The Explosion of Karthiks

Back when I was in LKG, I was one of 6 Karthiks in my class, and one of two “S Karthik”s. Two years later there was a reshuffle in sections, and there were now “only” 4 Karthiks in my class. The number varied over the years but it was a very rare class I sat in (IIT being one of them) where I was the only Karthik.

So it appears that Karthik is an exceedingly popular name. But why did it become so popular? We don’t know. When did it really become popular? That is a question we can now answer thanks to Anand C, who has put out data as part of what he calls the “Indian Names Database“.

Anand trawled through electoral rolls (available in PDF form), and extracted the names of all registered voters in Andhra Pradesh. For privacy reasons he’s not put out the full data (he checked on this “datameet” group if it’s okay to put but that group convinced him it would be a violation of privacy – I’m not so sure since said data is already public , so I hope he puts out the full data sometime). So what he’s done is to extract words from each name, and published how many people with that word in their names were born in each year.

So for example the dataset he has published says that there were 2000 people with “kumar” in their names born in 1955 (and on the current electoral rolls), and this number went up to 53000 in 1984. Thus, playing around with Anand’s dataset we can find out the relative popularity and unpopularity of names over the years.

So I decided to check with my own name. How many people named “Karthik” born in each year were now on the electoral rolls in Andhra Pradesh? Given the format in which Anand has put out the data, it was easy to find, and here is the graph:


So there were a few Karthiks right from the 1940s, but the number was low, and then for some reason the name suddenly became popular in the late 1970s, after which it grew exponentially.

And it DID grow exponentially – in the literal sense and not in the figurative sense that people use the term for any fast growth. I plotted the same data using a logarithmic scale on the y-axis, and this is what I found:


Notice how this plot is a straight line between the late 1970s and about 1990. So if the logarithm of the number of Karthiks born in each of these years is a straight line, then we can surely conclude that Karthiks grew exponentially in this period?

So what are the most popular words in Andhra names over the years? The top 20 all-time names based on Anand’s data are:


Draw your own conclusions!

4 thoughts on “The Explosion of Karthiks”

  1. One known cause of common names is Movie stars or famous characters in successful cultural stories of that era. Does Telugu industry have any such scenarios ?

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