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India, Maven & Knute: Controversial Baby Names in the News

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The Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

Don’t you love a good baby name controversy?

If you’re in the UK, ITV’s This Morning provided a delicious one last week. The show is exactly what the name implies – a morning talk program with chatter and discussion about current topics, something like The View.

Co-host Holly Willoughby recently introduced the topic of baby names. Guest Katie Hopkins – a reality show villain turned media personality – went on a rant about the names that she dislikes, adding that her children aren’t allowed to play with kids with certain kinds of names.

Hopkins was dismissive of lots of choices, including geographic ones – despite the fact that her daughter is called India. (“It’s not related to a location,” she protested.) Her other children are Poppy and Maximillian.

Another panelist characterized Hopkins as cruel and snooty. I’m inclined to agree. And yet one thing she said struck a chord. She characterized names as shortcuts.

I’m afraid that might be uncomfortably close to the truth.

Names like Nevaeh and Jayden, Jaxon and Makayla can get quite a reaction on baby name forums. Do we carry that same judgment when we meet the children who wear those names?

It’s worth a thought, especially in a week when the birth announcements ranged from the classic to the surprising.

AceJessica Simpson’s new baby boy has a powerful name, the kind that brings to mind heavy metal rockers, World War I flyboys, and winning hands at poker. But Ace has more history than we might imagine, and was given to almost 500 boys last year. Compared to her daughter’s name, Jessica played it safe for her son.

KnuteJessica and fiance Eric are known for being big into family names, and Ace’s middle is no exception. Knute comes from Eric’s Swedish grandfather. It’s a stand-out name, a Scandinavian import worn by kings. Football great Knute Rockne opted for the silent K, but baby Ace’s middle is pronounced ka NOOT.

Keane – While we’re talking about K names, what do you think of Keane? He appeared on Ren’s recent list of K names.  If you’re disappointed to learn that Finn is so popular, Keane could be a less expected option.

Logan – Would you let strangers determine your baby’s name? How ‘bout choosing between your two finalists? Jennifer James and Mark Dixon did just that, leaving it to their fellow patrons at a New Haven coffee shop to vote on Logan or Jackson for their son. Logan won handily. Could the popularity of Hugh Jackman’s X-Men character Wolverine – also known as Logan – be giving this name a boost?

Willem Jan – A European royal family announced a new arrival this week. No, not that one. Instead, Willem Jan is the newest member of the House of Orange-Nassau, a son for Prince Floris and wife Aimee. Willem Jan joins sisters Magali and Eliane, and his full name is Willem Jan Johannes Pieter Floris.

Willa – Look out, Ella. Willa has been quietly on the rise in recent years. Now the new season of True Blood includes a character named Willa, daughter of the dastardly governor of Louisiana. Lisa makes a case for this classic, literary name’s use.

Sloane – Another rising name in the news this week comes to us from Wimbledon. American Sloane Stephens was defeated in the quarter-finals, but at just 20, she’s poised to return. Her tailored name brings to mind the lovely Sloane Peterson from 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but also London’s stylish Sloane Square.  (Thanks to Kelli for pointing out this story.)

Maven SonaeAva meets Mason meets the next big thing in word names? Tracy Morgan and Megan Wollover have welcomed a daughter. A maven is an expert in a specific field. As a word, maven has Hebrew roots, and was popularized in the US by a series of radio commercials for herring in the 1960s. Strange beginnings, maybe, but I think this one works.

Lucy ThomasEli and Abby Manning have also welcomed a new little girl, a sister for Ava Frances. First James, now Thomas – are masculine middle names a new trend for girls? Or are the Mannings honoring a loved one with Lucy’s middle?

Do you find yourself judging names? And what do you think about some of the trends in this week’s list – unisex middles, word names, unusual names borrowed from the family tree?

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