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Category: Moon Unit Zappa

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Which people over time have had the greatest influence on baby names in the U.S.? We’ve collected the top dozen individuals who’ve inspired millions of namesakes, often in unexpected ways. Sometimes it was an actual name that went viral; in other cases these people set off a wider-ranging trend. Here, the greatest baby name influencers of all time:

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When out-of the-box-named Ever Carradine, actress and member of a multi-generational Hollywood dynasty, recently gave her baby daughter the equally out-of-the-box-name Chaplin, it got me wondering—could there be an extreme baby naming gene that passes from generation to generation?

In Ever’s case it seems to be true.  Although her parent’s generation bore the classic names David, Christopher, Keith and Robert, among their offspring are:

Frank Zappa’s kids’ names are the poster children for extreme starbaby naming: Moon Unit, Dweezil (actually Ian Donald Calvin Euclid on his original birth certificate when the hospital refused to register Dweezil), Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen.  Are these sibs following the tradition?  Kinda–though more cool than crazy– judging from their offspring so far:

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Baby Name Timeline

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When we were preparing the article “Bizarre Baby Names: A Growing Trend?” for the July issue of  Reader’s Digest magazine that’s just hit the stands, we put together a lonnnnnng timeline of the key markers in American name history–much longer than they could possibly use with the story.  So here we offer you some of the dates and events that you won’t find in the magazine.

1620.  The Mayflower arrives bearing 102 passengers, mostly with classic English names, but also one Degory, one Resolved, one Remember, one Wrestling, and one Oceanus, who was born mid-voyage.

1750s. Enter classical names (Homer, Horace), chivalrous names (Arthur, Elaine), and romantic girls (Lavinia, Rosalind).  More boys are being called Junior.

1768. Birth of Dolley Madison, one of the increasing number of babies with nicknames on their birth certificates.

1825. John Quincy Adams is the first President to have a middle name, a rarity at this time, when it becomes fashionable to use the mother’s maiden name.

1845. The Irish famine sends masses of Bridgets and Patricks to America.

1925. Girls’ names ending in ‘s’ are fashionable–Gladys, Doris, Phyllis, Lois; also those ending in een (Kathleen) and ette (Paulette).

1946. Publication of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care encourages parents to be more relaxed, confident and collaborative: husbands participate more in child care–and baby naming.

1950.  Linda unseats the seemingly unseatable Mary as the number one name for girls.

1959. First Gidget movie released; surfer dude names like Gary, Scott, Dwayne and Bruce catch the wave.

1959.  Mattel introduces the Barbie doll; other nickname names like Lori, Cindy, Sherry and Terri are hot.

1966. Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. renounces his “slave name” to become Muhammed Ali; other celebrities follow suit, influencing African-American baby naming.

1967.  Frank Zappa names his first child Moon Unit,  a seminal ‘kooky’ baby name.  Son Dweezil will follow two years later.

1968. TV westerns like Here Come the Brides, featuring brothers Jason, Jeremy and Joshua, signal a return of old cowboy names.

1974. The first issue of People magazine accelerates fascination with celebrity culture, parents start to be increasingly influenced by names stars give their babies.

1987. Movie Wall Street proclaims “Greed is good,” summing up the Go-Go 80s and inspiring Waspy surnames for boys (Carter, Parker) and androgynous exec names for all (Kyle, Blake, Blair).

1998. Parents continue to get more and more kreeatif with spellings like Adan, Austyn and Alivia all in the year’s Top 700.

2000. The Internet inspires parents to search genealogy sites for old family names.

2003. Extreme starbaby names grow more extreme–this year alone sees the arrival of Pilot Inspektor, Audio Science and Banjo.

2008. Reason returns: With economic downturn, parents look back to solid, traditional girls’ names like Ella, Grace, Olivia, and biblical boys Jacob, Ethan, Benjamin.

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Day and Night Baby Names

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Many parents — more and more, it seems — wait until the baby arrives to settle on a  name.  Some want to see what it looks like and try to gauge its incipient personality (not always easy), and some want to tie it into the circumstances of the baby’s birth–a practice seen in a number of earlier cultures.  This could be the season of arrival–Summer or Autumn–or the month, as in June or January, or the day of the week, as in Sunday Rose Kidman Urban (actually born on a Monday).

Another option is commemorating the time of day or night of the baby’s arrival.  There are any number of names associated with sun and moon gods and goddesses, as well as names whose meanings refer to day and night, stars, dawn, sun and moon,  in both western and  eastern cultures. Some of them worth considering are:

DAY NAMES

ADOUR — African, meaning born at dawn
AFTERNOON
ALBA –means dawn in Italian and Spanish
ALTAN — Turkish, meaning dawn

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Will Pax Change His Name to Max?

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It’s way too soon to know how this generation of unusually named starbabies–the Bronx Mowglis and Pilot Inspektors and Moxie CrimeFighters–will feel about their names as they move on into schoolyards and workplaces, but if we can gain any insight by looking back at the first generation of weirdly named celebrity kids–those born in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, there’s a good chance they may choose to leave those names behind.

One of the first of these was america (deliberately spelled with a small ‘a’) Hoffman, son of sixties activist/protester Abbie Hoffman.  As soon as he could, america opted to become Alan.  Three of the wackily-named kids of the past were uncomfortable enough with their names to change them not once but twice.  Zowie Bowie became first Joey and then Duncan (Jones), saying that he actually loves his unusual moniker, but wanted to step outside the shadow of his famous father.  One of Mia Farrow’s daughters morphed from Dylan to Eliza to Malone, and one of her sons from Satchel to Seamus to Ronan.

When Chastity Bono (named after the title of a movie made by her father Sonny) used to complain about her name when she was young, her father was known to say “Be thankful we didn’t name you Dweezel.”  Which brings us to the Zappas: Moon Unit, Dweezil (whose birth certificate name was Ian Donald Calvin Euclid), Ahmet Enuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen.  Despite merciless mocking over the years, the Zappas have steadfastly held fast to their names (Dweezil making that his legal name), and Moon has repeatedly stated that she’s glad not to have a common, ordinary name.

But they are the exceptions, even with the slightly younger generation.  British rocker Bob Geldof’s daughters Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa (sister of Fifi Trixiebelle, Little Pixie and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily) has declared that she hates ridiculous names in general and that her “weird name has haunted me all my life.”  And even teenaged Tallulah (not really such a bizarre name at all) Willis recently asked her dad Bruce to announce on David Letterman’s show that she is already ready to change her name–to Lula.

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