Jonah swam the seas in the belly of a whale, while today’s choice rode the wave to the top of the tweenage hit list.
Thanks to Anna for suggesting Jonas as our Baby Name of the Day.
Jonas has been quietly in use for ages. He has appeared in the US rankings every year since 1880, though he’s never been very popular. In 1880, he ranked #323, and he came in at an almost chilly #455 in 2010. We can all think of a few men named Jonas – Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine – comes to mind.
The name is sometimes interpreted as a variant of John, but mostly he’s seen as a spin on the faithful Jonah. The original form of the name would’ve been Yona or Yonah, from the Hebrew for dove.
In the Old Testament Book of Jonah, he was a prophet fleeing from his duties. He caught a ride across the ocean on a ship, and when the ship was waylaid by a storm, the story of Jonah’s deception came out. He was tossed overboard and swallowed by a fish – we usually interpret the fish as a whale. Despite the odds, he escaped unscathed – on the shores of Nineveh, the city he was supposed to visit in the first place. The story has long been popular, and the name was one of many discovered by Protestant parents during the Reformation. Jonas appears early on, too, from the Greek version of the name. In some languages, Jonah is dominant; in others, it is all about Jonas. Both can be found in use in English.
Jonah has been in the US Top 200 since 1999, boosted by other Biblical boys like Noah, plus that ever-favorite first letter J of Jack and Jameson. Ends-in-S names, like Silas, as in vogue, too. Jonas should be rising. He’s been in the Norwegian Top Ten
In fact, Jonas was inching up the charts. Lois Lowry’s award-winning novel The Giver featured a hero called Jonas. The book’s 1992 publication seems to have prompted parents to re-discover the name. By 2002, Jonas was back in the US Top 500, and still rising.
At the same time, three brothers were launching their careers in the entertainment biz. Nick Jonas was performing on Broadway and trying to launch a singing career, but it was a recording of Nick accompanied by older brothers Kevin and Joe that caught the attention of a producer.
The trio is more Hanson than N’Sync – they’re not exactly a manufactured boy band. But they are heartthrob teen idol types, thanks to their path to stardom – a guest spot on the Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana, followed by a starring role in Disney flick Camp Rock and sequel.
Grammy award nominations aside, the Jonas Brothers’ success has not helped their surname catch on. When they first appeared alongside Miss Montana in 2007, Jonas ranked #329. The year Camp Rock made them famous, Jonas rose to #274.
But then the boys were everywhere – lunch boxes and tee shirts and the radio. It isn’t that parents stopped considering Jonas. Instead, the mega-success of the boy band gave them pause. He still appears on short lists, but the best description of the tension can be found in a Namipedia entry:
- “No one will care about the Jonas Brothers in a few years, so I’m using the name anyway!”
“It’s currently an untenable naming option thanks to the insufferable boy band The Jonas Brothers.”
The truth is somewhere in between. Jonas is a great name, on trend and yet with a backstory that gives him some real substance. But lots of names can claim that – names that aren’t shared by a trio of cute boys.