Mapping the Belgian baby name space

I’ve been working — well, playing — with network visualization tools like Gephi or yEd for a couple of years now. But for confidentiality reasons, none of this work could be openly shared.

As it happens, yesterday afternoon, with a cosy cup of coffee and an even cosier piece of ricetart at my favorite Pain Quotidien, I downloaded the full list of first names given to babies born in Belgium over the last 20 years. And wondered how this data set could be turned into a network.

After a moderately short labor of 134 lines of program code — including quite a number of fruitful multiplications — two orthographic word similarity networks were born. In layman’s language: similarly looking names are linked, and therefore visualized close(r) to one another.

The girls’ name network connects 1900 names. Here’s a sample:

Marie(ke) is quite a popular name indeed:

The young boys’ network contains 1500 names in total, including:

So no, Jef, you’re not alone!

Together, the boys’ and girls’ graphs provide a holistic overview of the Belgian baby name space.

So, young or not-so-young friends & colleagues: if you’re into procreation mode or expecting, and want your newborn to wear that fancy name: no more excuses.