The latest Blake Lively/Ryan Reynolds baby name rumor?
She’s named James.
If that’s true, Blake and Ryan would only be taking the unisex name trend to its logical conclusion.
After all, James has been big in the middle spot for girls for years. Sean Combs has a daughter called Jessie James, born back in 2006. More recently, Jessica Capshaw welcomed Poppy James, Jennifer Love Hewitt went with Autumn James, and James Marsden’s daughter wears one of my favorite combinations, Mary James.
It was only a matter of time until we met a girl called James.
Wait – Canadian actor Brendan Fehr is the father of three girls: Ondine, Ellison Jane, and James Olivia. Helen Hunt played Jamie “James” Buchman on Mad About You back in the 1990s. And model Jaime King started out her career answering to James, too. According to the Social Security Administration, 28 girls were named James in 2013. So the Gossip Girl alum wouldn’t really be first.
Still, Blake and Ryan could take this name from a rarity sometimes heard for girls to a wildly popular unisex name.
Lots of other high profile couples have given traditionally masculine names to their daughters.
No matter what you think of the trend – and let me say that I don’t think it’s truly new, or really a problem – it’s definitely an approach to naming girls that plenty of parents embrace.
Read on for a dozen of the most surprising gender-bending, unisex name choices made by celebrities this century:
Arlo – Actor-comedian-stuntman Johnny Knoxville rose to fame as part of MTV’s Jackass empire. He’s the father of three: daughter Madison, son Rocko Akira, and daughter Arlo Lemoyne Yoko. Let’s just say that his taste in names has gotten more and more daring as the years have gone by. While Arlo might seem like a wacky choice for a girl, with Harlow and Marlowe in vogue, it’s not a stretch to imagine parents considering Arlo, too.
Casper – Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf were inspired to name their son Pilot after a song lyric. More than a decade later, Pilot is still a go-to name for wacky baby name lists. (I’m not sure it deserves that much noise.) Jason and new wife Ceren Alkac kept the name of their daughter quiet, but Casper Alice has mostly gotten positive reviews. The couple have a second child together, son Sonny.
Easton August – Every time I see mentions of Elisabeth Rohm’s daughter’s name, I pause. I think it’s a good idea for either the first or the middle to be clearly gendered – see Casper Alice, as well as Isabelle, a middle shared by two girls on this list. Elisabeth stuck to the grey area when naming her daughter in 2008. Easton has since entered the US Top 100 for boys. But maybe August isn’t such a surprise. Actor Oscar Nunez has an August Luce, and Garth Brooks named his daughter August Anna way back in 1994. So Easton is definitely borrowed from Team Blue, but August? Perhaps this calendar name belongs with April and June.
Fox – Mark Owen is known as a member of British pop group Take That, and he’s had a big solo career, too. In 2009, Mark married actress Emma Ferguson, and the two started a family: son Elwood Jack, daughter Willow Rose, and, in 2012, daughter Fox India. Yup, Fox is a girl. In the US, the creature name is a fast-rising favorite for boys, currently poised just outside of the US Top 1000.
Gray – Jenna von Oy played sitcom characters named Six and Stevie back in the 1990s. Fast-forward to 2012, and she welcomed her first child, daughter Gray Audrey. In a classroom full of girls called Scarlett and Violet, colorful Gray isn’t such a surprise. But the somber name is more common for boys, especially when you consider Grey, as well as the fast-rising Grayson – in the US Top 100 – or Greyson – not far behind, at #149. But unisex names must be von Oy’s style. Her younger daughter is Marlowe Monroe.
Hunter – Actor Kevin Rahm has had a long television career, most recently as Ted on Mad Men. He become a father late in 2014, welcoming daughter Hunter. Like Wyatt and Lincoln, Hunter is a Top 100 favorite for boys. And yet on a girl, Hunter does feel wearable, a unisex name thanks to mythological and fictional figures like Artemis, the Amazons, and Katniss Everdeen – skilled hunters all.
Jude – Martha Stewart’s only child is daughter Alexis – a name preferred for men in many languages. In 2011, the younger Ms. Stewart welcomed daughter Jude. While Jude – as in Hey and the Obscure – is definitely as masculine moniker, plenty of women named Judy and Judith have answered to Jude. It’s not quite Chris or Pat, but I think it seems less jarring than some of the names on this list.
Lincoln – Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell had a favorite name for their first baby. And even though Lincoln is much more popular for a boy, the couple named their daughter Lincoln Bell Shepard in 2013. It’s too soon to say if Dax and Kristen’s gender-bending choice will influence others, but there’s already a tiny minority of girls by the name – 61 born in 2013 alone.
Mason – Veteran actor Kelsey Grammar is much-married, and father to six children. Two of his daughters have conventionally masculine names – Spencer and Mason. Spencer’s acting career has flourished in recent years, and little sister Mason was in the spotlight when Kelsey’s former wife, Camille, was featured on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Mason was born back in 2001, when the name ranked a mere #53 in the US.
Maxwell – Jessica Simpson surprised everyone when she announced the arrival of daughter Maxwell Drew in 2012. Jessica and retired footballer husband Eric Johnson explained that they’d chosen family names for Maxwell, and later for son Ace Knute. It’s a very Southern thing to do, and yet, Maxwell still seems like a solidly masculine name. Or is it? That same year, actress Lindsay Sloane named her daughter Maxwell Lue.
Owen – Back in 2005, musician Michelle Branch welcomed Owen Isabelle. While plenty of conventionally masculine names are steadily used for girls, like Dylan and Ryan, Michelle’s Owen is one of the few girls given this name. Middle name Isabelle softens the unexpected first.
Wyatt – Speaking of Isabelle, that’s the same middle name Aston Kutcher and Mila Kunis gave to their daughter, born in 2014. Wyatt Isabelle’s middle name honors Mila’s grandma, but Wyatt was just something that came to the couple at a Lakers game.
Are you a fan of unisex names, or do you feel like they’re just boy names used for girls? What do you think of James as a girls’ name?
I realize I’m late to this party, but I think it really depends on personal preference. Why has Jamie been accepted for girls before this, but James is a surprise? I know a female teenager named Hunter and she pulls it off really well. Unfortunately, I think our society still has a slight preference toward the masculine side of things. I can’t deny that I would like to give a daughter a slightly more equal chance of getting a call by having an androgynous name on a resume, although I love the sound of feminine names. If the HR person is surprised when she shows up or answers the phone, so be it. There are also lots of traditionally female names that are strong and scream CEO or scientist, etc. For the record, I wouldn’t name a daughter James, but I can see the reasons someone might. Why won’t someone name a baby girl Roxanne instead of Ezra? The first sounds stronger to me, even though the latter is traditionally male. My name was a masculine name/surname but it has clearly gone to the female side. (I’ve never met a man named Brooke/Brook/Brooks). Nothing surprises me anymore. I think it’s a little fun to keep people on their toes. I also think people need to keep perspective and realize we’re talking about celebrities who are more out of touch. At least the kid isn’t named Banjo.
I’ve been meaning to get back to this, and today’s announcement seems to be a good cue! What are you taking as the criterion for a name to be a “unisex” name? That is, when does a name move from being “a girl’s name given to a boy” or “a boy’s name given to a girl” to “a unisex name”? (I see a few other commenters have also raised this question.)
It’s a huge question, right?
Not sure if I can do it justice in the comments – maybe this needs a post … but let’s start here.
In English, there aren’t any meaningful rules about names and gender. There’s Emma and Norah, but also Noah and Ezra. And Lauren is a girl, but so is Logan. Kate’s a girl, Nate’s a boy – but there’s no reason it has to be that way. My understanding is that many other languages are much more definite, and, of course, there are places like Germany, where it’s more or less mandated that names be clearly assigned to one gender.
For a while I thought that we were seeing the emergence of new feminine forms, just like Josephine replaced Josephe and Josepha and Samantha is now considered a feminine form of Samuel, even though it’s really quite new compared to Samuel. Would Jordyn become the feminine form of Jordan? But the numbers don’t really back that up – at least, not strongly, and not across enough names to feel like it’s a real trend.
It all comes down to usage. If aliens arrived on Earth and had to puzzle this out, the only way they’d know that Jane is traditionally feminine in English is to count up the number of women named Jane. (But if they watched Firefly or the Mentalist, with male characters named Jane, they might have another idea.) And the same is true for James – they’d only know it was traditionally masculine by counting heads, and headlines about baby girls named James might convince them otherwise.
I titled the first draft of this post “Celebrities Who Gave Boy Names to their Girls” or something like that. Only that feels insulting. If you name your daughter Larry, then Larry *is* a girl’s name – at least, it’s the name of that one girl. And while many predict dire consequences for women with masculine names, I’ve known plenty – none seem to have lasting scars from their names. (I almost always manage to ask – eventually.) And I’ve known men with names that have “gone girl” – men my age named Shannon and Sidney and Leslie. I’m less often in a position to ask men what they really think of their names – but when I can, it doesn’t seem to be a huge source of angst for them. (At least now, as adults. Rewind to all of us at age twelve or so, and all bets are off.)
So here’s where I begin: going with the dictionary definition, unisex means suitable for both sexes – and on sound alone, a great many names are suitable for both sexes.
But other comments raise a good point – Rebecca would never be described as a unisex name. And I cannot imagine parents naming a son Julia or Amanda or Cecily, even though a great many boys’ names feel like they could be given to girls, at least in theory.
My best guess is that we’re moving towards using names more like Israel does – where there many names that are used in similar numbers for boys and girls, though some are still strongly gendered. (Lior is unisex, but Liora is just for girls.)
I think I’d describe a name as unisex after I see a steady trendline or a history of use for both genders, even if the numbers are very lopsided. Celebrities don’t count more than ordinary folks, but it would be a mistake to think that it’s only celebrities borrowing freely from the boys from their daughters’ names – the numbers almost always suggest that it’s all of us.
Which reminds me – James actually has a long history of use for girls. (You can see the graph and the numbers at Nancy’s site.) My best guess is that’s because James is such a common surname, and lots of families have handed down surnames without regard to gender for generations.
One of the other issues is that the statistics are flawed – there are plenty of mis-recorded births over the years. Were there really 243 girls named George in 1930, or was that a mistake? I’ve found some in Census records, and it seems like they were often actually named George Ann, and maybe known as Georgeann in everyday use … it’s a change in how we record, not how we name.
But ultimately it’s about more than names, isn’t it? Why do we have girl Legos and boy Legos? How come girls are princesses and boys are superheroes? Why are the Doc McStuffins toys my nephew loves in the girls’ toy aisle? Everything is strongly gendered – more strongly gendered than I remember it growing up in the 1970s and 80s. Even though my life experience is that gender is much less of a limiting factor than it was for my mother or her mother, you wouldn’t necessarily know it by walking through a store. (Again, if an alien landed at my local Target.)
So … rambling. But I tend to see unisex names as a huge group, and when I say unisex, it isn’t code for “such a cute name for a girl!!!” It’s a free-of-judgement assessment that we’re likely to hear the name on girls as well as boys.
One last thought: while they rarely comment (and I don’t blame them), the data tells me that plenty of parents LOVE this style of name, for boys and girls. So they’ll name their children Parker and Lincoln and Collins and Chase, and they’re not fussed if you can’t tell which name goes with which kid on the Christmas card. It isn’t my personal style, but I kind of love that.
Wanda Louise says
I would disagree on the statement in reference to things being more gender oriented today than in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Dolls and dresses were always for girls, pants and cars or cork guns were always for boys which clearly pre-dates the 70’s. Women wearing pants in the 1940’s was risque and Katherine Hepburn or Bette Davis received a lot of scoff about it. I see more men wearing womens clothing and women wearing mens than I ever did in the 1950’s-1980’s until at least the early 90’s. The heated topic of feminism is what brought his/her legos. The ideology that girls can think, act, and are exactly physically the same to boys, which lead the change and different interpretation to the 14th amendment. What we see today, really is the long term consequenes good or bad as they may be but the push has gotten more more pronounced. We can see this changed in Women’s position in the military, Plus, the movement/exception on homosexuality lead to more heated discussion toward gender differences Or more gender neutrality. In the 1980’s and prior, media, conversations, and liturature wasn’t open or willing to talk about it or acknowledge any of it. Some feel this is an accomplishment others not. So much. Goodness in the 50’s you were kicked off screen for mentioning the use of the bathroom and one bed in scene featuring a couple, OH boy, now that was risque. While the south held tradition on surnames for either sex, I get and respect that, let’s be honest here, not much of the southern’s habit took off across the world, which gives the southern practice its distintive and unusual tone. Unisex names just wasn’t widely practiced And gender differences was widely practiced and acknowledged in a common sense everyday perspective.
I am not a huge fan of boys’ names on girls.
But James on a girl bothers me way less than a lot of the ones I often see described as unisex on name sites that traditionally are not. Non-Anglo background names tend to get a breezy ‘well they’re odd anyway and who knows…’ but oh no not the *classics,* those are *real* boys names and that’s sooo different. There’s some kind of baggage there.
So yeah fine what's good for Rory/Alyosha/Ezra/Asher is fine for James as far as I'm concerned.
It is interesting to read Hollywoods naming trends. It’s just not my cup of tea. It’s confusing.
Well, Blake seems to have managed fairly well with a “masculine” name.
Define manager? If you mean to be mistaken as a boy, then yes her name has managed do that….if you mean career, than that is a different kind of manage. Names grab attention, but they have cultural representation outside there etymological roots. Blake has a history of being a boys name, so it is akin to recognize it culturally as a boys name. Go to an interview, your are going to be mistaken as a boy. For the rest of your life you will be up against a majority who think that you are a boy. Blake has a career because she had connections and earned her spot to stay where she is at, but she had to break a cultural gender guide, which is how we know a boy is a boy or a girl a girl, to not be mistaken as a boy because she is wearing a boys name. At that rate, Male actor could be named Susan, and if made a sucsessful career than its okay. It doesn’t make sense because it confuses people and reality. We know androgynous doesn’t happen naturally and it goes against practice, and teachings which starts as children. This why its soo co troversial. Blake is lucky that she had connections, began acting, managed to stay in Hollywood, it is what protects her from reality. I believe also, Blakes middle is feminine, so she had some help guiding her down that trick road.
You sure are assigning a lot of hardship to someone you don’t know! Perhaps we should let people tell us whether they’re male or female instead of placing so much undue weight on a name (which was undoubtedly chosen with care by someone — parent or the person themself).
I don’t want to be rude, but this comment is sort of crazy to me. Whatever issues Blake might have endured as a result of having a masculine/unisex name must not have been that bad, because she clearly didn’t have any problem using a masculine/unisex name on her own daughter, and I have zero doubt that she selected that name wanting nothing but the best for her daughter.
I think what Link is saying, which, I agree with… Is that the parent may pick a name with love but also with purpose…the very act…the name has a gender role that it plays. A success in a career has nothing to do with depicting someone’s gender, you recognize one’s gender by on paper, announcement and physicality. Via female or male parts. If you were a boy wearing a girls name, Every where he went, it would appear deceptive to all simply by the parents choice in a name.
In this case, Nothing is as it appears, and that leave no name sacred to a gender, hence, where the word androgynous comes into play. No one is born androgynous, your either born boy or girl, never both unless by some genetic mutation. Which leaves the very nature of the act of naming one’s child a name opposite of the sex of the child a political statement with a purpose. Whether the parent was following a fad or named with intentions attached, it still plays a purpose in this world, and that is to confuse the gender of the child to all whom are told the child’s name. Furthermore, I have an androgynous or commonly called a unisex name, people upon hearing my name do not know whether to expect a man or a women. In the real world, this what people like me are against. Blake is sheltered by Hollywood, she is lucky, I do not have those luxurious.
LOL @ “this is what people like me are against” and “i do not have those luxurious.” I also have an “androgynous” name. I’m a woman, and statistically my name is much more commonly given to men. In my experience, I’ve very rarely had any issues or confusion, and in the few instances I have it has been easily cleared up. I understand that this is a contentious issue, and I don’t want to inflame or escalate, but some of these reactions are just bizarre to me.
@Winter, I hear where you are coming from when you use the word “deceive or deception” in reference to a gender neutral name. It could lead to other speculations. Criminals love using gender neutral names, it helps conceal them from their past or if they are on the run. Even Having owned a business before, I was cautious of gender neutral names along with many other equally worthy things on a persons resume’. If one can’t be honest of the gender, what else might they hide…
@Ette and Winter: Having said that, I understand that not all people out there with gender neutral names are bad or have bad intentions. However, we all can’t deny that it leaves us questioning. More specifically, Ette, you mentioned that you had to at some point in your life, corrected people and cleared the air. Case in point, it leads to confuse. I agree, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so I can respect both sides of the argument. @Ette, you live in a world where is is more common and prevelant than say 30 or 50 years ago. So more people are able to adapt to the changing of the times. But, Winter and Link, both make a good point, you can’t stomp out the old belief of have a gender base name even a 1000 or more years later.
Also, on a side not, not one person in comments, said Blake Lively, just Blake. Blake taken out of context, could easily be mistaken for Blake Shelton not just Blake Lively. Both are famous, but still can be confused. So @Link and @Winter, just being famous, doesn’t mean that they won’t get confused. Perhaps, less often, but it still can happen. Had Blake not been mentioned in the article up above, no one would known which famous Blake we were talking about.
I agree with Emily – James is not suddenly a unisex name because a couple of celebrities decided to name their daughters James. Ditto for most of the other names you cite.
There is undeniably a trend among celebrities to use masculine names on girls. But Cassandra is not suddenly a unisex name if a celebrity decides to name his or her son Cassandra, and boy names are no different. Now, if these celebrities succeed in setting a trend and it becomes commonplace for girls to be called James, Owen or Mason, I’ll be less inclined to gripe about them being called unisex names, but I think this post jumps the gun a bit.
What about Peaches Geldof’s son Phaedra? Are there any other celebrities who went in that direction?
I didn’t know she named her son Phaedra… I love it! That makes me so happy!
Shouldn’t this post be titled “12 Celebrities Who Chose Male Names for Their Daughters?”
I like unexpected boy names on girls, but I feel the names should be on the lower end of the popularity spectrum for boys. When you have soooo many boys answering to names like Hunter, Maxwell & Wyatt, a girl with the same name will get confused for a boy more often than not (at least on paper). However, I don’t think names that are more unusual for boys would create as much confusion on a girl. If you aren’t as familiar with a name, you are less likely to form a gender opinion and if the name isn’t overly used on a certain gender than I feel the gender identity for that name is a bit less established.
I don’t know. Hunter Tylo has been in TV for ages. Must be close to 20 years. I wouldn’t bat an eye at a girl named Hunter.
I think there is a difference between choosing a unisex name, as in, one that has *commonly* been used for both sexes (Madison, Jordan, Cameron, Evelyn) versus choosing a name that has *commonly* been used for boys and putting it on a girl. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I feel like James (and, actually, none of the names on this list) isn’t truly unisex yet, because it’s not been used on girls very much. Once it picks up in popularity? Sure, call it unisex—but it just isn’t, yet.
I wish there was a better way to distinguish between the two. I also somewhat resent that it’s daring and edgy to give girls traditionally male names, yet it hasn’t caught on to give boys traditionally female names, possibly because our society defaults “male.” American society is still weirded out by traditionally feminine things for boys, but less so with traditional masculine things for girls.
Amen to everything you said. And as a side note, I am dying for traditionally masculine “feminized” names to make a comeback for boys. Namely Ashley, Cary, Leslie, Lauren…but I fear that the pendulum will not swing that way.
Wanda Louise says
@Elysha those names that you listed are boy names AND are still being used on boys. Liz’s comment would reference to boys being given traditonal female names such as: Rebbeca, Madeliene, Ruth, Margaret, Susan, Elizabeth, Catherine, Which just seems awful to do that to a boy. I dislike this push to be edgy and cool. It sends mix messages.
As someone who is considering a unisex name for my unborn daughter, I really like the name James for a girl. As someone who also has a son, I would not be upset if my sons name became commonly used for girls. Naming isn’t a zero sum game.
Using James on a girl seems too cute by half. When combined with their surname, it sounds like the name of a man who works on a ranch. Jim Reynolds, Jimmy Reynolds. Maybe she and Wyatt can open up a dude ranch. My nickname for Wyatt Isabelle is “cowboy boots negligee” because the name Wyatt makes me think of cowboy boots, and Isabelle brings to mind a frilly negligee. It’s an odd combo. It seems really try-hard on the parts of the parents to be cool and different, which as Abby’s pointed out, it really isn’t. D-
No, please not James. I’m okay with James as a middle for girls. I’m not too bothered by the other names on the list (although I’m glad my name is not Wyatt) but something about James as a first feels sacrilegious almost. I’m probably overreacting but it is such a handsome and gentlemanly name that I just can’t picture it on a girl.
As a disclaimer, I’m a mom of boys and some of us can get a little defensive over this. It’s like when I go to Target and all the adorable baby clothes are pink and girly and I have to sort through a messy rack of superhero t shirts looking for a church outfit. I don’t mind the boys names on girls trend when it’s a fairly modern name to begin with. It’s when the name has a long history as a boys name that it feels like a mom of a girl grabbed the last button up boys shirt from the rack at Target.