Here’s something that fascinates me: people who are named Audrey, but the name wasn’t inspired by Audrey Hepburn. Boys named Dylan whose parents never sang a Bob Dylan tune as a lullaby. Nameberry’s recent slideshow about the figures who have most influenced baby naming today comes with a flip side: the very people who make their names popular are sometimes forgotten along the way.
It’s not always so. We know an adorable Liam, whose name was inspired by Liam Neeson. (While they were expecting, they kept stumbling across Liam Neeson movies. It seemed meant to be.) And plenty of parents have talked about their love of To Kill a Mockingbird or Jane Austen novels when naming their daughters Harper or Emma.
And yet I know a Tabitha who insists she wasn’t named after Bewitched. This tracks with her age – she was born twenty years after the supernatural comedy was on prime time television. It’s possible her parents never saw an episode. But it’s equally true that no one was named Tabitha – or Samantha – before the show gave those names to its bewitching characters.
Does that mean that you can run from pop culture, but you can’t hide? Maybe. I do think we’re more influenced by the names making headlines than we sometimes realize. Or maybe we just don’t like to admit that we’re influenced by people we don’t admire.
It’s a a curious phenomenon, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you choose a name, only to discover it was tied to someone that you’d never heard of? Did you intentionally choose a name worn by a famous figure? Or were you dimly aware of a singer/fictional character/etcetera with the name, and used it anyhow?
Elsewhere in baby name news:
- Dear Raven-Symoné, I suppose I understand your dislike of “ghetto” baby names. We all have our preferences, and if I were co-hosting The View, I’m sure I’d have expressed an unpopular opinion or two myself. But I can’t help but think about people in glass houses and all that. Because Raven-Symoné, complete with diacritical symbol used as mere beauty mark, isn’t exactly the most classic and sophisticated of names. The Twitterverse agreed.
- Nancy reports that Jamaica is considering banning “bad” baby names. They’re not talking about a style of name, like our friend R.S., but about a very small handful of names that do seem problematic. But where do you draw the line?
- On a lighter note: Waltzing More than Matilda reminds me how much I love the name Lucinda.
- Let’s stick with the lightness: who knew there were so many moon-inspired names for boys?
- Substitutes for the most popular names, from a British perspective. What do you think of Peony as a substitute for Poppy?
- Castille! How delightful! It might be my new favorite formal name for Cassie, and that’s saying an awful lot, because oh, I adore formal names for Cassie.
- So many great names in the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson! Who knew? And oh, he used Phryne!
- I love the idea of giving girls their mother’s surname, and boys their father’s surname. In many Slavic languages, there was traditionally a masculine and feminine form of the surname. It’s not quite the same thing, but it does suggest that not every culture has used family names in the exact same way as American families did in the twentieth century. Change is possible!
- Whoa – I thought I’d heard everything possible on the name theft topic, but this Dear Prudie Q takes the cake.
- Meryl Streep hated her name, and Nicole Kidman’s Hawaiian name was inspired by an elephant. Listen to them talk with Graham Norton about all sorts of onomastic trivia.
- This is a really promising list of masculine-sounding surname names. Also, Walton – one of my all-time favorites! – is on it.
- We started on a controversial note – let’s end on one, too! By now, you’ve probably heard about the New York Times story about family names. Pressure to hand down family names is nothing new, but is there an uptick in grandparents expressly offering incentives – even cash – to hand down a specific family name?
That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a fabulous week!
I don’t think you can get away from culture. I named my son Cowen because I saw the name in an Irish baby name book (spelling Cowan). I LOVED it and used it. When he was about six I started hearing the name more and more and then people started asking me if I’d chosen the name from some angsty teenage drama show on tv that I’d never heard of. Since most names have been used popularly at some point or another, it is a hard thing to avoid.
Horrified beyond belief by the “name stealing” story!
Constantly, CONSTANTLY people ask if our Zelda is named after the video game. Usually it’s dudes wanting to high five my partner like he got away with something. Grumble grumble.
Castille? As in castille soap?
Also, we named our son Sawyer. After he was born people said, “Oh! Like on Lost?” Blank stare. Nope. Never watched the show or paid attention to it.
I’m guessing Castille, as in the region of Spain.
The soap only has one L – then again, so does the Spanish region! I also think of the soap, as with the names Lux and Sunlight.
Castille (two Ls) is a Japanese video game character, a young girl.