If you are choosing a name for your unborn child and you want to be original, the Social Security Administration (SSA) would like to help. Why it cares so much about your name selection process, I'm not sure.
The SSA released a new iPhone app this year called Baby Name Playroom. It isn't the most comprehensive baby-name application I’ve seen, but it certainly is the most official. All names in the app come from Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the United States after 1879, up until February, 2011.
The app gives you a few options for browsing baby names. You can sort lists of the top 10, 25, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 baby names for every year since 1880. You can also parse them out by gender.
You can also search any given name. The app doesn’t offer an etymology of the name, but you will see a snapshot of how popular the name has been throughout the years, which year it peaked in popularity, and when it dipped the lowest in popularity. A chart shows you the name's popularity in all tracked years, but you won't see how popular the name is currently unless you flip to the chart of all ranked years.
If you are deliberating a few names, you can mark each name as a favorite. The app will keep your favorites stored away so that you can duke it out with your significant other on whether or not Brooklyn is a boy or a girl's name. (According to the SSA, it is a girl's name, but I think the Beckhams would take issue with that.)
The trivia feature on the app is kind of fun. For no particular reason, you can answer name-related questions such as this one:
Which of the following names was most popular in 1956?
I picked B, Jerilyn, and I was right! Some of the trivia is a little presumptuous, though. For example:
Is Rome a name for boys or girls?
I picked C, because who am I to say that you shouldn't name your baby girl Rome? The app says that this is wrong: Rome is definitively a boy's name. OK, but does it know that people are naming their daughters Paris these days? I guess you can't be too offended by a free app.
Besides fun name browsing and trivia, the app also has plenty of serious information from the SSA, including summaries of Social Security benefits and eligibility and how to apply for a Social Security number. It also offers information about healthy pregnancies, child care, child support, and child safety, and it has information on Medicaid and Medicare benefits.
Will all this information be included in Version 2 of Baby Name Playroom? You'll have to ask Paul Ryan about that. His name, by the way, peaked at number 12 in 1916.