Busy Philipps On How Birdie's Name Came to Be

02/05/2010 at 06:00 PM ET

While some may not love Busy Philipps‘ name choice for her 17-month-old daughter Birdie Leigh, the Cougar Town star reveals that the shortened moniker is no accident.

“After having grown up with a nickname, there is no way I’m naming my kid one thing and calling her something else,” she noted during a visit to The Bonnie Hunt Show.

“The first day of school [or] anytime there was a substitute teacher, I had to explain that I preferred to be called this weird adjective instead of Elizabeth. And people would really give me the look that I was a little strange!”

Before Busy became pregnant, she and husband Marc Silverstein were listening to a radio show discussing the late Lady Bird Johnson when inspiration struck.

“My husband said, ‘Wow, what a cool woman and what an amazing name … it would be so cool to name a kid after her,'” Busy recalls. The actress, who also liked ‘Birdie,’ was inititally a bit hesitant as “Lady Bird” was a nickname itself.

Eventually, when the parents-to-be complied a list of baby names for their soon-to-be-born daughter, Busy jotted down Birdie. “We didn’t name Birdie before she was born,” she explains. “When she came out I said, ‘I think we gotta go with Birdie, I think that’s her name.'”

Adding that she loves the “retro” feel of the moniker, Busy admits Birdie’s name fits her to a ‘T’!

Cougar Town airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.

Source: The Bonnie Hunt Show

— Anya

Click below to watch the video — and learn how Busy got her own nickname!

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting , Video

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Showing 56 comments

Reader on

different strokes! I would much rather give my kid a normal and more formal name with the option of using that instead of the nickname. It seems funny to put Birdie at the top of a resume, kwim? I do love Busy’s show as well. 2 great comedies with that and Modern Family!

Ashlee on

If she doesn’t want to go by Birdie when she is older, she can always go by Leigh. I love that spelling πŸ™‚

Brooke on

I absolutely adore the name Birdie….Good Choice…

Laura on

I understand what Busy is saying but at the same time, she just had a very different experience with her nickname. For instance, many people with nicknames have “normal” nicknames. Maybe Beth, Lizzie, Liz, etc. for Elizabeth. So when you have a sub that says “Elizabeth” it is easy to say “That’s me but I go by Lizzie” and there is no explanation needed. For her nickname, it required a much longer explanation and maybe some weird looks. I love names like Allie and Lexie but I would use more formal names for them “Allison” and “Alexis” are what I have in mind. And again Allie and Lexie are “normal” nicknames so they shouldn’t cause many problems.

Anyway, I’m not a huge fan of the name Birdie but she is an awfully cute little girl!

appellationmountain on

Birdie is unusual, but there are lots of great avian names that sound more formal on a birth certificate – Paloma, Wren, even Sparrow! I wonder if all those girls called Lily and Violet are going to have to make room for girls wearing bird names?

Kir on

Since when did we start judging people’s resumes and qualifications and experience by the name their parents chose for them?
If that is the sort of person you are – it says more about you then them or their parents.

I had often wondered how they came about this name; and not being American I only know of Lady Bird Johnson’s existence through House on the Hill. I ended up Googling her to see if it was her real name (I love hearing people’s names and how they got them).

I actually really quite like Birdie. It’s not too different from the pretty traditional Irish Bridie anyway.

Traci on

I have a fondness for both names. My paternal grandmother’s given name was Birdie and my middle name is Leigh. It may be a little different, but much better than some of the other celebrity choices.

Angela on

I think it’s interesting that she chose the name Birdie and not a name that means bird, but it’s her choice to be so literal. I was just able to pull up a website with 34 of them (e.g., Alouette, Altaira, Ava, Avila, Avis…).

rb on

Birdie Silverstein was the name of my old landlady in Queens…lol.

Shaya on

I think the name is really nice and it fits her well.

Tiffany on

“Since when did we start judging people’s resumes and qualifications and experience by the name their parents chose for them?”

I’ve heard of a lot of instances where employers have seen a weird name and immediately didn’t consider them for the job. Is it right? Of course not, but it happens.

Stacey on

Get a life people, stop judging peoples choices of their children’s names. Everyone has opinions like everyone has a–holes; keep yours to yourself!

Kerri on

I actually think Birdie is an adorable name πŸ™‚ Not one I’d chose myself, but I think it fits.

Ash on

“Since when did we start judging people’s resumes and qualifications and experience by the name their parents chose for them?
If that is the sort of person you are – it says more about you then them or their parents.”

I agree with you but unfortunately, first impressions are important and companies can be judgemental like that. I’ve talked to many people who work in HR as hiring managers and several of them said that when they see a weird name on a resume, they usually toss it out. Is that fair to the applicant? Of course not but, as they explained it, when you literally have hundreds or even thousands of resumes flooding in for a single position, you have to narrow down the field somehow. That’s why as mean as it may seem, that’s something that parents should take into consideration when naming their children. Would it be taken seriously in the professional world?

Sure there are lots of cases of famous, wealthy, successful CEO’s with strange names, but I think those are more of the exception than the rule. There have been oodles of psychological and sociological studies done, and the findings confirm that most people tend to form immediate associations with certain types of names (i.e., names they perceive as nerdy, trashy, etc.). I think it’s just human nature. In a perfect world, people would be judged solely based on merit but we know things don’t always work that way.

Lola Marie on

Busy seems like such a happy, genuine person I really like her. I am a more traditional person when it comes to names, but after hearing the origin of her daughters name I like it a little more.

Also, Birdie is adorable.

T. on

Personally I think Birdie is a little too nickname-y but it is a huge pet peeve of mine naming a child something you NEVER intend on calling them. I think honoring someone with a middle name is more of and honor than an unused first name…

{JeLisa} @ Blogging Ever After on


I kind of love it!

noam on

birdie is cute. different, but not out there, particularly for americans, who are familiar with lady bird johnson. i think anytime a well-known person uses a name, it gives it more social validity.

and while its true that names influence people’s perceptions, i think that that may change in the future. for example, i’m in my early twenties. i am friends with people named lyndzi, reecka, donte, lexus, and champagne, among others. they are all “weird” names, but serious people. these are the names of potential ceos, doctors, lawyers, etc. as eighties babies (the eighties were really the beginning of “crazy names” i think)come of age and start taking control of the world, these names might not make such an impact. (i’m not saying i like all these names or that i will name my children something unique, just that the situation should be looked at from people in their teens/twenties today being the ceos/senators/etc. rather than the people who are in their fifties and sixties today…if that makes sense?)

Ash on


I see what you’re saying, but I’m in my 20’s as well and I think the names you listed are pretty out there. I’m not saying they’re bad, but they would give me pause if I saw them on paper. I suppose I’m more traditional in that aspect though.

meghan on

I think it’s pretty. Very feminine.

Mrs. R. on

I don’t think Birdie is all that outlandish actually. I mean, our generation has grown up with all sorts of bizarre spellings of names and last names made into first names…

Birdie is kind of retro. It reminds me of when people were named things like Bunny and Buffy and Fanny.

I really think it’s a sweet name, and Busy’s perspective of her own experience makes the naming of her daughter make even more sense.

Amity on

I love the name but prefer it spelled Bertie.

Reader on

Kir, this has been shown in studies about how people perceive resumes

Reader on

Noam, I have been around those names too, but there are studies about this.

Kir on

I’m not ignorant to the fact people judge people by their name, nationality, looks, where they live/grew up.

My opinion is that it is wrong. No studies needed for that one πŸ˜‰

fuzibuni on

if we’re naming our children based on what looks good on a resume, i bet there are studies that would tell people not to name their kids ethnic or cultural names either. but that would make for a very homogeneous and boring society.

personally, I LOVE the name Birdie. it’s adorably retro.

CelebBabyLover on

Reader- Noam clearly said that she realizes what studies say NOW, but that they may not say those things by the time Birdie is an adult. πŸ™‚

GiannaG on

The studies are definitely accurate. I have seen HR personnel throw out candidates for outlandish/silly names, fair or not. I think what they have to remember is that no one chooses their own name at birth, so in this situation it’s the parent who’s the clown, not the applicant.

ecl on

Yes, there are lots of sociological studies about how names affect call-backs. Many of the studies, though, are on how people with “black” names are less likely to get called back. There was even an article in the New York Times a few months ago about how black people are taking pains to make sure that nothing on their resume gives away their race, taking affiliations with black organizations off and stuff like that. Of course it’s not right! But that never stopped stuff like that from happening. But I’m not sure about any studies on names that are more unusual, but not associated with a particular race.

Rachel-Jane on

Amity, Bertie’s a completely different name and pronounced differently. It’s short for Albert.

Katrina on

I grew up with both a Birdie and a Bridie and neither have exprienced any problems with their names.

JM on

obviously it’s completely everyone’s personal choice what they name their kids and that’s fine, and it’s not like it’s cruel to name your child Birdie i just tihnk it sounds ridiculous. that’s just my opinion, but i really think it’s a horrible name, so corny and cheesy, why not just have it as a nickname? as i said, just my opinion, and i’m sure they don’t care what i think, why should they?

Amy on

Birdie is a very cute name but I still would prefer she had a more formal name. I can understand with the name Busy how she felt that way but Birdie sounds like something that’s a bit too adorable, like a preschool story. It would be hard to carry the name Birdie as an 18 year old or 38 year old woman. Just my opinion.

Wasn’t Sandra Bullock’s character in Hope Floats named Birdie??

Stella Bella on

As this recent story proves, even if you’re careful, your kid’s name may mean something you didn’t intend in a different language!

J.D. on

I think the name Birdie is pretty cute. It makes me think of the movie Hope Floats lol. As far as names go, this one isn’t nearly as out there as some of the names that have been used in recent years.

JMO on

hmmm Birdie will grow up all her life explaining to people that it’s not a nickname….what’s the difference??

I would rather my kid have a full name so they can opt for a nickname if they so choose. For me it’s much more proper.

Alice on

JMO, why would she? When a new teacher is in and sees Birdie on the paper why would they call her something else? Even if you ask someone’s name to write it down and they say Lizzie you’re not going to ask if they’re really Elizabeth.

I like the name and I’m totally against ruling out a nice name that you like because it isn’t “proper” on a resume (not criticizing any names, just the reasoning behind it!). That’s just stupid IMO.

Jessicad on

I’m a fan of unique names, she will always have a good conversation piece!

Everytime I see this picture I want Busy’s outfit. I thought it was a dress but now it looks like a skirt with a belt, so cute!

De on

I believe that the thinking that one must have a formal name or no one will take them seriously is outdated.

My parents had that thinking so here I am landed with a Name I don’t and never have gone by, but boy do I get to explain why this says one thing and I’m going by something else. And for the record while my NN is likely “normal” it’s NOT a normal nickname for my real name. My mom just really liked my nn but I HAD to have a formal name. **eye roll** every job I’ve had I go by my nickname, I get taken seriously, I go by my nickname at my children’s school and I get treated like an adult.

Birdie isn’t so out there considering there are Bandits and Banjos running around.

christina on

I think it works for them. I’ve heard much worse! But Noam, as for a doctor or CEO named “Champagne” …. um, somehow I highly doubt it.

Mary-Helen on

Personally, I don’t care for the name Birdie. It’s too little girlish and doesn’t sound like a name that suits both child and adult. But @ the end of the day, it’s Busy’s choice and Birdie can choose to go by Leigh if she wants later in life.

Jane on

I think everyone deserves a full, proper name. They can always go by a nickname. A full name give a person options. A kid named Birdie doesn’t have any options. It’s Birdie or Bird. yikes!

Jessica on

Actually, having “Birdie” at the top of your resume is at least guaranteed to make it stand out (as opposed to being one of the eleventy-billion “Jessicas” applying- trust me, I know). While I’m not a fan of Birdie in particular, I think less common, even unsual names are preferable to common, trendy ones. I certainly grew up wishing mine was less popular- it’s kind of sad to have to learn to ignore the sound of your own name, because every other mother at the park is calling it!

I also think Busy is spot-on regarding the nickname issue- it really is wearing to have to tell every single person you meet “Please call me XYZ.” (Again, I speak from experience!) If you want your child to be called “XYZ,” just do everyone a favor and make life simpler and NAME them XYZ…

noam on

christina:you’re right. my friend champagne is not a doctor or ceo. rather, she’s attending princeton and hopes to get her ph.d in plasma physics…

Cara on

I LOVE the name Birdie!

Julie on

I love her – she reminds me of Natalie Maines. I think both names are cute, but I love unique names πŸ™‚

Amy on

Well I guess it’s a good thing that Busy went into acting where her name is more “accepted.” I highly doubt if she worked in the “real world” she’d be putting Busy on job applications or resumes instead of Elizabeth.
Honestly I don’t care what other people name their kids, but for me naming my daughter was based on whether her name could negatively impact her career, i.e. if she wanted to be President or another elected offical, or a CEO, etc.

Zoe on

I have had the pleasure of working with two wonderful ladies named Birdie, one in her fifties and one in her seventies, and it totally worked as a name for an older person. They are very different in appearance and personality, and Birdie suits them both perfectly.

Sandy on

I love the name Birdie. If you scour nursing homes you will find lots of old ladies named Bird/Birdie. My sister is named Natalie but she has been called Bird since she was a tiny baby. It suits her and she has toyed with having it legally changed. Birdie will stand out. There will be hundreds of Emilys/Avas/Hannahs but not nearly as many Birdies.

Sarah M. on

Alice (#37)- Actually I have 2 family members who have nicknames for given nanes and they’re constantly asked what their ‘real’ name is. One is (or was, she died several years ago) Kathy and was ALWAYS asked if it was short for Katherine or Kathleen. The other is Vickie and is ALWAYS asked if it’s short for Victoria.

I prefer full names as given names myself and then the child can be called whatever they so choose when they get older. My middle name is Louise. My family calls me Lou or Sarah Lou or Sarie, but I wouldn’t want any of those to be my given names and I only like it when my family calls me by them. People can be taken seriously with a nickname as a given name, but I just like that full names give people more options. To each their own, though. People have the right to name thieir children what they want to, to a certain extent.

maegan on

I have a two almost three year old daughter named Birdee. So i think it is an adorable name.

Anonymous on

With regard to how horribly unjust people seem to think it is judging people based on the names their parents gave them – typically, those parents are also the people that raised them, and if they had they picked whatever particularly awful or ridiculous name I was looking at on a resume I’d question the degree to which they raised someone I’d like to hire. Parents aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to our personality but they did have a pretty big hand in it. That said, I think Birdie is not that awfully unusual, buy Lyndzi? No thanks, not unless every other applicant for the job is as competent as a potato and Lyndzi is custom made to my specifications.

Joni on

I love it.. I thought Busy was strange but after you see her on a talk show.. Seems like it fits.. Look at them, That is a Birdie if I ever saw one!! Adorable!

excusethedresscode on

Birdie is a lovely name indeed!<3

Birdie L. Grow on

My name is Birdie Grow ( the only one in the United States by the way) maiden name was Birdie Rick. I am 74 and love my name. Am a retired Asst. V P of a very large bank. I find all of the comments about my name very interesting and amusing.

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