We all know that a Disney Princess can take a name from obscurity to the top of the popularity charts faster than you can say glass slipper.
But what about those other Disney names?
The Mouse has launched the careers of plenty of stars, from beachy-keen Annette Funicello to the beleaguered Britney Spears. Today Disney’s tween sensations have their own shows, instead of just blending in among their fellow Mousketeers. And their names – both their given names and those of their characters – may well inspire the next generation of babynamers.Let’s start with Miley, a name poised for at least as much superstardom as Hannah Montana/Miley Stewart and the actor that plays the part-time popstar, part-time everyday teen, Miley Cyrus. Born Destiny Hope, the daughter of Billy Ray “Achey Breaky Heart” Cyrus was nicknamed Miley as a baby because, according to her dad, she was oh-so-smiley.
Drop the “s” from smiley, and you’ve got a hot name for 2010 on your hands.
It’s a sweet name, but perhaps one best left to the dynamic Miss Cyrus, who has now adopted it as not just her stage name, but her legal identity, doffing Destiny Hope in favor of Miley Ray. And yet, given the continued popularity of similar names (Kaylee #42; Kylie #66; Riley #55, to name just a few) it seems like Miley will be sharing her moniker with more little girls in the future. (As of 2006, Miley had not arrived in the Top 1000.)
Hannah Montana’s best friend has her own double identity. Lilly Truscott is also the flamboyant Lola, Hannah’s biggest fan. While it’s hard to get a handle on Lilly (this spelling ranked #151 while Lily was #33 and several elaborations are also popular, including Liliana at #150, Lillian at #38, Lilliana at #445 and Lilian at #439) safe to say that Lilly is hot.
One might think that Lola would be the last name anyone would choose for a daughter, what with the Humbert Humbert vibe courtesy of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and the Kinks’ gender-bending L-O-L-A Lola in constant rotation on classic rock stations. But Lola is gaining ground, and here’s my short list of reasons why:
- O remains the vowel to beat – witness Olivia, Oliver, Theo and Leo
- Madonna used it as a nickname for her daughter, Lourdes
- Similar two-syllable, ends-in-a names for girls are hot – Emma, Ava, Layla
And so Lola has leapt from obscurity (unranked in 2001) to the fairly popular #280 in 2006. Perhaps Hannah’s wholesome-if-wacky best friend is fueling some small part of that trend, too.
Turning to the Wizards of Waverly Place, a tale of young siblings and wizards-in-training trying to blend into the ordinary world, we find the interestingly named non-magical friend Harper Evans. Harper is not only a surname choice, but a literary one, too, thanks to the To Kill a Mockingbird author, Harper Lee. (She was born Nelle Harper Evans.)
Wizards premiered on Disney in 2007. By then, Harper had already gone from oblivion (not in the Top 1000 in 2003) to uncommon but gaining in 2006, when it came in at #510.
Over at the Tipton Hotel in Boston, identical twin brothers are living The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Their mother is the hotel’s headlining singer, and the boys are resident at the Tipton, along with hotel heiress, London Tipton. London is a thinly-veiled, though safely PG version, of that real-life celebutante, Paris Hilton.
It’s interesting to note that while Paris has been in the Top 1000 since 1985, when the first hints of geographic names surfaced (and today stands at #260), London is a relative newcomer. In 1999, it was #923; even today, it is a mere #353.
Next, we turn to That’s So Raven. The show’s star, Raven-Symone, was once the pint-sized step-granddaughter of Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Raven peaked back when the actor was first on the small screen, back in 1993, at #139. Today, it is still in use, but falling fast at #441. While it might have appeal for parents of dark-tressed girls, it does feel a bit flimsy. The Italian city, Ravenna, offers a twist on the avian choice – and one that has yet to break into the Top 1000.
Lastly, I should mention two names given to animated characters – Riley Daring and Darby.
In The Replacements, Riley Daring and her younger brother, Todd, are orphans who stumble across an ad for Fleemco. For $1.98, they acquire the ability to replace any adult in their life. Riley for a girl is far from new – it entered the Top 100 back in 2002, and today holds steady at #55. Add in variant spellings like Rylie (#317), Rylee (#134) and Ryleigh (#328) and it’s a popular choice, indeed.
Darby is another animated Disney girl, this time the new sidekick on My Friends Tigger and Pooh. Purists will wonder what became of Christopher Robin; he makes the brief appearance, but red-headed Darby is the main companion of the talking animal set. This time, name-wise, Disney seems to have chosen a name on its way towards oblivion. After peaking in 1995 at #498, Darby disappeared from the Top 1000 in 2003.
While most viewers of the Disney Channel are years away from having children of their own, odds are that some of them are listening and taking note.
Disney names are not, for the most part, trendsetters. Instead, they cement well-established and emerging trends with names that are accessible, but interesting, to their tweens-and-younger viewing audience.
It’s not the most sophisticated source for inspiration, but doubtless one whose influence we’ll see in the future. Me? I’m keeping a weather eye on Miley. Barring a fall from grace by Miss Cyrus, I suspect it’s going to be a popular choice in coming years.