One of the great failures of modern political journalism is its inability to account for the children of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin—specially, why they are named things like "Trig" and "Willow"? But where journalism has failed, science may have succeeded:

Babies born in newer U.S. states have more distinctive names compared with their counterparts in older regions such as New England, a new study finds....

In more recently established states, such as Washington and Oregon, parents tend to choose less common baby names, while parents in "older" areas, such as the original 13 states, go for more popular names.

In other words, "frontier" babies get weird names like "Track" and "Snow Machine"; "establishment" babies get boring names like "Gary" and "Other Gary." So, mystery solved! Sarah Palin's oldest daughter is named "Bristol" and not "Elizabeth" because she is from Alaska and her parents had frontier values like "self-reliance" and "independence" and "not letting the federal government tell you how you can name your kin."

[LiveScience; image via AP]