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Movie Mogul Baby Names

May 27, 2015 Linda Rosenkrantz

By Linda Rosenkrantz

Once upon a time, there was a group of names that shared an image of balding, cigar-chomping, middle-aged, Hollywood movie mogul-types—names like Max and Jake and Abe, Nat, Oscar, Leo and Sam–which for generations few parents were considering infant-appropriate.

Well we all know how that turned around. Last year there were 16,000+ newborns named Jacob, almost 1,000 Samuels, close to 9,000 Nathans, plus thousands more Maxes, Leos, Oscars and Jakes.

But among those early studio exec and producer types, there was another group of names which have yet to stub out their cigars—and have taken on a somewhat nerdy image as well (thanks, Big Bang Theory).

Let’s take a quick look at these largely written-off examples, some of which actually have surprisingly distinctive resumes, and assess what hope there is for them rejuvenating (minus their dated nicknames).

AlvinIf a chipmunk is the first thing that springs to mind, we might have to stop right there. But Alvin has a nice meaning—“noble friend”—sounds a lot like the rising Calvin, relates to the great choreographer Alvin Ailey, is a Top 50 name in Sweden, and is 595 here.

ArnoldThere was a venerated Greek musician at the court of Charlemagne who became St. Arnold, and the name has been borne by noted writers, composers, and athletes. No longer on the list, it was a Top 100 name in the 1930s. Could it be pumped back up a la Arnold S.?

BernardAnother storied saint’s name with a strong meaning, Bernard reached as high as Number 45 in 1921. Then it got dragged down by its nickname and got to be associated with projects like Weekend at Bernie’s. But might it be restored to its more cerebral full form?

HermanThis would be a tough one. The er-sound, as in Gertrude and Bertha, is sometimes found unappealing This Germanic one-time Top 50 name went into a tailspin following the two World Wars and is nowhere to be seen on the list now. We say go for one of the foreign versions instead—Armand or Armando.

IrvingWould you believe that Irving started life as a Scottish place and surname? It’s had an erratic up-and-down history in the US, and lately actor Ving Rhames did wonders for it by dropping the first syllable.

MarvinAnother name with surprisingly evocative roots—Marvin is a Welsh name meaning ‘sea hill’. And it’s never really gone away—it still ranks in the Top 500, and could just possibly follow cousin Martin as a funkier Marvin Gaye-influenced revival.

MelvinComic Jerry Lewis did his best to butcher this once respectable surname name, but his heyday was half a century ago. Female use of nickname Mel has made that form softer and more appealing.

Milton—A name with great literary cred, this was once an upper-class British surname. It’s still a Top 75 name in Sweden, but has fallen completely off the radar here, after once being in the Top 100. Milton‘s not having a nickname that would resonate with modern parents works against it too.

Morton and Mortimer are two names once used as modernized Anglicizations of Moses. Moses wins.

MurrayThis venerable Scottish surname name with a sea-related meaning has taken some cultural abuse over the years, but I see it as having some potential as a gentle, sensitive boy name. Lisa Kudrow used it as her son’s middle.

Myron—Derived from a classical Greek name, Myron was borne by a great ancient sculptor, as well as several saints, and has the aromatic meaning of “fragrant.” It just might make a comeback a la such similar-starting names as Cyrus, Silas and Byron.

Seymour—This is another respectable English surname with a romantic nature meaning that has been unjustly maligned, as in the hapless nerd of Little Shop of Horrors, though it’s also an intriguing Salinger character. And it shares the nickname Sy with Cyrus.

SheldonThere are pretty towns in Devon and Derbyshire that bear this name, but so does the Jim Parsons character on Big Bang—though he is a brilliant theoretical physicist, if you’re looking for such a namesake.

StanleyStanley had a long run in the Top 100—from 1890 to 1959–and has had lots of distinguished bearers, from Stanley Kubrick to Stan Getz to Stan Lee. It’s a Top 100 name in England right now and at the start of an upswing here.

So which, if any, of these do you think is most likely to re-succeed?

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