re less likely to give the common names, to give all the weird, unique names.”

Since the United States is largely a nation of immigrants, names here are more unique than in Europe.

The same applies to Australia, which was also settled by Europeans.

Since Liam was born two weeks ago, his mother has been asked if she named him after Liam Hemsworth, who starred in “Hunger Games” or Liam Neeson, who played the lead role in “Schlinder’s List.”

But Ralph said her baby’s name was an attempt to connect with her and Glosser’s Irish heritage. Liam’s middle name is Breen, which is a family surname on Glosser’s side.

The baby was also named after Glosser’s grandfather, who died in October.

“His name was William,” she said. “Liam is a form of that. There are a lot of different reasons tied up into one name.”

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