If you were to go solely by the tabloids, you might think that every celebrity’s baby boy was given the name of a New York borough or a Disney character or was his parents’ quirky Scrabble-letter invention.
There is a very healthy segment of show biz parents who are creating a major backlash to this trend–either that or they just like conservative, classic names. Instead of screaming ‘Hey-look-at-me!’ (and my mama), these names provide a sort of protective coating against that kind of often mocking attention, a layer of dignity and tradition.
Evidence? Here, just looking at boys born since the Millenium, are some of the timeless classics, in their complete, traditional forms, that have been recent celebrity choices–not that they always succeeded in making their bearers paparazzi-proof. (And, by the way, I’d be interested to know if you think the preference for this kind of name relates to the celeb’s own personal or public image.)
DAVID — Mo’Nique, J. K. Rowling
FREDERICK — Mayim Bialik
In addition–though it’s not quite the same thing–there are the nickname versions, like Kate Winslet’s Joe and Charlie Sheen’s Bob, and the not-so-timeless semi-classics like Rainn Wilson’s Walter. And of course, there are the female equivalents–Amanda Peet’s Frances, Kelly Martin’s Margaret–but that’s for another time.
One of the downsides–admittedly a fairly minor one–to living in such a heavily populated country as the U.S. is that it takes the Social Security Administration five months to tally up the year’s baby name stats, while some states and other countries put out their results even before the New Year’s Eve ball drops on Times Square.
The full UK report will be arriving any day now, but in the interim, there’s a survey of 380,000 babies born in Britain in 2008 that can give us some strong clues. For girls, the Top 5 names are Olivia, Ruby, Grace, Emily, and Jessica, with a noteworthy number of nickname names further down–Evie, Katie, Ellie, Millie, Gracie, Rosie, Abbie and Tilly. Names hot over there that haven’t taken off to the same degree here: Freya, Poppy, Imogen, Niamh and Maisie. And those rising fastest? Isla, Summer and Ava.
For British boys, Jack is #1, as it has been for 14 years, followed by Oliver, Harry, Alfie and Charlie. Royal names–such as George, William and James–continue to rule, and nickname names, in addition to Alfie and Charlie, are popular with this gender too, as in Archie, Jamie, Freddie, Joe and Billy. The boys’ names heard more there than here: Lewis, Harvey and Kian. Theo was the fastest climber of the boys.
Scotland has released its official list, with Sophie, Emily, Olivia, Chloe and Emma, and Jack, Lewis, Daniel, Liam and James in the lead. Some traditional Scottish favorites continued to hold their own, including Isla, Logan, Cameron, Gregor, Kyle, Finlay , Ewan and Angus. To go somewhat farther afield, in New South Wales, the most populous part of Australia, the Top 5 for girls were Mia, Chloe, Isabella, Emily and Olivia; for boys it was Jack (fifth year in a row), William, Lachlan, Joshua and Cooper, while the starbaby influence was felt in the presence of names like Shiloh, Suri, Sunday, Honour (as it’s spelled there), and even Bronx. In Japan, the top girls’ names were Aoi, Yui and Rin; for boys Hiroto, Ren and Yuto.
One US state that has weighed in early is Arizona, where the top names were Anthony and Isabella. Several Hispanic names appeared on the boys’ list: Angel at #2, and Jose, Jesus and Luis in the Top 20. The registrar of Oakland County, Michigan, which includes several Detroit suburbs, is obviously a name buff. Among the groupings she noted in her area: Harmony and Melody; Hope, Faith, Charity and Unity; London, Paris, Phoenix, Aspen, Georgia, Austin, Savannah and Brooklyn; Zinnia, Rose, Lily, Ivy and Violet, and a contingent of ancients: Julius, Marcus, Cassius, Leonidas, Athena and Adonis.
We’ll keep you posted as more results come in.
When I heard yesterday that former child star (I bet she hates that) Mayim Bialik had named her baby boy Fred (only to discover later in the day that it was actually Frederick) I must admit a warm comfy feeling swept over me. Fred, I thought, what a great name! And not just because it wasn’t yet another day-of-the-week name or a South American capital city name or an invented name starting with X–I’ve learned to adjust to those names over the years to the point where I can honestly say nice things about (some of) them and mean it.
It’s just that there’s something about Fred. And Frank and George and Joe, and even Ralph–something so straightforward and honest and unfashiony and I have nothing to prove about them, it’s like the honking traffic suddenly comes to a halt for a minute on the naming superhighway and time stands still and dads are still smoking pipes and going bowling every Thursday night. It’s probably why so many pressured parents have named their kids Jack and Henry over the past few years–except that by trying to escape the trendy they unintentionally established a couple of trends of their own.
A few celebs have more successfully tried this path as a detour around the cleverness competition by choosing names like George (Kristen Scott Thomas, Eva Herzigova) and Frank (Diana Krall & Elvis Costello), Joe (Kate Winslet), and Ralph (Matthew McFayden)–except that, being British, it might be pronounced Rafe, thereby destroying my whole premise.
Strangely enough, I can’t think of any female names that produce quite the same feeling. Classics like Margaret and Virginia are too buttoned-up, others like Ann and Jean are more cool than warm and fuzzy.
No, it’s definitely a guy thing.