When I go to the pool, I swim for a bit and then sit back and chill. Maybe I’ll read a book. Either way, I want to just sit in the shade and do a whole lot of nothing.

During one recent pool visit, I heard:

“Rhett! Don’t take that float!”

“Rhett! Leave that boy alone!”

“Rhett! It’s time to get out of the pool.”

What the heck? I wasn’t even near the pool. Alas, there was a Rhett in the pool. Now, if your name is John or Mike, this isn’t a big deal. But it’s a big deal to me. For just about my whole life, anyone who said “Rhett” was talking about Gone With the Wind or addressing me. It was a simpler time. Even now I remember the first time I encountered another living, breathing Rhett. It was a dog.

Rhetts are everywhere now. They’re in the pool, at soccer, everywhere. There is even a Rhett in one of my physics classes. Oh, don’t forget Good Mythical Morning with Rhett and Link. That’s another Rhett, one my kids like to watch.

This presents two problems. First, all these Rhetts are messing up my Google hits. I don’t even appear in the first page of results (I’m on page four). Second, these Rhetts didn’t have to worry about people lousing up their name. Do you know how many times people called me Brett or Fred before all these Rhetts came along? I have no idea how you get Fred from Rhett.

But this is a blog about physics stuff. It’s not a place to complain. So, let’s do something with this name.

How Many Rhetts?

If you haven’t played with Wolfram Alpha, you should. You can enter all sorts of crazy things into its “calculator” and get cool data. Put your name in there and see what happens. If you enter my name, you see the fraction of US humans with my name as a function of year. Here is that data, pasted into plotly:

What do you notice? First, before 1939, there were pretty much no Rhetts. But you get a spike after 1939, when the movie Gone With the Wind—starring Clark Gable as Rhett Butler—came out.

Second, you see a Rhettsplosion around 2006. The nation saw an 18 percent increase in Rhetts between 2006 and 2009, and then a 57 percent spike from 2009 to 2014. It’s worth noting that I started blogging in 2008. Of course, correlation does not mean causation. But it doesn’t mean I didn’t cause it, either.

When Will Everyone Be Rhett?

Let’s look at the data after 2006, the beginning of Rhettsplosion. Can we model the fraction of Rhetts? Yes, let’s fit a function to that data. Just to make the fit easier, I will call the year the variable t such that t = 0 in 2006.

You can see that the 2006-2014 data fit an exponential function quite well. OK, now to the question—when will everyone be named Rhett? Of course, this will be the case when the fraction reaches 1.0. Actually, this is the time when every child born would be named Rhett. It won’t change the people that are already alive. And yes, Rhett could be a girl’s name. Ashley was once a boy’s name.

So I need to solve this function for t. Let me write it in a generic format of:

La te xi t 1

Here f0, A and b are constants from the fit of the data. I can subtract f0 from both sides of the equation and divide both sides by A. Taking the natural log of both sides gives:

La te xi t 1

Now I just need to plug in my values for the constants and set f = 1.0. This gives a t of 14.38. Since the t = 0 corresponds to 2006, every child born would be Rhett in 2021 (or sometime between 2020 and 2021). That’s just four years away. Be sure to buy your “I’m with Rhett” T-shirts soon.

As I said, that’s when every newborn in the US would be named Rhett. We’d have to wait some period of time until all of the non-Rhetts “just go away” before everyone in the US is a Rhett.


If Y’all Keep This Up, Every Baby Will Be Named Rhett by 2020