Category: Scarlett Johansson
By Linda Rosenkrantz
It always strikes me as somewhat curious when a name that has been hidden in plain sight for decades—or longer—attached to a significant literary or real life character will suddenly pop into the zeitgeist and take off. Sometimes the contributing factors are obvious—sharing with a more recent celebrity (looking at you, Ms Johansson) or its discovery by the parents of a starbaby. And sometimes, it just remains a mystery.
Some prominent examples:
Atticus. The Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, and the movie, starring Gregory Peck as principled lawyer and role-model dad Atticus Finch, was released two years later. Between then and now, the book has been a mainstay of English class curricula, working its way into the collective consciousness of future baby namers, while Atticus Finch was voted the greatest hero of American film by the AFI.
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.
Some authors have a genuine knack for character naming, usually spread over their entire oeuvre. In the case of Margaret Mitchell, it was all focused on her only novel–Gone With the Wind–whose character names still resonate today. The 1933 book (almost titled Tomorrow is Another Day) was an unprecedented smash, selling 30 million copies and winning a Pulitzer Prize, as was the movie, released in 1939 and receiving a then-record ten Oscars. Its frequent revivals and TV screenings have kept it alive for later generations. So how have its characters’ names fared for babies over the years?
SCARLETT O’Hara. For four years following the debut of the film, Scarlett sneaked onto the bottom edge of the Social Security list. It took a glamorous young, modern movie star–Ms. Johansson–to propel it to the upper echelons. A stylish color name, it’s now in the Top 300 and sure to move higher.
RHETT Butler. So closely connected to the Clark Gable persona, it took Rhett a long time to make it into the mainstream, which it finally started to do in the fifties, along with similar names like Brett and Brent, all of which have pretty much faded.
ASHLEY Wilkes. At the time of the book’s writing, Ashley was very much a Southern gentleman’s name. It wasn’t until the early 1980′s that it really crossed the genderline, when it started to appear as female characters on soap operas like The Young and the Restless. Margaret Mitchell would have been shocked to see it beome the #1 girls’ name in America in 1991.
You’ve probably noticed that Aiden is now way more popular than the original Irish Aidan. And also that Zoey is catching up with Zoe, while other names like Isiah, Kaleb, Camryn and Sienna are either ahead of or breathing down the necks of their conventionally spelled cousins. Sometimes the reasons for these changes are clear-cut, sometimes it’s just something in the ether.
Not that this is a new thing. I remember the first time that someone asked me to spell my first name. “Huh?” “Well, is it Linda with an ‘i’ or Lynda with a ‘y’? Without my really noticing, Lynda had become a spelling alternative in the wake of the popularity of Lynn. Something similar has happened with Aidan/Aiden. When the epidemic of rhyming ‘en’-ending names erupted–Jaden, Braden, Caden et al–it was a logical development to make Aiden a legitimate member of that family. And when ‘K’-beginning boys’ names became a rage, Kaleb began pursuing Caleb up the list.
The case of Zoe/Zooey is a little different, as the spike of the latter version can be pretty much traced to a single phenomenon–’Zoey101′–the Emmy-nominated teen sitcom starring (now teen mom) Jamie Lynn Spears, which appeared on Nickelodeon in 2005. And the publicity surrounding Jamie Lynn’s big sister Britney’s second son helped spread that spelling of Brayden. The rise of the British actress Sienna Miller spurred the spelling change of the Italian town of Siena, actress Jorja Fox legitimized the phonetic spelling of Georgia, and Gossip Girl hottie Chace (originally his middle name) Crawford has the spelling of his name chasing Chase.
In terms of image, rather than spelling, Scarlett Johansson challenged the long-term connection of her name to Gone With the Wind spitfire Scarlett O’Hara, just as the charms of Jude Law have managed to erase the age-old associations of his name to Judas.
Can you think of any others?