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Category: Reese Witherspoon

TennesseePostcard

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 ‘TennesseeErnie 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.)

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If the Academy can hand out their Oscars for Best Actors, it seems only fair for Nameberry to bestow its own Berry awards for Best Actors’ Names. But unlike the Academy, we’re not limiting ourselves to the year just past, but are considering all the Best and Supporting Actor/Actress winners over time. Since two of the four current top girl baby names were Oscar winners decades ago, we won’t be including them–Sophia Loren took home the Best Actress prize for Two Women in 1961 and Olivia de Havilland won two Oscars– in 1946 for To Each His Own (based on a Salinger story) and in 1949 for The Heiress (based on Henry James).  Here, then the Lifetime Berry Awards for best names!

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Middle Name Switches

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Clearly, parents today are giving a lot more thought to their children’s middle names than their own parents did.  Long gone are the automatic connective choices like Lee and Lynn, Beth and Bruce;  more likely now might be something more imaginative like Maeve or West—or Sebastian or Story—or Mom’s maiden or another family name.

For some people, the reasoning behind this is to give the child an additional option for later in life.  It works both ways: either he could switch his classic William for his jazziermiddle  Jasper, or she could opt for using her traditional, grown-up Elizabeth middle name over the less sophisticated Poppy.

It turns out that a surprising number of celebrities have done just that—chosen to use their middle as their marquee moniker.  Sometimes it was to drop a wimpy appellation for a more stylish one (Eldred for Gregory, Orvon for Gene), sometimes because a name was too common at the time (Mary, John, James) and the middle had more character (Farrah, Orson, Montgomery), sometimes maybe because probably just seemed cooler to be Brad than Bill.

As a result, some of the most stand-out celebrity names –Evangeline, Reese, Rihanna, Ashton and Jude—started out in second place on the birth certificate.  Here are some of the most prominent–And note that the last names given aren’t necessarily the ones they were born with.

GIRLS

Kathryn BRIDGET (Moynahan)

Lily CLAUDETTE (Colbert)

Mary DEBRA (Winger)

Nicole EVANGELINE (Lilly)

Audrey FAITH (Hill)

Mary FARRAH (Fawcett)

Dorothy FAYE (Dunaway)

Deborah HUNTER (Tylo)

Mary KATHLEEN (Turner)

Olive MARIE (Osmond)

Holly MICHELLE (Phillips)

Carole PENNY (Marshall)

Laura Jean REESE (Witherspoon)

Robin RIHANNA (Fenty)

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There are some celebrity kids’ names that are immediately embraced by other parents and become instant hits. Take Kingston, for example, the name chosen for personal reasons relating to the city in Jamaica by Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale: it had all the ingredients to make it a success– accessibility, likeability, a strong, familiar sound with regal overtones, plus extremely high-profile parents.

Another name with similar qualities is Maddox, the first son of Angelina Jolie, which first entered the popularity lists in 2003 and has been steadily climbing ever since. A few recent names—Honor (Warren), Clementine (Hawkes), Seraphina (Affleck), and Harlow (Madden) spring to mind—were direct hits, and seem sure to spread.

On the other side of the coin are those that were just as instantly rejected as too weird for everyday consumption: the Ikhyds, Banjos, Bandits, Pumas, Pirates and Peanuts.

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Boys to Girls–Baby Name Gender Switches

Let’s say you have a two-year-old son named Connor.  Then suddenly you wake up one morning and see that Scarlett Superstar has just named her new baby daughter Connor.  And the thought runs through your mind–omg!!–are thousands of other parents now going to follow her lead and name their little girls Connor?  Is this the end of Connor as a boy’s name?

To the horror of many parents of boys, it can and sometimes does happen.  Think about Addison and Avery and Jordan and Morgan and all the other gender blurring  we’ve seen in recent years–and sometimes it is a single starbaby who has, if not incited the trend, at least accelerated it. A few once strictly-male names that fit this profile:

BAILEY–somewhat used for girls since the 80s, but really popped after several celebs chose it.

DYLAN–never heard as a girl’s name until Mia Farrow used it for her daughter in 1985, with the Sean Penns following suit in 1991–it’s now fully accepted as a female option.

EMERSONTeri Hatcher’s daughter was born in 1997, but the name didn’t really take off until all the publicity surrounding the mega-success of Mom’s show Desperate Housewives.

FINLEY –used by Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn in 2003, hopped onto the girls’ popularity list in 2005.

ROWAN–the Irish surname chosen by Brooke Shields in 2003 that led to hundreds of baby girl Rowans born last year.

To a lesser degree, this can happen with a celebrity’s own name too.  Although Glenn Close and Daryl Hannah didn’t do much to alter the gender images of their names, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Reese Witherspoon certainly did–there were over 2,300 girls named Reese last year.

So, which celebrity-endorsed boy-to-girl names have had or will have a lasting impact?

STARBABIES WHO HAVE ALREADY HAD AN EFFECT:

AVERY

BAILEY

EMERSON

FINLEY

HARPER

RILEY

ROWAN

RYAN

SAM

Those that could:

EASTON

ELLIOT/ELIOT

KAI

LUCA

MASON

SAWYER

SPENCER

Those that probebly won’t (though you never know):

ATHERTON

DEXTER

FINN

HUDSON

JAGGER

JUDAH

NOAH

OWEN

RIPLEY

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