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The Nameberry 9: The baby name generation gap

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This week, for The Nameberry 9, Abby Sandel of  Appellation Mountain looks at some of the tricky  generational issues surrounding baby names.

Could it be true that Bob Geldof – father to Fifi, Peaches, and Pixie – is unhappy with his grandson’s name?

That’s what the British press is reporting, following the birth of little Astala Cohen-Geldof.  He wouldn’t be the first grandparent let down by a name reveal, but he’s unlikely to garner much sympathy.  His daughters’ names have long stayed near the top of the wacky celebrity baby name rankings, right up there with Dweezil and Moon Unit.

From pop culture to academia, this week the thinkers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School revealed new research on how names catch on.  Their theory is that it is all about the sounds in oft-repeated names.  The study brings some analytical rigor to name enthusiasts’ observations that Madison paved the way for Addison.

There’s more to it, of course, but if our ideas about attractive and appropriate names are swayed by cultural influences we don’t control, then there will always be an awful lot of confused grandparents, just like Bob.

This week’s nine newsiest baby name list is all about the next generation:

Astala – In fairness to grandpa Geldof, Peaches and her partner, musician Thomas Cohen, chose a doozy of a name for their firstborn, son Astala Dylan Willow.  The couple shared the name months ago, explaining that they found it in a baby name book. I can’t track down the book she used, and I’m left wondering – what would Bob have chosen for the tyke?

SlateNancy’s name quotes column mentions a grandmother who could’ve had a nice long chat with the former Boomtown Rat.  Her new grandchild was a boy named Slate, a little brother for Crimson, Indigo, and Sage.  It is worth clicking through from Nancy’s site to the conversation at Bloggity Blog, centered around the more unusual names on the recently released Idaho popularity list.

Pearl – No word on what Ozzy thinks of his newest grandchild’s name, but she’s gotten rave reviews from name fans.  Jack Osbourne and his fiancée Lisa Stelly welcomed their daughter last week.  This brings the grandkid count up to five: Isabelle, Harry, Mia, Elijah, and baby Pearl.  Pretty mainstream for the self-styled Prince of Darkness.

Emerson Pearl – The Osbourne announcement reminded me that I had never mentioned Shonda Rhimes’ new daughter, Emerson Pearl, a little sister for Harper.  Rhimes is the award-winning creator of Grey’s Anatomy, an oft-cited influence on baby names.  Among her next projects is a period drama set in a New York City hotel – I’m hoping for an American answer to Downton Abbey, rich with nineteenth century appellations.  As for the oh-so current Emerson Pearl, I think we may have to officially concede that Emerson is the new Madison.

Daku – Did you catch the post at Waltzing More than Matilda from the couple determined to name their son Daku?  The Australian pair met at Bondi Beach and wanted to use an Australian Aboriginal name.  Daku means sand and does have a history of use as a given name for boys in Western Australia.  They’re in love with the idea, but resistance abounds.  I wonder what Bob thinks of Daku?

Lucas Voornamelijk covered the most popular names in the Netherlands earlier this week, noting that Lucas was #1 for boys.  And that’s what I think of Daku, incidentally – he’s close to Luke and JakeEnds-in-oo is unusual for any name, but that shouldn’t matter.  If the Wharton research is right, Daku fits in much better that we might initially imagine.

Sylvia – It isn’t just grandparents and the general public who sometimes chime in with pleadings to choose another name.  Sometimes it is your bratty – and semi-famous – kid sister.  Teen Mom Farrah Abraham named her daughter the very sensible Sophia, and she’s weighing in on ideas for her big sister’s baby-on-the-way.  Sis is set on Sylvia Carmela Adele, a name borrowed from the family tree.  Farrah objects, and suggests Sayechelle or Sadie instead.

Maeve – A very Irish-American friend of mine was speculating on possible names for her new great-niece.  She rejected the idea of Maeve, but I’m still betting on it.  I met my first little Maeve back in 2004, and since then I’ve seen more than a few parents embrace it as a more current heritage choice than Erin; one that shares sounds with stylish options like Ava and Mae.  We’ll see if I’m right …

Merrin Elizabeth Joy – Speaking of surprises, singer Bo Bice’s new daughter joins brothers Ean, Caleb, and Aidan.  With such mainstream names on the boys, I’d have expected the Bice family to pick something equally popular for a girl – another little Olivia, maybe?  Instead they went with a tailored option, part-Meredith, part-Maren, part-Madison.  No word on the inspiration – or whether the grandparents are pleased.

Did your family approve of the names you chose for your child?  If they were resistant, did it – or would it – make a difference?

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