Celebrities are notorious for giving their children outrageous baby names. Lists of so-called crazy celebrity baby names pop up often, and with examples like North West (shown) and Blue Ivy topping them, it’s easy to see why they spread like wildfire. But I’m not convinced that celebrities are any crazier than the rest of us in their naming choices. One man’s crazy is another man’s cute, and there are lots of reasons celebrity names may seem stranger than they actually are:
Celebrities are just as likely to choose “normal” names as the rest of us- Plenty of them choose popular or traditional names. The Beckhams’ youngest is called Harper (a Top 10 name) and Brad and Angelina have a Vivienne. For every Frank Zappa (father of Moon, Dweezil, Ahmet, and Diva), there’s a Dennis Quaid (father of Jack, Thomas, and Zoe).
Those “crazy names” are actually often just hip – If Amber, Hazel, Sage, and Violet make perfectly acceptable girl names, what’s so wrong with Blue? If West and Easton are trendy, is North really that outrageous? Celebrities will often take a trend to a new level, but it’s rare for them to pick a name completely out of left field.
Sometimes they’re just ahead of the curve- Julia Roberts’ choice of Hazel for her daughter in 2004 was seen as a bit crazy, but at #63, Hazel is positively trendy now. The same phenomenon has occurred with many celebrity baby names, from Ava to Maddox.
The middle may throw us off- The Beckhams got a lot of flack for Harper’s middle name, Seven. But middle names are almost never used, and they’re a great place to put a name that you like or have a sentimental connection to, but may be too “weird” for a first.
Celebrities are creative, artistic people who live very unusual lives, so their naming choices will often reflect that: Do you really think being named North West will be the strangest part of being Kimye’s child? Or that Blue Ivy’s name will ever bar her from a job? Celebrities don’t lead normal lives or associate with tons of “regular” people. I doubt Zuma will be made fun of for his name when he’s at the playground with Knox and Bear.
A few examples of what I consider not-crazy crazy names:
Moxie Crimefighter and Zolten (Penn Jillette)- Jillette has explained this choice. In his words, “I think it’s pretty cruel to give your kid a name that others are going to have…I love the name Moxie, I love that’s it’s a purely American word, and those are rare, and I love that it stands for old fashioned spunk and energy. EZ [Jillette’s wife, Emily] pushed for her middle name, ‘CrimeFighter,’ because EZ doesn’t have a middle name and thinks middle names are stupid. So, it’s just a joke. When she gets pulled over by the police she can show her license and say, ‘We’re on the same side, officer, my middle name is CrimeFighter.’” Zolten is Jillette’s wife Emily’s maiden name.
Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee)- This one is a combination of numbers 2 and 4. Pilot isn’t tremendously different from other popular occupational names like Archer and Mason. Potential nickname Pi seems as wearable as Kai, Cy, or Ty. With Inspektor, Pilot seems a bit odd, but perhaps Lee’s attitude toward middle names was similar to Penn Jillette’s.
Moon Unit (Frank Zappa)- Zappa was an originator of crazy celebrity baby names. But daughter Moon’s name may not be so weird- word names have been used throughout history (Heather, Mason, Chance, Grace, Axel, Petunia…) so picking an extant word isn’t such a nutty idea. Moon shares a sound with names like Jude, and with Luna so trendy, its translation may not be so outrageous.
Kal–El (Nicholas Cage)- Yes, Kal–El is Superman. But it also hits on a lot of trends: the Kal (or Cal) syllable is fairly common and makes appearances in more popular names like Caleb and Callum. “El” is trending for girls in names like Ella and Eliana. Put the two together, and you get a name that’s not so far away from Callen or Calix.
Apple (Gwyneth Paltrow)- Botanical names for girls are ubiquitous: from Jasmine and Lily to Rosemary and Olive; plant related names are and always have been in style. Apple is just a nontraditional one. Possible nickname Appy is similar to Abby and Addie, and the –le ending echoes names like Mabel and Hazel, so perhaps Apple doesn’t deserve all the criticism it gets either.