Category: baby name Ava
The revelation of Tennessee as the name of Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth’s baby boy came as something of a surprise to the celebrity babies‘ name-watching world—but perhaps it shouldn’t have been, what with other recent starkids named Alabama, Indiana and Arizona. And a simple Google search will tell you that though Reese was born in New Orleans, most of her childhood was spent in Tennessee, her mother’s native state, explaining why it was meaningful to her.
Although the name Tennessee’s two notable most namesakes, playwright Williams (born Thomas) and country singer ‘Tennessee’ Ernie Ford, are male, Tennessee actually had some popularity as a girl’s name in the late nineteenth century, appearing in the Top 1000 five times between 1880 and 1890. It reached as high as Number 580 in 1884—though granted that accounted for only fourteen girls—the same year that Missouri, Nevada and Florida were also on the girls’ list. (The nickname Tennie, on the other hand, reigned for more than forty years.)
If you’re a long-time name nerd, I have a question for you.
Have you become more tolerant of names that fall outside your personal comfort zone? Or are your convictions about certain topics – spelling, gender, nicknames – growing stronger?
This week’s most newsworthy baby names run the gamut, from the truly unusual to the just-a-little-different. They remind me that I’ve become far more accepting over the years, appreciating the most common and the outlandish choices alike. After all, there’s a fellow called Barack in the White House and a challenger called Mitt, making it tough to argue that only people called John and Elizabeth can attain lofty positions of power and influence.
Today is officially Soap Opera Day (woo hoo!) and though this isn’t as big of a deal in the baby name world as it once was, with a lot fewer sudsers on TV than there were when soap operas were the main staple of daytime programming, we have to acknowledge the influence that they did have in the past—just as powerful as reality show show TV names do today.
This is true both in terms of trends (as in sometimes condescendingly considered “soap opera names” on the order of Thorne and Trent, Blade and Brent, and also place names like Sierra and Egypt, boys’ names for girls) and individual names—the classic example of which is Kayla. It’s highly doubtful that there would have been 16,000 baby girls named Kayla in 1996 if popular good girl Kayla Brady hadn’t appeared on Days of Our Lives a decade earlier. And the same goes for all those Ashleys too.
What follows is a list of soap opera names across three decades that did have some influence—though it sometimes took as long as a decade or two to make an impact (and of course there could be other factors involved)—followed by the year in which they were at the peak of their popularity.
From the early days of silent pictures to the present day, a sprinkling of stardust has stuck to the names of some of the most iconic glamour girls. Whether their allure was sexy or serene, these superstars’ names make Nameberry’s top dozen.
Audrey– The radiant Belgian-born actress (born Edda), style icon and humanitarian lent a luminous glow to her name– an Old English saint’s appellation– which is being appreciated anew by modern parents, who have brought it into the Top 50.
Ava – One of the great hits of the decade, Ava still calls up the image of sultry Hollywood beauty Ava Gardner. Beginning with Heather Locklear, and Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe in the late 90s, it’s has been a wildly popular celebrity fave.
Charlize—Contemporary actress Charlize Theron was born in South Africa to parents of German, French and Dutch ancestry, and was given her distinctive name in honor of her father, Charles. It has just started to be used in this country in the past few years, with that ‘z’ adding sizzle to Charlie.
Greta – Early film icon Greta Garbo had an exotic and mysterious aura which still clings to her name. A German diminutive of Margarethe, Greta has been used for their daughters by David Caruso, and by Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline.
Harlow—This is one rare case where the last name is more glamorous than the first—Jean—of the sensual 1930s Platinum Blonde. Patricia Arquette was the first to use it for her daughter, followed by Nicole Richie and Joel Madden—and it’s sure to catch on with other parents.
We’ve seen it happen again and again. A name–say Emily–becomes mega-popular. Parents like the sound of it, but fear there are too many Emilys, so pick something similar but a little different: Emma. When Emma gets to #1, they turn to Ella–and then perhaps to Ellie, Elle, Emme, Emery, Embry or Emerson.
In the recent past we’ve seen a number of examples of this phenomenon–some rhyming names, some similar in sound or feel–for instance Cody leading to Brody, Brian to Ryan, Kevin to Evan, Jason to Mason to Greyson, Madison to Addison, Brandon to Landon, Kayla to Layla, Kaylee to Bailey, Kylee to Riley, and of course Aidan to its 999 offshoots.
Here are some possible successors to current names, including some unstylish vintage ones (as Ava and Ada were not so long ago) that might be coaxed back, plus a few that are already showing signs of success: