What’s In a Baby Name? Expert Candace Alper Weighs In

08/28/2011 at 11:00 AM ET
Courtesy Candace Alper

From how they dress to what they do, celebrities are no strangers to creating trends, so it comes as no surprise that their reach now extends to baby names.

“I think sometimes celebrities make it okay or make it interesting,” baby name expert Candace Alper tells PEOPLE of why non-famous parents are choosing to give their children more unique and unconventional names.

“Celebrities put it out there, and it becomes an idea that people run with.”

For example, Alper notes the popularity of names like Bronx, which caught on after the birth of Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz‘s son in 2008, or Coco, spurred by Courteney Cox and David Arquette‘s 7-year-old daughter.

But while Alper is a fan of both names, she emphasizes that parents should first and foremost choose their baby’s name based on its personal significance for them, not how it sounds.

“I happen to really love that Natalie Portman named her kid Aleph because I think that when you look into what the name might mean to her, it’s really strong,” she says. “It’s the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It’s her firstborn son. It might be leader, it might be strength. I love a name that has a lot of meaning behind it.”

Alper also recommends names with an interesting back story, citing Pink‘s heartfelt explanation of why she named her daughter Willow Sage after the unbreakable nature of the willow tree and the cleansing properties of sage.

“She’ll share that story with her daughter, [and] when you share a story like that, it can’t help but have an impact on the kind of person that you become,” she says. “Kids love to hear a good story, especially when it’s about them.”

Ultimately, whether opting to go with a traditional name or choosing something more creative, Alper simply hopes parents take the selection process seriously, something new dad Paul Stanley can relate to.

“It’s the first thing you give your baby, their name,” Alper says, “and they have to live with it. One day, it will be on a marquee or a business card or a diploma hanging on the wall.”

Kiran Hefa

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Showing 9 comments

Lily on

I wholeheartedly concur.

kristen on

Names are so important and making a joke out of a child’s name is cruel. He or she has to live with the name a parent has picked or the spelling choice the parent has picked. I was given some great advice when I was in my late teens and commented that I loved the name “Thunder” for a boy. An older woman made the comment that the name would be cute for a little boy, but that little boy would have to spend his entire adulthood with that name. It is true.

I think that many people name their babies without considering the adult who will have to answer to that name. And the standard comment “but they can change their name” shouldn’t be the solution. Name your child wisely and not as an act of “self expression” or creativity on your part. Find another outlet.

criticaleye on

I’m not sure it depends on the celebrities. I think it’s more our culture, everybody has to be unique, original if they have nothing else to show for. Celebrities have this tendancy because of their jobs, they stand out as actors, musicians, icons so they may think their kid is someone special, too.

But some of them still go with classy names like Arabella Rose or Sadie Grace, which is kind of relieving.

Susannah on

I’d seriously pass on Aleph, Bear Blu, Apple and many other wacky names out there. Everyone knows, if celebs pick a boring, common-folk name it won’t be talked about. Parents of the above named children want to take credit for introducing the name. The kids don’t know what a crazy name their mommy & daddy have given them at such a young age.

Stacey on

Take a look at a classroom roll sheet. MY GOD you should see the stupid names and the “common” names that have been butchered almost beyond recognition. Give you kid a dumb or ridiculously spelled name and you will limit their hiring chances as well as burden them with having to spell if for someone every single time.

Indira on

I think the meaning behind a name is kind of irrelevant. The more practical matter is how the name sounds when spoken. Yes, the name Aleph may have special meaning to mom and dad but, to the world it’s naming your kid A or B. My name is Indira my mother and father thought it sounded very feminine without being girly, if that makes sense. It also means splendid in Sanskrit which was a plus but, not a determining factor.

RachelJane on

Is she suggesting that Bronx and Coco were named so because their parents liked the names, rather than the significance? Because I believe Coco was named that way as Courteney Cox wished to name her Courteney in the family tradition, but David’s Jewish faith meant he didn’t want to name her after a living relative – so she got Coco from (I think) Courteney’s mum’s nickname ‘Co(urteney)co(x)”. If that’s not a personal significan (and a cute gesture) then I don’t know what is.

marina on

RachelJane – I think that she is talking about the people who named their children after them, not Courteney Cox and David Arquette; and Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz themself.

Jillian on

The meaning behind a name is all that should matter!