A rose by any other name would smell as sweet? If that’s true, why do celebrities name their kids Apple, Moxie, Phinnaeus, Brooklyn, and Suri? We spoke to The Baby Name Bible: The Ultimate Guide By America’s Baby-Naming Experts co-author Linda Rosenkrantz about celebrity baby naming trends and how they trickle down to the mainstream, the average Joes and Josephines. (Linda and Pamela Satran have also written Cool Names for Babies and Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana: What to Name Your Baby Now.)
Why do you think many celebrity parents choose unique/unusual names?
Almost by definition, celebrities crave the spotlight and love being centers of attention, they want to be seen as special and many of them want their offspring to share in this uniqueness, to the point where, over the last decade or so, it has become a competition to come up with a name that’s more distinctive, more unusual, somehow better than anyone else’s. Our feeling (and hope) is that maybe this name-as-the-ultimate-ostentatious-Hollywood-accessory may have peaked—a lot stars these days are turning to simpler, quieter names like Grace and Charles and Frances.
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How does celebrity baby naming influence the mainstream? Have you noticed an uptick in non-celebrity babies named Apple, Shiloh, Suri, Pilot, Moxie?
There’s a definite line between unusual and outrageous. Non-celebrity parents have already picked up on Maddox and Roman, and there will probably be more Violets and Shilohs—but we don’t see any epidemics of Apples or Bluebells or Moxies in the future. (And let’s not forget the influence of the names of the celebrities themselves, such as Cameron (for girls), Ashton, Jada, Keira, Scarlett and Sienna.)
What do you think is the most unusual celebrity baby name out there? What is your favorite and why?
It’s hard to choose among all the bizarre choices out there. I think I’d vote for Kal-El (Coppola Cage), Superman’s Kryptonian birth name.
What are the most common celebrity baby names? We’ve noticed a lot of Jaden/Jaydens, Ellas and Avas.
Jaden has been around a while, definitely influenced by Jaden Christopher Smith [Will Smith and Jada Pinket-Smith's son]. With Jayden it was more a question of Britney Spears following a trend than starting one. In the case of Ella, the choosing of the name by John Travolta and Kelly Preston and Warren Beatty and Annette Benning in 2000 drew attention to it, but there was also a progression from the mega-popular Emily to Emma to Ella as well. Ava has seen a huge surge in popularity as a result of being chosen by Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe and a host of other celebs—it was already # 9 on the Social Security list for 2005, and we suspect it will be even higher when they 2006 list is released. Other celebrity choices likely to find more widespread popularity: August, Beckett, Finn/Finlay/Finley, Miller, Oscar, Piper, and Roman.
What are some current celebrity naming trends?
-Ancient Latin names not heard since the fall of the Roman Empire—Magnus, Aurelius, Atticus, Phinnaeus, Augustus
-Celebrities naming their kids after previous celebrities—Harlow, Gable, Presley, Ava, Audrey
-Irish surnames—Sullivan, Finnigan, Rafferty
-Funky, unfashionable names—Homer, Agnes, Sadie, Oscar, Gus, Dexter, Matilda
What are some current naming trends among the mainstream?
-Using more foreign names, especially Italian, Spanish, and Russian—Luca, Enzo, Sasha, Joaquin
-Names starting with vowels—A, E, O
-Names once thought of as too provocative for mainstream use—Desiree, Delilah, Salome, Scarlett, Venus, Lola, Lolita
-Nickname names—Gracie, Katie, Ellie, Josie, Charlie—actually used on the birth certificate (a trend that’s huge in the UK)
-Brisk, bold, non-ethnic, no-nicknameboys’ names—Colt, Cade, Chance, Cash, Trent, Tate, Zane
What advice do you have for parents who want their child to have an unusual name?
Consider the possible repercussions. Is this a name that can embarrass your child in any way? Will he have to spell it constantly for the rest of his/her life, explain/correct the pronunciation? Spelling Kylie Keyeleigh or varying Aidan to Aedin might seem creative to you, but it’s going to make life a lot more complicated for your child. There are many unusual names that avoid these pitfalls—real names that have some tradition behind them but are rarely enough heard to be distinctive.
What do you think of parents announcing the name before the baby is born?
This is certainly a personal decision, but the trend seems to be towards not announcing the name in advance. Parents see this as a way of avoiding negative input from family and friends, and others view it as a way of protecting a unique name against namenapping.
The Baby Name Bible: The Ultimate Guide By America’s Baby-Naming Experts is available in paperback from Amazon for $9.95. Check out their site, BabyNameBible.com.