Award-Winning Baby Names: And the Nameberry Oscars go to…

As the race towards the Oscars heats up, Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain offers her annual analysis of possible award-winning baby names–the most interesting names attached to nominees and the characters they play.

Award season is in full swing, with the Golden Globes last month and the Oscars coming up soon.

A glance at any kindergarten roster demonstrates Hollywood’s impact on baby names.  Audrey, Ava, Olivia, and Natalie all belonged to screen legends long before they were among the most popular choices for our daughters.  Surname choices like Harlow, Monroe, Gable, and even Chaplin have been heard.

But those are Golden Age names.  How about the nominees for 2013?  There are some fascinating choices, rich with potential for a son or a daughter.

Leading Men

Whitaker – In Flight, Denzel Washington plays a pilot who lands his plane against the odds.  Washington’s character is named William Whitaker, nicknamed Whip.  With choices like Wesley and Archer in vogue, Whitaker seems like a name that could wear well.  But is Whitaker a sister for Harper or a brother for Parker?

Pi – The posters of a scrawny teenage shipwreck survivor and a Bengal tiger sharing a lifeboat were everywhere this summer.  If you missed the movie, you might not know that Pi was short for Piscine Molitor Patel.  His parents named him after a French swimming pool.  I doubt anyone will seriously consider Piscine for a child, but the mathematical Pi feels brisk and modern.

JoaquinJoaquin Phoenix is nominated for yet another Oscar for his work in The Master.  He plays Freddie, another choice that could do well in 2013.  But it is the actor’s name that fascinates.

DjangoTarantino borrowed this name from a series of 1960s westerns.  It’s historically improbable – Django is a Romani nickname made famous by jazz guitar great Django Reinhardt in the 1930s.  That’s long after the West was won.  Nonetheless, Djano is my pick for a breakout name from this season’s nominees, thanks to his –o ending and unusual Dj spelling.  Having boy/girl twins?  You can always call Django’s sister Djuna.

King – Another one from Django Unchained, worn by Christoph Waltz.  Waltz was gleefully evil in Tarantino’s World War II flick a few years back.  Now he’s the good guy, with a regal name.

Patrick, Patrizio – The Silver Linings Playbook Solitano family included two PatsPatrizio, played by Robert De Niro, and his son, Patrick, played by Bradley CooperBoth actors are nominated for their work.  While they’re both called Pat in the movie, the longer forms strike me as the more wearable alternative.  Is it me, or is Patrick starting to appeal to parents disappointed that William and James are already taken?

Lincoln – Twenty-first century parents have embraced this nineteenth century presidential name.  With the movie nominated for Best Picture and Daniel DayLewis in the running for Best Actor, could Lincoln be even more popular in the coming years?

Javert – From Les Miserables, the name of the inspector set on tracking down Jean Valjean.  Take Jared, mix in a dash of Garrett and the letter v, and Javert seems like a wearable possibility.

Valjean – He’s the hero of Les Miserables, and Hugh Jackman has already won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the generous reformed convict.  Valjean seems like a longshot for a child’s name, but the character is irresistible.  With so few good virtue names for boys, Valjean feels like one worth some consideration.

Hugo – We can’t talk about the blockbuster musical without discussing Victor Hugo.  Last year, Martin Scorcese’s Hugo was a Best Picture nominee.  With the French literary connection keeping the name current in awards circles, could this be Hugo’s year?

Leading Ladies

Peggy – It’s time for Peggy to make a comeback.  First there was Mad Men, now there’s Amy Adams’ character in The Master.

EmmanuelleEmmanuelle Riva’s career has spanned six decades.  She’s the oldest actress to ever be nominated for Best Actress OscarRiva starred in Amour, a darkly romantic tale of late-life love.  Vivienne, Genevieve, Evangeline, Emmanuelle.  Isn’t this the kind of name that should work on a modern child?  Nicknames Emme and Ellie are built right in.

Quvenzhané  – There’s no way to talk about names of 2013 nominees and not focus on Quvenzhané Wallis.  The Louisiana native is the youngest actor ever nominated for Best Actress played Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild.  As for her name?  It is pronounced kwuh VEN zhuh nay. Her mother is Qulyndreia; dad is Venjie.  The couple combined their names, then added zhané, which  Mom says is the Swahili word for fairy.  It’s the kind of name that appeals after you say it two or three dozen times – something  we all might find ourselves doing if the young actress’s career takes off.

Hildi Django Unchained has such great names, and the female lead is no exception.  Kerry Washington plays Django’s wife, Broomhilda.  Okay, Broomhilda is not a great name.  But she answers to Hildi, and Hildi seems like a sister to Hayley, Harper, and Hattie.

CoraOne of the real life characters from Argo, Cora Lijek was played by Clea DuVall in the movie.  Cora was in hibernation for years, but now that Downton Abbey has given the name to an American heiress turned duchess, she seems to be everywhere.

Cosette – If Django is the breakout name for the boys’ side, I think Cosette is his female counterpart.  She’s French, she shortens to Coco or Cosi, and she’s been getting more attention in recent years.  Cozi Zuehlsdorff, who starred in 2011’s Dolphin Tale was born Cozette.

Éponine – Another possibility from the movie, this time a wildly romantic one.  Hugo may have borrowed Éponine from Charles Baudelaire’s poems, or both may have been inspired by Epponina, the wife of Julius Sabinus, a Gaul who attempted to lead a rebellion from the Roman Empire after the death of Nero.

FantineOne last name from Les Mis.  Anne Hathaway plays Fantine, the naïve but devoted mother of Cosette.  The most repeated theory is that her name is derived from enfant ­– the French word for child.  Despite her tragic ending, Fantine could appeal to some parents.

Maya – Back to the present time, with Jessica Chastain’s character from Zero Dark ThirtyMaya is a globe-trotting name long popular in the US and elsewhere.  In the Oscar-nominated movie, she’s also a tenacious CIA operative.

Are there other names from this year’s batch of Oscar names that are worthy of consideration?  Would you use any of the names from this year’s most celebrated films?  And is Quvenzhané growing on you, too?

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19 Responses to “Award-Winning Baby Names: And the Nameberry Oscars go to…”

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sparrowfinch Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 2:36 am

Javert is not pronounced like a mix between Jared and Garret with a v and since he is so rigidly awful, I would be very surprised to meet a baby Javert. And the pronunciation suggested (Would it be Jay-vert) is not very pleasant sounding.

I agree, though, that Emmanuelle should catch on.

namenerdz Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 7:56 am

I was going to say the same thing about Javert. you would think they would know how its pronounced! its more like – JA – VEAR. like wear with a V. T is silent

littlemissmariss Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 8:36 am

I really like Whitaker! Even if I don’t necessarily see it catching on. I can definitely only imagine in on a boy, and I love the nick name Whip!

Even if Pi has a cool mathematical equation reference, its still a delicious and extremely popular food. I see it catching on as much as cake 🙁

I watched that Zero movie when I was younger and there was a young Joaquin in it, however I can only really picture a hispanic person using the name 🙁 Its super cute though!!

King, Patrick, and Hugo all feel usable as well. Though of course Patrick has long been used, I have noticed a peek of little Patricks in my neighborhood though! I don’t know about Patrizio though <3 Lincoln's growing on me though!

Django, Javert, and Valjean feel to awkward <3

As for girls, Peggy, Emmanuelle, Cora, Cosette and Maya are all definitely usable. I've met people interested in all but Emmanuelle honestly, though I can see it catch on, maybe!

That long Q name doesn't feel like it'll ever catch on, even if the actress does well. Hildi maybe, I suppose. Eponine and Fantine are just a little too odd.

can90 Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 9:00 am

I don’t like any of these. Very disappointing!

LexieM Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 10:49 am

Quvenzhané Wallis — she’s such a cute little girl but I really see Wallis catching on before Quvenzhané. Though maybe Zhané will become a magical-word alternative for parents who are looking for something along those lines.

LadyCap Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 11:13 am

I have had a deep and abiding love for all things Les Miz for about twenty years, but it’s never crossed my mind to use Fantine, Eponine, Valjean, or Javert as as name. They don’t feel wearable. Eponine has always felt especially awkward to me, and the name is made worse by her nickname,’Ponine, which sounds like a bad pronunciation of “pony.”

Marius and Cosette strike me as the most wearable names from the show, especially Marius, which fits nicely in with the Roman names (with his -ius ending).

But, now that you have me thinking of this, a terrier named Gavrouche might me really cute….

skizzo Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Joaquin, like Javier and similar names, I dont see appealing to anyone who isn’t hispanic. I think Phoenix has a lot more potential

strawberrytree Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Javert is not pronounced anything like a cross between Jared and Garrett- if parents chose the name and pronounced it that way, it would be abundantly clear they not only did they have no knowledge of French, but they had never even seen Les Mis.

I haven’t seen the movie, but if you read the book Life of Pi, Pi is teased quite a bit in school about his name, and it is mispronounced as Pee. Not a good choice imo.

I do like Peggy, Cora, and Joaquin. I agree that Marius is probably the most useable name from Les Mis!

melissa2 Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 1:35 pm

The author never said Javert was pronounced like Garrett. She merely pointed out that the *appeal* of the name is a cross between Jared and Garrett.

Chateau Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I have adored the name Joaquin since I can remember. However, it’s an awkward choice with our last name. I’d be interested to see the stats on this one especially after Kelly Ripa named her son Joaquin. She mentioned she and husband Mark had a difficult time coming up with a nickname. They kept saying the equivalent of ‘Wok’. Antonio Banderas once mentioned that the common nickname was Quino which has that great ‘O’ ending!

Django is just crazy good. I can see it picking up more in Australia though. In the US where I’m from, I get the sense there may be a lot of beloved fur babies (family dog) named Django.

As for Emmanuelle, my husband and I have settled on this for our DD due in May. I am of French Canadian decent. Our family has really embraced it. Which helps, am I right? We plan to call her Elle for short but we call her Emmanuelle pretty regularly. My husband has even called her Emma. I know that it is very popular but it keeps it easy for her when she has to spell our last name. I love all the options Emmanuelle affords. Imagine our shock when the Oscar nominees were announced! Riva will definitely be the force behind putting Emmanuelle on the map if she is the wins Best Actress! (She was born Paulette Germaine Riva) I actually kind of like that.

Great Post!

chicamerlin Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Yes, Javert is pronounced “Ja-vare”, since it is french, with a loose, soft “G” sound like in “Frere JACQUES”. Quvenzhane Wallis is adorable, but I find her name a bit ridiculous.

frankie97 Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 7:04 pm

My favorite of thes is Fantine. I love that name but I have a Fancy to the “F” names 🙂

MaryKathryn Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Django & King are two of my favorite boy names!

Lup Says:

January 31st, 2013 at 10:17 pm

DJANGO is an amazing name but I think it’d be awkward on a non-romani boy or man. I love the sound of it, though, and were it ever to spread thanks to the movie, I’d be delighted.

I like Joaquin too, and Hugo – but this one’s much too popular where I live, it’s in the Top 10.

About Les Mis’ names : as a french person I think I can say that MARIUS (which is quite popular in France currently) certainly is the most wearable. FANTINE is also doing quite well, but not as well as the similar-sounding FAUSTINE (fow-steen). EPONINE is very rare but sounds a bit similar to a lot of -ine baby names that are popular, and COSETTE is absolutely out of the question for most french people as it is an old-fashion nickame and is too related to the poverty theme in Les Mis.

I didn’t know the story behind Quvenzhané impossible name, I loved reading it. The girl’s crazily talented, but I think her name’d better stay unique.

Poppy528 Says:

February 1st, 2013 at 6:18 am

It is only acceptable to name your baby Pi if he is born on March 14 (2015)!

GrecianErn Says:

February 1st, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I think Quvenzhané has such a beautiful sound (thank you for the pronunciation!)

And while I find Cosette pretty, I don’t think it’s usable for us, but I find myself loving the nn Coco!!! I just don’t know how to use it.

Taz Says:

February 2nd, 2013 at 10:30 pm

I love Emmanuelle but nn Nelle would be my pick!

Abby Says:

February 3rd, 2013 at 7:24 am

@Taz – Nelle for Emmanuelle is lovely!

And yes, Quevenzhane is a mouthful – LexieM, I think that’s an interesting thought about Zhane being influential.

ruolan Says:

February 4th, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Joaquin is actually pretty popular where I live with the nn Jack. I also know a Hildi.

My favorite names here are Whitaker, Cora, and Pi. Poppy, I love the idea of a 3/14 baby named or nicknamed Pi!

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