Baby Names in the News: Axel, Ozil and Maile

By Clare Bristow

This week there are lots of honor names in the news, celebrating family members, sporting heroes, and even a betting shop. Also, some surprising spelling statistics.

Starbaby names with meaning: Axel and Maile

Seth Meyers’s story of how his son Axel Strahl was born in an apartment lobby is quite something – and he has a great name story too.

Axel is a name that Seth and his wife just liked. They’re not the only ones: this Scandinavian import is on the rise, and is a candidate to enter the US top 100 when the 2017 data are released. Its rock’n’roll alternative Axl is also in the top 1000, and it’s a popular search for Nameberry readers in Calgary, Hong Kong and Manila. For the Meyers family, I can’t help noticing it’s almost an anagram of mom’s name, Alexi.

His middle name, Strahl, continues the tradition of using family surnames. (Big brother Ashe Olsen has his mother’s and paternal grandmother’s maiden names.) Strahl is Alexi’s mother’s maiden name, and honors her parents who met after they were liberated from a concentration camp. I’m just going to leave here what Seth said about that:

“When someone is born, you have such an appreciation for everyone in your lineage who lived so that you could have this moment. And we’re so happy to give him this name for people who had to work so hard to do that.”

Meanwhile, Tammy Duckworth has become the first US Senator to give birth while in office. (Not literally in the office. Or indeed in a lobby.) Her daughter’s names nod to both parents’ backgrounds. Maile sounds like Miley, but is a floral Hawaiian name: Tammy spent her high school years in Hawaii. Maile‘s middle name, Pearl, honors her father’s great-aunt, who served in the second world war.

What if you want to honor a loved one, but they just don’t have a name you’d choose to use? There are lots of other possibilities – here are some ideas to get you started.

Sports star names: Henrik and Ozil

Moving from family heroes to sporting ones: sports fans all over the world have been taking namespiration from their favorite players.

In British Columbia there’s been a mini-boom of babies called Henrik, thanks to Swedish-born hockey player Henrik Sedin, who plays for the Vancouver Canucks alongside his twin brother Daniel. It looks like the Sedin effect isn’t limited to Canada: Henrik has increased more than 7 times in popularity in the US since 2005 when the brothers started to make their presence felt. It’s been in the top 1000 since 2014. It’s easy to see the appeal: like Axel, Henrik is a Scandinavian name that’s both edgy and accessible – and potentially a way to honor a Henry.

In the world of soccer, a fan of the British team Everton has reportedly named his son Gana after player Idrissa Gana Gueye. Originally from Senegal, Gana is the name he wears on his shirt, passed down from his grandfather.

An Arsenal fan from India used Ozil as his son’s middle name, after the German-Turkish player Mesut Özil. It met dad’s criteria of referencing his favorite club and being a Muslim name. So there’s another name to add to the, er, arsenal of names for Arsenal supporters, along with Gunner (the team’s nickname) and Lanesra (read it backwards).

How many countries and languages do those stories cover? That says something about the ability of both names and sport to cross national boundaries.

In a variation on the sporting theme, a father in Kenya named his son SportPesa after a betting company that gave him a big win, helping him to support his family. But other Kenyan parents are interested in more familiar names: the top names viewed by Nameberry readers from Nairobi are Lucy, Olivia, Jayden and Calvin.

Which spelling wins?

When it comes to spellings, most of us have some personal preferences. You might prefer Catherine or Kathryn, Aidan or Aiden, Sailor or Saylor. But making a call on which spelling is more common? It can be harder than you think. Business Insider counted the total number of people given variant spellings of names in the US since 1880, and the results aren’t always what you’d expect.

Sometimes the more traditional English spelling wins: Mark beats Marc, Elizabeth beats Elisabeth. Other times, it doesn’t. More girls have been called Makayla and Mikayla than Michaela, and both Kaitlyn and Katelyn have had more wearers than Caitlin. It raises questions of how we decide what the “standard” spelling of a name is, or if there even is one.

If you’re interested in what’s considered “correct” when it comes to naming, this article on the committee that approves Icelandic names is a good read. Wherever you stand on regulating what parents name their children, it shows how people’s attitudes to names mirror how we feel about our language, culture, identity, and change.

Royal baby names: make your guess!

The new Cambridge baby could be born any day now. Have you entered Nameberry’s contest to guess the name? There are over 180 entries so far, but if you can think of a likely combination that no one’s suggested yet, have your say!

Then go back to hitting refresh until the new prince or princess arrives.

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