Celebrity Babies: Reese Witherspoon’s boy Tennessee James

The revelation of Tennessee as the name of Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth’s baby boy came as something of a surprise to the celebrity babies‘ name-watching world—but perhaps it shouldn’t have been, what with other recent starkids named Alabama, Indiana and Arizona.  And a simple Google search will tell you that though Reese was born in New Orleans, most of her childhood was spent in Tennessee, her mother’s native state, explaining why it was meaningful to her.

Although the name Tennessee’s two notable most namesakes, playwright Williams (born Thomas) and country singer ‘TennesseeErnie Ford, are male, Tennessee actually had some popularity as a girl’s name in the late nineteenth century, appearing in the Top 1000 five times between 1880 and 1890.  It reached as high as Number 580 in 1884—though granted that accounted for only fourteen girls—the same year that Missouri, Nevada and Florida were also on the girls’ list.  (The nickname Tennie, on the other hand, reigned for more than forty years.)

Place names have been around for decades, but they seem to be growing in popularity in the celebrisphere, becoming increasingly exotic. Just recently, Chris Hemsworth christened his daughter India, Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats named their son Egypt, Mike Tyson called his boy Morocco and Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon turned that one into an adjective, naming one of their twins Moroccan.  Continents away from yesterday’s Bronx and Brooklyn.

Witherspoon’s name choices for her three children have been quite diverse.  The first, Ava, born in 1999 and inspired by Ava Gardner, proved to be powerfully influential.  Even though Aidan Quinn had revived it way back in 1989, followed by Heather Locklear in 1997, it was Ava Elizabeth Philippe who sent the name spinning into orbit. Ranked at 259 in the year of her birth, by 2007 it was the seventh most popular name in the country, given to more than 18,000 babies that year.

Brother Deacon Phillippe, born in 2003 and named for a distant ancestor of his father Ryan Phillippe, a renowned Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher who had gotten that nickname via his solemn demeanor, didn’t have as sensational an impact. But Deacon did make it to the Top 1000 the year following his birth, and has remained there ever since.

Tennessee Toth is the first of the three siblings to have an alliterative name, something prized in both Old Hollywood and New, from Greta Garbo to Marilyn Monroe to Amy Adams. Lots of celebrity parents like the idea of double-initial names—there’s Brooklyn Beckham, Sadie and Sunny Sandler, plus Sylvester Stallone gave all five of his kids S names, Travis Tritt—himself an alliterative, as is wife Theresa —passed the pattern on three times, and director Robert Rodriguez blessed his children with the names Rebel, Racer, Rocket, Rogue and Rhiannon.

But back to the subject at hand.

Little Tennessee can share the nickname Tenny with Russell Crowe’s boy Tennyson.  Though, who knows?  Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon goes by one of her middle names, so maybe he’ll simply be called James.

So what do you think of Tennessee?  Any place names you like better?  Anyone use on for their child?

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24 Responses to “Celebrity Babies: Reese Witherspoon’s boy Tennessee James”

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laurakatex Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 12:56 am

It’s Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz who have a son Egypt, and also Jay-z and Beyonce’s daughter is Called Blue Ivy, they do not have twins, it is Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon who have twins called Moroccan and Monroe.

Reubsmum77 Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 12:59 am

It was Mariah Carey who had a baby boy Moroccan not Beyonce 🙂

Sugarfoot Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 1:00 am

Haha the writer needs to buy a gossip mag.

Poppy528 Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 2:31 am

I like Tennyson and Tinsley … but Tennessee is meh to me. Every name sounds handsome if you anchor it with James though.

linda Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 3:39 am

It’s been corrected–thanks.

Agent99 Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 6:23 am

I had an Aunt Tennessee somewhere in my genealogy

laurakatex Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 6:31 am

Thanks 🙂

shantiknight Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 9:39 am

I *love* Tennessee!!

shantiknight Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 9:39 am

(the name) (and the state is beautiful, too 🙂

rowangreeneyes Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 10:17 am

One of my distant relatives was named Tennie, not sure if it was short for Tennessee though. I actually grew up in Tennessee (and it was not a positive place for me) so I could never consider it as a name. I’m not usually a fan of place names in general unless they are very meaningful to the parents, like in Reese’s case.

vivtaliesin Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 10:54 am

I sure hope if they had the guts to use Tennessee as a first name, that they wouldn’t chicken out and use James in everyday life!

The Night Lights Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 11:42 am

Three years ago, I was IN LOVE with the name Tennessee for a girl, nn Tenny. Everyone I told laughed at it or criticized it harshly.
I gave it up (my tastes have changed anyways), and now look what happens! Haha.
I’m sure it’ll become popular and no one will think anything different about it.

littlebrownpony Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I love the combo Tennessee James. I think it sings, and is a very fitting choice for Reese.

In terms of state names, my favorite is Louisana. I’m so surprised that one hasn’t taken off more, it already sounds like a girls name.

littlebrownpony Says:

September 29th, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Ack I meant Louisiana

McKenzieGrace Says:

September 30th, 2012 at 9:12 pm

What about Kourtney Kardashian’s baby girl Penelope Scotland? Yer mn is a place name even tho it was prob chosen to honor dad: Scott; its still a nice name. 😀

McKenzieGrace Says:

September 30th, 2012 at 9:13 pm


iwillpraise Says:

September 30th, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I’ve often thought that of Louisiana too, littlebrownpony. It’s a pretty smoosh of Louise and Anna.

iwillpraise Says:

September 30th, 2012 at 9:24 pm

P.S. One of my junior bridesmaids’ names is Montana. We call her Tana for short

peach Says:

October 1st, 2012 at 1:48 am

I see how it is an attractive and fitting name for Reese and Jim and the combo with James makes it very wearable. Personally I would keep a place name in the middle spot because it is already identified with something so complex and defined and whatever personal meaning it has to you is not evident to others.

jenjenbarnes Says:

October 1st, 2012 at 11:56 pm

i LOVE it. A great tribute to Reese’s home state. Maybe I’ll name one of my kids California…

trinalynnie Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 11:40 am

I had this on my list before my daughter was born in 2011. I’m expecting number two and we find out the sex today. Luckily I had already tabled it, since I don’t want to have 2 Ts. Our daughter is Tallulah. It is a great name. I’m not crazy about its nicknames though.

BabyNameCrazy95 Says:

September 20th, 2014 at 5:48 am

Love Arizona & Indiana for girls nicknames Arrie and Indie as for boys always loved Denver nickname Denny <3 xx

BabyNameCrazy95 Says:

September 20th, 2014 at 5:50 am

Ohh also California is another guilty pleasure of mine nickname obviously Callie x

Ynnig Says:

September 20th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

My name is Virginia, I never made the connection with the state until I was older though and have always gone by Ginny. I really love the name Georgia but not sure we can have two states in the family!

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