With perhaps the exception of Hawaii, the state considered as the king of unique names, Utah has the highest percent of children that are given names that are least 10 times more common in their home state than any other place in the nation.

Names such as Nyler, Drakelle, and Tynslee seem common enough, right? And how about the spelling of some common names like Awstyn for Austin, Djaryd for Jared, and Chasidee for Chastity. The spelling of those names is not so unusual, are they?

Dave Healey, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has decided to embrace the unusual baby names that Utahans give their children by sharing those names with the world. He developed a website called the Utah Baby Namer, and by using Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), he can generate new Utah-sounding baby names, proving that weird Utah names could be worse.

Baby NamesHe created the generator by feeding 200,000 Utah baby names – every baby name since 2005 that was at least twice as popular in Utah as in the rest of the U.S. – into an artificial intelligence algorithm called a recurrent neural network. On his website he shares, “The A.I. starts with not knowing anything about what constitutes name (or even valid English), so at the beginning it tries nonsense names like ‘dcrksxii’ and ‘tAunxp’ (actual attempts).  But after several rounds of training, it starts learning how to put consonants and vowels together, then the names start sounding reasonably like names, then before you know it, downright Utahn.”

Dave also points out on his website that a lot of names like Brooke, Natalie, Paisley, Braxton, Lacey, Charlotte, Ruby, Alice, and Nora all become popular in Utah long before they become popular in the United States at large.

The namer has three creativity levels. Dave points out that with the use of neural networks, the creativity level can be tuned as they are generating stuff. He says, “When you use the namer on the “low creativity” setting, the algorithm regurgitates names close to—or even the same as—names it’s seen before.  On the “medium creativity” it gets a little more adventurous, suggesting some actual names and some names that aren’t real Utah names, but maybe sound like they could be real.  On the “high creativity” setting the namer will create entirely new names as best it can in the style of Utah.”

This author tested the artificial intelligence algorithm using all three creativity levels to find the name for a baby boy with the last name of Brown. On the “low creativity” setting, the name Kade Gage Brown was generated. On the “medium creativity” level, the name Jagger Kaden Brown was generated. And on the “high creativity” setting, the name Progen Becuh Brown was generated.

 

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