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Baby Name Trends: Ha Ha names are nothing to laugh at!

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Have you noticed the sudden pop in popularity of girls’ names starting with the happy-go-lucky syllable ‘Ha’—some on them shamelessly stolen from the boys?  Caught in the spotlight by two recent high-profile starbabies, Harper Seven Beckham and Jessica Alba’s Haven Warren, this is among the baby name trends that seem to be spreading like wildfire both inside and outside the celebrity sphere.

So it’s ta-ta to Haley, Hayley, Hailee, Hailey and Hallie—and hello to:

Harper. Originally a Scottish family name, this is the biggest hit of all, now Number 119 on the girls’ list, after just arriving in 2004, and jumping more than fifty places in the last year.  It was inspired at least in part by America’s romance with the much-loved classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper (born Nelle) Lee, the book that has also propelled the name Atticus for boys.  Harper’s cred was then reinforced by the character of Harper Finkle on The Wizards of Waverly Place, introduced in 2007 and to a lesser extent by a more minor one in Gossip Girl. Though Harper is still used for boys, most of the many recent starbaby Harpers—from Lisa Marie Presley’s to Neil Patrick Harris’s, have been girls.  Trivia note: During fashionista Posh Beckham’s pregnancy, there were some snide rumors that her future daughter’s possible name was inspired by Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

HarleyFrom Harper it’s a quick jump to Harley, once considered among the most macho of biker names (we called it “renegade” in one of our earlier books), but now a certified Carly-Marley-sister name.  Strictly male until the early 1990s—ranking as high as 164 for boys way back in 1887– Harley used to have a dual old-timey rural/stuffy-executive image, attached to several noted athletes and politicians– until the Harley Davidson brand gave it more muscle.  But last year there were almost twice as many girl Harleys as boys, a number destined to rise. Hartley is a related choice, chosen by Mark McGrath for his daughter in 2010.

HadleyHadley has popped up within the last decade, climbing rapidly to its present 216th place, and, like Harper and Harley, it has the hint of a charming Southern accent.  Hadley has been most strongly tied to Missouri-born (Elizabeth) Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, who shared the heady days of his 1920’s Paris life with him.  Being the subject of a recent bestselling novel, The Paris Wife, has focused even more attention on her name.

Harlow is a surname too, but its image couldn’t be further from unisex.  Namesake Jean Harlow (born Harlean Harlow Carpenter) was the original platinum blonde bombshell, who sizzled on movie screens of the 1920’s and thirties.  Her family surname became one of the first glamour-girl baby name inspirations when Patricia Arquette used it for her daughter in 2003, but it drew a lot more attention via Nicole Richie and Joel Madden’s highly visible daughter Harlow Winter Kate, born in 2008.  Harlow jumped onto the Top 1000 the following year, and rose 126 places in 2010.

Haven is another newly minted once-male choice, though it’s not been heard for boys in more than a century.  Haven’s appeal lies in its reassuring refuge meaning of a safe place, and its similar but more earthly relationship to Heaven– as well as being in step with the many trendy en-ending boys’ names.  Haven is the title of a supernatural TV series—but there it was the name of a town rather than a person.  Haven Kimmel is the author of the bestselling 2001 memoir, A Girl Named Zippy. Jessica Alba’s choice of the name for her second daughter is sure to affect its popularity, just like big sister Honor’s did.

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