One of the biggest decisions as a new or expecting parent is what to name your baby. But that decision might not entirely be up to you, according to a new study from the University of Edinburgh, which shows that baby names are actually determined by a variety of factors out of your control—without you even realizing it.
Researchers studied the names of over 22 million babies born in the U.K. from 1838 to 2016. They found that biblical characters were the most popular names up until the late 20th century, but after that point? Things got pretty crazy.
Names began going in and out of style almost as fast as Apple announces iPhone updates: a.k.a. super fast. Data scientist Anna Powell-Smith noted, “Nowadays, no names account for anything like 2 percent of babies. The most popular single boy’s name, Oliver, makes up less than 1 percent of births.”
Lead author of the study and research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, Stephen Bush, believes it’s due to a culmination of external conditions, like names that are positively associated with a current celebrity or parents attempting to find a balance “between recognizability and rarity.”
“The speed with which modern name choices fall in and out of favor reflects their increased exposure and people’s ongoing desire for distinctiveness,” said Bush. He added that trying to be unique doesn’t always work. Because the study also found that “new” names catch on so quickly that they just as quickly fade from popularity. So basically, if you are desperate to set your kid apart with a unique name that will put all other moms and dads to shame, chances are you are going to end up with a name that thousands of other equally unique parents also ended up with. It’s a hipster’s paradox.
As Bush explained, “A name acts as a template for the development for self-image, indicating the child’s position in status hierarchies of gender, race, and social class, thereby influencing the behavior of others towards them.”
You can test how popular your own child’s name is with this super cool tracker created by the study’s researchers. But keep in mind that a name is about more than just what’s cool.