Chinese New Year Baby Names: Year of the Monkey
By Linda Rosenkrantz
It’s the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Monkey, the ninth zodiac sign, coming between the sheep and the rooster.
In the past, we’ve celebrated the strength of Leo and the other leonine names, as well as Bear and Wolf and Fox. But what about our fellow primates, which the Chinese characterize as smart, curious and cute? Here are some possible namesakes, both fictional and real—though it’s just conceivable that you might want to keep their simian inspiration your secret.
Albert—A real life rhesus monkey that was the first to go into space in 1948 to test the safety of space travel for humans. Other so-called “Ape-O-Nauts” were named Able, Gordo, Baker, Sam and Enos. Albert was a Top 20 name for decades and is still Number 332, signaling a possible revival, along with nicknames Albie and Bertie.
Aldo—Aldo was the leader of the gorilla factions in Planet of the Apes. An Italian name that means “old and wise,” Aldo could rise via its similarity to the trendy Arlo. It currently ranks in the 600s.
Caesar, aka Intelligent Ape, leads a group of his cohorts out of a cruel caged facility in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The name of “the noblest Roman of them all,” Caesar is also a character in The Hunger Games trilogy. Usually spelled Cesar in modern times, and well used in the Hispanic community.
Clyde—This ornery orangutan was Clint Eastwood’s co-star in both Every Which Way But Loose and its sequel Any Which Way You Can. Clyde is a jazzy cool name that is beginning to make a comeback; Catherine Keener and Dermot Mulroney chose it for their son.
Cornelius is another Planet of the Apes monkey character, played on screen by Roddy McDowell. Cornelius is a onetime US Top 300 Latin name with New Testament, Shakespearean and Harry Potter credentials.
Dexter—A mischievous capuchin monkey in the Night at the Museum franchise, played by a real primate named Crystal, who was also in George of the Jungle and The Hangover Part II. Another jazzy name, picked by cool couple Diana Krall and Elvis Costello, Dexter now ranks at Number 394 here and 73 in England.
Flo –The chimp matriarch of the family studied by British primatologist Jane Goodall, Flo was the mother of Fifi, Ferdinand, and other F-starting offspring. Flo is of course a common nickname for Florence, rarely used on its own. But there’s always a first time.
Francine—Francine Frensky is a soccer and basketball-playing monkey in the book Arthur’s Valentine by Marc Brown. Francine is beginning to follow Frances and Francis back onto baby birth announcements, though she hasn’t managed to hit the Top 1000 yet.
George— Curious George is a beloved children’s book character created by Margaret Rey and H. A. Rey in 1941, the mischievous monkey who is taken from the jungle to America by the man in the yellow hat. This traditional classic name has been rejuvenated by the adorable young British prince.
Ishmael—A gorilla philosopher who goes from the wild to a zoo to a menagerie in the eponymous book by Daniel Quinn. The Hebrew name Ishmael, immortalized in the first line of Moby Dick, has never been take up by baby names the way Isaiah and Isaac have, despite its warm and pleasant feel.
Kiki—Monkeys often pop up in The Legend of Zelda video games, where little Kiki is a recurring character. Kiki is one of the arty old French repeated-syllable nickname names that still have a lot of spunk.
Lazlo—an animated Spider Monkey in the animated TV series Camp Lazlo. Spelled Lazlo or (more authentically) Laszlo, this Hungarian classic has a good deal of continental charm, a la the Paul Henreid character in Casablanca.
Marcel—Marcel was Ross’s pet capuchin monkey in Season One of _Friends—_among the show’s more bizarre relationships. Now ranking at Number 853, this French classic has literary (Proust) and artistic (Duchamp) cred, plus Gallic starbaby chops via actress Marion Cotillard’s son.
Nikko—This is the name of the leader of the pack of flying primates in The Wizard of Oz. Nikko is a diminutive of Nicholas and also a Japanese name; R&B singer Brian McKnight picked this spelling for one of his sons.
Spike–a capuchin monkey who is one of the Jim Carrey character’s many pets in the Ace Ventura films. A tough, steely nickname name, it’s associated with Spike Lee and Spike Jonze—and was used by Mike Myers for his son.
Zephir is the monkey friend of King Babar the elephant, who comes into the spotlight in the book Babar and Zephir, in which he saves the kidnapped monkey princess, Isabelle. When spelled Zephyr, this breezy name is linked to the Greek god of the west wind. Robby Benson and Karla De Vito used to for their now grown son; more recently it was the choice of tech entrepreneur Sean Parker.