A Celebrity Mom Surveys Her Name Choices

A Celebrity Mom Surveys Her Name Choices

We first talked with the lovely Natalie Hanson, whose husband is musical star Taylor Hanson, when she named her fourth child the amazing Viggo Moriah.  Not only is Natalie a celebrity mom, she’s a name nerd!  We’re delighted and honored to welcome Natalie to Nameberry as a guest blogger.  Here, she looks back on the names she and her husband chose for their four young children and what she’s thinking about for names for her fifth, due this fall.

This October I will celebrate ten years since I first took my adolescent name research and applied it to an actual human being.  This upcoming anniversary has inspired me to look back on the names my husband and I gave to our four children, the ways we chose them, and how they’ve worked out.   Have each of my choices lived up to my hopes? Was my perception of each name’s potential correct, or “ahead of its time”?  Our name stories:

Jordan Ezra  (2002)- One of my favorite things about choosing actual names for my children, separate from my general love of all things names, is going through the process with my husband.  He is an artist I admire, with a discerning taste all his own and I love the opinions he brings to the table.  His lack of knowledge of current naming trends is a nice balance to my over zealously researched approach.

This yin and yang is apparent in my first son’s name choice.  Taylor’s full name is Jordan Taylor Hanson, and so Jordan was an easy choice.   As I was keenly aware of the trend toward Old Testament boy names beginning with E, Taylor’s response to the lovely sounding Ezra made it easy to love.  I pictured a wise, quirky, old man, and I was sold.    Ezra turns ten in October and I am still in love with his name. Although it has continued to rise in popularity, he has yet to really run into any others his age.  In a sea of gender-bender, sort-of-surname peers, Ezra still shines to me as masculine, intellectual, and quietly quirky, and my Ezra wears it well.

Penelope Anne (2005) – When it came to naming my baby girl, I felt a different kind of pressure. My sis-in-law Kate and I always say it’s like picking out the outfit they have to wear everyday for the rest of their life!  One of the things I have always appreciated about my own name is that Natalie has a classic feel with a hint of international flair, a la Natalie Wood, characteristics I wanted for my own little girl’s name.

Taylor and I also put into consideration family names. My mother is a Pamela, and the thought of Penelope first came from trying to honor her name in some way. To my ear, Penelope was beautiful, whimsical and fun sounding. As we mulled over the name for a few months, Penelope seemed more and more perfect, and honestly, we loved Penny too!

Here we are seven years later and it is more than a perfect fit for our girl.  We joke that she is  “every syllable of that name”.  What has surprised me is how much the name has risen in popularity.  I had thought the pronunciation might be a little too awkward for the mainstream. (I’ll save why popularity doesn’t bother me for another post!)

River Samuel  (2006) – The choice of River’s name took on a slightly different pattern than the others because Taylor brought River to the table right from the get-go. I hesitated at first. Was it presidential enough? (Tell me I’m not the only one who considers the name’s ability to hold office? Anyone?)  However, River started to grow on me, a lot. I stopped seeing it as just a hippie nature name, and started visualizing the rugged strength of a raging river.  When I mentioned the name to my grandfather, he immediately started singing OlMan River, which I loved.   The symbolism in the name River seemed strong and purposeful and peaceful.  I still see the name this way, and my 5-year-old son certainly fits the image I had of the name.  River’s name may be the one in which my vision of the name least matches how it is perceived in general. I have recently had two people tell me stories of little girls they know named River!

Viggo Moriah (2008)- I am not one of those who hides the name until delivery for fear of backlash. In fact, the stronger the reaction I get, the more I tend to like the name!

When Taylor and I decided on “Viggo” for baby number 4, we figured we better just state our choice and hold our ground. The Hansons have a large whiteboard in their kitchen where all family business is posted. I took a marker and wrote on the board” TH Family baby number four will be named Viggo Moriah. That is the name. It will not be changed.”   No one was so bold as to question it to our faces, but after Viggo was born, the truth came out that the name was definitely in hot debate when we weren’t around!

Viggo is 3 now, and the perception of his name has turned out better than I had hoped for! I thought he might have a few years of an awkwardly too cool name before growing into artistic adulthood and fully embracing it. I’m happy to report this assumption was totally wrong!  Kids LOVE his name. I mean really love it. He has so many little friends whose mothers tell me how much they talk about “Viggo”. Now of course, this is in part due to his infectious positive personality, but you can really tell they just like to say “Viggo”! I think is must be the “go” part.  I haven’t experienced this phenomenon with any of the other names, and I’ve wanted to share it with my fellow name lovers. It made me think about how much our name choices are affected by sound.  So, my report on Viggo, if you were considering this name as a choice, but worried about general acceptance, I say, go for it! It is an undiscovered gem!

Thinking back on all the children’s names has helped to give me a fresh perspective in choosing the name for the baby GIRL we are expecting in the fall. (Yes, that’s right, Penny is getting a sister!)  It has helped to remind me how the right name seems to come at the right time, and how, no matter how “perfect” the choice, it will only be a part of all this little person will become.  I hope you have enjoyed reading a little about my name journey. I would love to hear some of your own naming reviews!

Natalie Hanson is the mother of four, with a fifth coming this fall. She has been married to Taylor Hanson of the musical group Hanson for over ten years, and thinking of names for her children for over twenty.

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About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten groundbreaking books on names, Redmond is an internationally-recognized baby name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, CNN, and the BBC. She has written about baby names for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and People.

Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its sequel, Older. She has three new books in the works.