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Delilah and Desiree–Bad Girls Gone Good

When Pam and I wrote our first name book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason (back when Jennifer & Jason were still baby names), we had a little section called NAMES THAT ARE TOO MUCH TO LIVE UP TO, listing examples that had such a potent image that whey would overpower an innocent babe–including such biblical temptresses and goddesses as Jezebel, Salome and Venus. Well, things have now changed to the point where those names and others equally powerful have slipped into  the mainstream.  Why?  Partly the current anything-goes atmosphere, partly some tipping point moments, such as:

DELILAHWHY THE BAD GIRL RAP? Biblical temptress who betrayed Samson.  DEFUSER? Lame old Tom Jones song; was considered as baby name by Rachel and Ross on Friends.

DESIREEWHY? Precocious French teenager engaged to and then jilted by Napoleon.    DEFUSER? Jumped onto the Social Security list in 200 at #181.  Not sure why.

JEZEBEL: WHY? Scheming, promiscuous New Testament hussy; name came to mean hussy.  DEFUSER? Feminists started to see her as a victim, became the name of a hot weblog.  Name still means hussy.

LOLA: WHY? Sexy 19th century Spanish dancer/courtesan Lola Montez, sexy Marlene Dietrich character in The Blue Angel, sexy Pajama Game song ‘Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets’. DEFUSER? Madonna nicknames baby Lourdes Lola, Kelly Ripa mentions daughter Lola every mornining

LOLITA: WHY? Iconic Nabokov lollipop-licking nymphet; DEFUSER? Actress Lolita Davidovich says it’s a common name in Eastern Europe, director Brian de Palma bestows it on his baby.

SALOME: WHY? Deceitful dancing New Testament seductress, seen as even worse in Oscar Wilde play and Strauss opera; DEFUSER? Not sure, but it was defused enough for TV actress Alex Kingston to use it for her daughter.

SCARLETT: WHY? The Scarlet Letter, phrase “scarlet woman,” spoiled and selfish Scarlett O’Hara;  DEFUSER: Scarlett Johanssen

VENUS: WHY? Roman goddess of love, deadly Venus Flytrap plant; DEFUSER: Tennis ace Venus Williams

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Why no baby Oprahs?

Celebrities have had an enormous influence on baby names over the past few decades.  Stars’ names like Angelina and Jude, Sienna and Anderson have risen up the popularity list.

Yet for every celebrity that inspires a rash of little namesakes, there seems to be another, equally attractive and popular star whose name doesn’t become famous, at least for babies.  Oprah may have the power to catapult books to bestsellerdom and even to influence presidential elections, but the millions of moms who love her don’t seem to love her name.  Madonna may have legions of fans over several decades, but there’s still only one Madonna.  Okay, two.

Maybe you’ll say that the problem is in the names Oprah and Madonna themselves and true, those might be difficult monikers to carry.  But that doesn’t seem to always be the reason a name doesn’t achieve the star power of its original bearer.

Case in point: Diana.  We were sure, through the long reign of Princess Diana, that her name would rise up the charts.  It’s a beautiful name with classic roots that sounded neither dowdy nor trendy.  But Diana, as a name, never took off.

A lot of the other hot and not celebrity-influenced names are similarly difficult to figure out.

Jada: Hot.   Beyonce: Not.

Ashton: Hot.  Demi: Not.

Tyra: Hot.  Heidi: Not.  

Trista: Hot.  Ryan: Not.

Scarlett: Hot.  Ryan: Still not.

Reese: Hot.  Jake: Well, Jake‘s hot too, but not because of Gyllenhaal.

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