Color Names, Common And Less So, Compared
I’m an incorrigible data hound. So, once the tempting aroma of XKCD’s color name survey results tickled my nose, I had no choice – but to run to the dining room, stand up on my hind legs, and yank that statistical top sirloin off the table! Om nom nom yum yum yum!
For those unfamiliar, XKCD is the popular webcomic, and on its sister blog, author Randall Munroe announced his survey as follows:
I’d like your help for a color name survey! The survey shows you colors, and you type a name (word or phrase) you might use for that color. The names can be as broad or specific as you want.
XKCD's Color Map
During the next two months, over 200,000 people named more than 5,000,000 random hues. Soon thereafter, Randall delivered a frequently side-splitting analysis of the results, artfully punctuated by his wonderful Color Map (pictured right): an illustration detailing the territorial dominance of each name in fully-saturated RGB space. The kicker was that the magnanimous Munroe made the individual survey responses – possibly the largest body of such information in existence – publicly available for anyone to use. Kudos for freeing the data, dude!
Now, deep in the cockles of my drama queen heart, there’s always been a little shrine for the colors with the charismatic, less-spoken names. Could periwinkle roll off the tongue more adorably? Maroon? Aye, there be pirates about! And yeah, burgundy and chartreuse do sound a bit boozy, but they’re hella more fun at parties than “dark red” and “yellow-green.”
Graphs Of Historical Trends In Popular Baby Names
Them young’uns have different names than they used to! Stateside, a century ago, you couldn’t spit without hitting a John, William, or Mary. My grade school literally brimmed with Jasons and Jennifers. But nowadays, at the playground, more than anything else, you’ll hear Ethan, Jacob, Emma, and Isabella.
Which is fine by me – I like the new names. However, I wonder: did each bygone moniker selflessly pass the baton to the next generation? Lose a back-alley scrap with a gang of unsavory whippersnappers? Or simply succumb to the inexorable march of time?
Our answer comes from the Social Security Administration, which mined their archives to produce an extensive online list of popular baby names for each year from 1880 onwards. It’s tempting to be cynical about the government, but in this case, your tax dollars have worked quite wonderfully!
From the SSA data, we extracted the historically most-often-bestowed first names, one-hundred-and-fifteen per gender, and then charted their relative ratios by year, arranged with the older towards top and bottom and newer in the middle.
Let’s take a gander at the boys graph first, and be sure to click to see it big:
Popular U.S. Boys Names, Ratio By Year Given, 1880-2008
Find The Roads With Your First Name
Could you be described as a first grader? The parent thereof? A map geek? A goofball? Someone who, when visiting the souvenir shop, compulsively searches for their name in the rack of miniature license plates? If so, read this article!
Once upon a time, I lived in Oakland, California, near a tidy stripe of pavement called John Street. After the birth of my son John, who took my middle name, we’d occasionally roll by. I’d holler “Hey, look, it’s John Street!”, and even though he couldn’t read the signs, giggles and chuckles would invariably ensue.
Shortly after our move to Santa Cruz, we found a John Street there, and a few weeks ago, another in San Francisco. Gosh, roads named John seemed pretty common! Upon that realization, the geography dork sitting on my shoulder had something to quantify: how many existed, altogether, and where, exactly?