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I love the name Michael, but the only reason why I wouldn't use it is due to it's popularity.
No offense, but I teach and there have been hundreds of Michaels in my classes over the last 19 years.
I grew up with a very unpopular name that was spelled unusually - Jaime Lee. I hated it. I could never buy anything personalized, everyone ALWAYS spelled my name wrong, every award or diploma I ever received was spelled Jamie. I decided that my children would have names that nobody could ever misspell! As for popularity - I always thought this was a factor, but I think it's trendiness that bothers me more.
My daughter's name is Casey which isn't popular at all. She'll be 2 next month. My husband has had his heart set on calling his son Jake. I loved the name as well, but decided against it because Jacob is so popular right now. Well, if this baby is a boy, I've decided to surprise him in the delivery room by telling him that his name will be Jake cause I've been dead set against it for a whole year now, and when Casey was born (we didn't know the gender then either).
Sure, he might be one of a few Jakes or Jacobs in his class, but it really means more to DH to have a son named Jake than the popularity factor means to me.
PS - DH's name is Jason so he knows about having a popular name and it never bothered him.
I never thought popular (or trendy) names would affect my name choices until attending my niece's "summer concert" at school. She was lucky enough to be the only Madelynn, but her class had 3 girls named Madison, 2 named Mia, 2 named McKenna, and 3 named McKenzie. I couldn't believe it actually. I really don't my child named something really popular or trendy.
Well, popularity IS a consideration. I automatically eliminate any top ten name for sure. After that, I wouldn't discard a name on that basis alone, but it does factor in. My first choice name for DD (Elena) wasn't in the top 100, but DH nixed it. Oh well. Maybe next time. We agreed upon Anna, which isn't exactly uncommon, obviously. She will meet plenty of Annas, but she still has a decent shot at being the only Anna in her class at least.
I loved growing up with my uncommon name (Rosalie). It's not a strange made up name, but it's very rare that I ever meet anyone with my name. It's familiar sounding to most, so it's not way out there as rare as it is. I have so many Jennifers in my life, though, that I have to specify which one I'm talking about all the time. Cousin Jennifer, College Jennifer, Georgia Jennifer, ets... All of them hate their name, so I at least wanted to avoid the super common ones.
Rosalie, Mommy to Anna (05/06) and Thomas (10/08)
Bently-- You asked where you find the popularity list? Well a really great website is the social security webpage. Go to google and search for "baby names". You should see it in the top five. Go to popular names by birth year and it will give you the list. You can see the top 20 all the way to the top 1000. Have fun!
Popularity doesn't bother me so much as if the name is trendy/classic. Eden, for example. It's getting popular, but it's trendy. It just popped out of nowhere(it will become dated in the future). A classic name like Elizabeth will never become dated and it's forever a solid, timeless can't-go-wrong choice, so it doesn't bother me.