It’s a boy! It’s a girl! It’s a Pikachu!
Pokémon—the massively successful Japanese video game and media franchise, in which human trainers capture and battle with fictional creatures—is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the July launch of the augmented reality mobile game Pokémon GO. You may love your favorite Pokémon dearly, but just how dearly? Would you name your child after them?
Believe it or not, you wouldn’t be the first. “I’ve gotten a few text messages from friends saying, ‘I’m gonna catch you,’” Tangela Large told me in an email.
I cross-referenced the Social Security Administration’s annual baby name records with all 151 original pocket monsters back through 1995, the year the Pokémon franchise was created. Five species of Pokémon have proven to be appealing baby names for U.S. parents: Tangela, Abra, Paras, Onix, and Eevee.
(Important note here: The Social Security Administration’s public database only lists names that were used at least five times in a given year. That means it’s possible that a single year’s crop of, say, one baby named Pikachu, three named Mewtwo, or even four named Mr. Mime could have easily flown under the radar—so the true total is almost certainly higher than 698. Throw in the Pokémon-named Americans born before the series launched and that number is higher still.)
Paras, according to the modern-day Rosetta Stone that is The 2016 Baby Names Almanac, is a Hindi word meaning “touchstone.” Onix is seemingly a less common form of Onyx, a name that refers to both a semiprecious stone and a shade of black. Abra, the first name of a character in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, may be a feminine form of Abraham. It’s also a name used by the Ewe people of West Africa to refer to girls born on Tuesday.
Of course, American babies didn’t start getting these names in 1995—in fact, some of them appear to have tapered off significantly post-Pokémon. Although Tangela hasn’t surfaced in the SSA records since 2011, it’s the only one of these five names ever to have cracked the top 1000 nationwide, which it did from 1965 through 1975. Tangela peaked in popularity in 1973, becoming the 759th most popular name in the country for girls that year.