The cherry blossoms peaked in Washington DC just a few days ago. We squeezed in the quickest trip to the Tidal Basin to see them – just me, my husband, our daughter, and thousands of other visitors. I love this moment for so many reasons, but particularly because it means spring is coming – even if it still feels pretty chilly at the moment.

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Now, to the name news from the last few days:

Welcome baby Cardinal!

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden welcomed their second child, son Cardinal. He joins big sister Raddix Chloe Wildflower. What a fascinating name choice! Like Raddix, it was virtually unused until this moment. But while Raddix is more of an invention, Cardinal picks up on so many trends – it’s a nature name, a number name, a color name, and maybe even a spiritual/virtue one, too. Imagine me saying, in my best Alexis Rose voice, “Love this for you”

Does Hero have potential?

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare – loosely based on real events during World War II – is due out in April, and among the cast? Hero Fiennes Tiffin. Yes, he’s related to Ralph Fiennes – in fact, he played a young Tom Riddle in one of the Harry Potter movies. His full name is Hero Beauregard Faulkner Fiennes Tiffin and his family seems terribly posh. But it’s worth noting that Hero is trending upward in use for girls and especially for boys in the US. One high profile use of the name might be all it takes to send Hero climbing … because, really, if we’re naming our children Legend, Hero isn’t really that bold at all.

Swistle tackles a heartbreaker of a question.

Trigger warning: pregnancy loss.

This family is expecting after several miscarriages, and they’re considering naming their new baby after those siblings. I’m of two minds on this one: my own grandmother was named after an older sibling who died in infancy. I know it happens, and once was the norm. But, but, but … that seems like something from the past. By 2024 standards, it feels like those names are taken, and should remain so.

On a lighter note, let’s talk about Sosie.

Or let’s just read the excellent deep dive by on the name’s origins, and why it’s probably not linked to Susan. (At least not until after the fact.) I particularly appreciate the way looked at the data on Sukey and surmised that the lack of comparable data for Sosie suggested the story was far more complicated than we’d guessed.

Was Jalen Rose truly the first Jalen?

Thanks to everyone who sent me this TikTok claiming that a) NBA player Jalen Rose was the very first person named Jalen and b) Rose is the reason for all the other babies named Jalen, including some pretty amazing basketball players. Is it true? Not exactly.

What is accurate: Jalen Rose was born in 1973. At that point, the name Jalen had never appeared in the US Social Security Administration’s popularity data. But remember that a name only appears if five children – either boys or girls – receive the name in a single year. That means there could’ve been four Jalens born in 1972 and 1971 and 1970 … but it would never appear in the data.

In fact, United States Census records give us a handful of Jalens born before 1973. (Census data is restricted for 72 years, due to privacy concerns, which means the most recent records we can access are 1940 and 1950.) I found a Jalen living in South Dakota in 1940 and another in North Carolina; a few others are listed, too. It was rare – rare enough to suggest that it never crossed the “at least five boys” threshold. But it wasn’t unknown.

Census records are handwritten and subject to error. But looking at the records, they appear to be men named Jalen.

Now let’s think about 1973 in naming.

Jason, a name heard in Greek mythology and the New Testament, was on a spree. While it had always ranked in the US Top 1000, it soared into the US Top 100 in 1966 and the Top Ten by 1971. In addition Jalon – Jason with an L – debuted in the data, with five boys receiving the name in 1970. The letter J has always dominated boys’ names, from staples like John, James, and Joseph to a rotating list of others – Jesse, Jordan, Jerry, Jackson, Jeffrey, depending on the decade.

For girls, Jalene debuted way back in 1939 and Jaylene in 1938. It’s not the same name, but it’s close.

Still, Jalen Rose’s 1973 birth makes him a very early Jalen, indeed.

Now let’s look at the timeline for Rose’s career, versus the name’s use:

  • 1973 – Jalen Rose is born in Michigan. At this point, the name has never registered in US Social Security data.
  • 1976 – Five boys are named Jalen in the US, enough for the name to debut in the US popularity data. (Long before Jalen Rose is famous.) The name continues to be used in small numbers, appearing in the data in 1977, 1981, 1986, and 1988. During these years, Jalon is used more consistently and remains slightly more popular.
  • 1991 – Rose enrolls at the University of Michigan.
  • 1991 – 21 boys are named Jalon, up from 16 in 1990. 15 boys are named Jalen, up from five in 1990.
  • 1992, 1993 – The Wolverines reach the NCAA finals – aka March Madness – both years.
  • 1992 – The baby name Jalen debuts in the US Top 1000 at #378 for boys. That is a sky-high debut, undoubtedly fueled by Jalen’s rise to national prominence.
  • 1994 – Rose is the thirteenth overall draft pick, by the Denver Nuggets.
  • 1996 – Rose is traded to the Indiana Pacers.
  • 2000 – The Indiana Pacers make it all the way to the NBA Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • 2000 – The baby name Jalen peaks at #106 in the US.
  • 2007 – After playing for several more teams, Rose retires and begins a successful career as a broadcaster.

So there’s no question that the use of the name Jalen tracks with Rose’s career. And lots of younger NBA players named Jalen were born in the right window to be named for Rose, including:

  • Jalen Brunson, born 1996
  • Jalen McDaniels, born 1998
  • Jalen Smith, born 2000
  • Jalen Suggs, born 2001
  • Jalen Williams, born 2001
  • Jalen Green, born 2002
  • Jalen Duren, born 2003

Were they named after Jalen Rose? It almost certainly influenced some of their parents.

Except it’s never quite that easy. The 1990s were also the era of Jacob, as well as lots of Ja- and Jay- names: Jarrell, Jaleel, Jamarcus, Jaquan, Jaron.

Jalen Rose arrived on the national stage at a moment when his specific name was exactly what parents were looking for. His success made a big impact on what we name our children – but the story isn’t quite as neat as “no one was named Jalen until …”

That’s all for this week! As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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