A few key grafs:
Still, Madison? No. 2? How in the name of good taste did that happen? Satran points to a confluence of trends: Madison came along at a time when place names and surnames (McKenzie, Morgan) as first names were hot, as well as the related androgynous names for girls (Taylor, Sydney) and the Ralph Lauren, faux horsey-set names (Peyton, Kendall). Then there's Lieberson's phonetic wave theory. In this case, Madeline (56) may have begun to grow tired while Madison sounded just a little fresher. So when Madison finally sinks, who will replace her?
On a hunch, I typed another New York place name into the Popular Baby Names site: Brooklyn. Sure enough, it has vaulted from 755 to 155 since 1991. Then I tried expanding in a different direction on the sound chain from Madeline and discovered that Adeline was inching up as well. Given those trends, it would not be as random as it would appear if, a few years from now, Adelaide and Portland, two seemingly unrelated names, were both in the Top 10.
Now I was getting somewhere. A few nights later, I saw a film that took place around 1900, a mother lode of contemporary names for both sexes. One character was Annabelle. That sounded jaunty. I liked it. But what was its appeal? Then I recalled the current popularity of the Isabella/Isabel/Isabelle chain (14, 84, 112) not to mention Anna (20) and Ella (92). Lovely names all, but they've been done. That made me suspicious. As it turned out, Annabelle was rising with a bullet (from 984 to 330 in seven years, while Annabella went from 963 to 722 in just one). The following week I spied it monogrammed on a sleeping bag in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. Annabelle was off my list.
Michael aside, overuse usually spells the end of a name, at least for a while. Names also lose luster when they become tied to a particular era. If you really want to ensure your baby girl will be unique among her peers, name her Barbara, Nancy, Karen or Susan. Or Peggy. Those sound like the names of middle-aged women because -- guess what? -- they are.
Full article. And go here for easy access to the SSA Popular Names tables.
I said it in January and I'll say it again: If you want to give your daughter a unique first name in 2003, name her Jane.