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Girls’ Name Hazel: Will a new movie make her the next Jennifer?

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By Nick Turner

In 1970, the novel Love Story captured America‘s imagination with the tale of a wealthy Harvard jock who meets a girl from the other side of the tracks. It was soon followed by a movie of the same name — a tear-jerker that became the top box-office draw of the year. The American Film Institute has named Love Story one of the ten most romantic movies of all time, but its biggest legacy may be solidifying Jennifer‘s status as the top girl’s name of the 1970s and early-’80s.

The heroine of the book and movie (played by Ali McGraw) was named JenniferJenny” Cavalleri. And in addition to being a wisecracking beauty, she had terminal leukemia. (I’m not spoiling anything here. The very first line of the movie is: “What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?”) .

Apparently America‘s response to watching a tragic girl fall in love and die was, “Hey, cool name.” Jennifer supplanted Lisa as the most popular name in the United States in 1970 and didn’t relinquish its grip until 1985.

Forty-four years later, America is obsessed with another cancer-stricken girl: Hazel from the novel The Fault in Our Stars. This time around, 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster meets an ex-basketball player named Augustus Waters. There’s no happy ending, but the 2012 book by John Green has an uplifting view on life that has inspired a generation of young adults. The movie version is due to come out June 6, and already the fan reaction is potent: The trailer has almost 20 million views on YouTube, and the hashtag #TFIOS has been tweeted thousands of times.

The question is, will “TFIOS” do for Hazel what “Love Story” did for Jennifer? That seems unlikely, but it should give a bump to a name that’s already enjoying a renaissance. In the just-released 2013 Social Security data, Hazel climbed fifteen spots to No. 157. Not bad for a name that until the late-1990s had fallen out of the Top 1000 for two decades.

Hazel‘s popularity last peaked in 1897, around the time that other botanical names (Violet, Rose) were in fashion. The name is derived from the hazelnut tree, and its aura of ambiguity (hazel eyes are not quite blue and not quite brown) should appeal to modern tastes. It seems to share some kinship with Iris, another name that evokes both plants and eyes (the windows to the soul). And yes, it has a perfect “elephant chart.”

It doesn’t hurt that Hazel already has the endorsement of celebrities. Julia Roberts gave the name to her daughter in 2004, and John Krasinski and Emily Blunt had a baby Hazel earlier this year. Blunt said on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” this month that the name’s old-lady feel appealed to them.

Still, Hazel has yet to make the same inroads as Violet, another old-lady-ish choice. It reached No. 69 last year. For now, Hazel is in a good position. It’s topical yet classic — and not too popular (yet).

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About the author

Nick

Nick Turner is a writer and editor living in New York City (by way of San Francisco). He and his wife have successfully named three kids. Follow him on Twitter at @SFNick.
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12 Responses to “Girls’ Name Hazel: Will a new movie make her the next Jennifer?”

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iwillpraise Says:

May 28th, 2014 at 11:20 am

Several years after naming his first daughter for our late grandmother, Ruby, my brother found that they were having a second and was dying to use Hazel. I don’t think any of us thought he was serious. But when they were expecting a third daughter, we realized he was a serious as he was before and REALLY hoped his wife would change her mind – even for a middle. They ended up choosing a family name, and although it wasn’t Hazel, it was just as old-fashioned: June.

I don’t believe he will ever get his little Hazel, but he is thrilled with all 3 of his beautiful little ladies 🙂

kmdharrington Says:

May 28th, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Personally, I think Hazel is a great name and that The Fault in Our Stars is the best book #TFIOS

rainierloner Says:

May 28th, 2014 at 3:00 pm

I absolutely loved The Fault in Our Stars! It was an amazing book, and I can’t wait to see the movie! Hazel is a wonderful name, and I also like Augustus. I don’t know how popular Hazel will get, but I know that the books are a big hit where I live! 😀

rainierloner Says:

May 28th, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Sorry, I meant book. 🙂

kitchi1 Says:

May 28th, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Oh, no! I never thought about this! I hope not!

Hazel is a beautiful name, and The Fault in our Stars is extremely successful. Not sure how popular it will get (I don’t see it being the next Jennifer), but I can definitely see it being in the top 100 in the near future.

Ugh! That upsets me so much! I have a cousin named Hazel, and that was the first time I’ve ever heard that name, and since then, I’ve been in love. One of my favorite names. If it becomes popular I don’t know what I’m going to do! Thanks, a lot John Green! First you kill Augustus, and now you’re the reason for Hazel’s probable popularity? What’s next?! Lol

Anaxandra Says:

May 28th, 2014 at 5:04 pm

I don’t think there will ever be another Jennifer but I do think this movie might help Hazel be more popular, it was already on the way up and fits in stylistically with what is popular now so I think think it won’t make a huge impact. I don’t think it will be a top ten name though.

Defie Says:

May 28th, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Hazel is my favorite name so I really really hope it doesn’t rise in popularity because of that film. If I ever had a daughter, I would name her Hazel and not because of that damn book.

Defie Says:

May 28th, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Hazel is my favorite name so I really really hope it doesn’t rise in popularity because of that film. If I ever had a daughter, I would name her Hazel and not because of that damn book.

yellowlark Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 6:24 pm

I love the name Hazel and I do think it is going to get more and more popular, especially since it’s already on the rise so much. But I don’t think Love Story necessarily had an effect on Jennifer, Jennifer was already in the top ten in the 60’s. I think sometimes it seems like a book or movie boosted popularity but really the name was already on the way up. Like Isabella and Jacob in Twilight, Jacob was already number one when the books were written and Isabella was already in the top ten.

Angelicaecb Says:

July 2nd, 2014 at 10:57 pm

I could see Hazel picking up speed, but honestly I see Augustus, and variations of, taking off more. It’s old fashion sounding and has that unique ring to it that people are all over.

degrasswizkid Says:

August 22nd, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I guess it could take off but I think it’ll jump for awhile and then disappear again. I read TFIOS and to be honest, I wasn’t that impressed. It was cute, but I probably won’t be reading it again or wear a t-shirt or get a tattoo that says “Okay.” If anything, it kind of made me annoyed that the name Augustus with the nickname Gus was used because I was starting to kind of like that name and nickname, but then the book came along and ruined it…

Chloe14 Says:

September 22nd, 2014 at 11:22 am

I’m not to keen on Hazel but I bet it will rise in popularity though.

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