The name Bear was just barely being used before adventurer Bear Grylls (birth name: Edward Grylls) came to our attention via the TV series Man vs. Wild (2006-2011).
Since then, usage has increased steadily — both among regular folks and among celebrities:
2017: English musician Liam Payne had son Bear Grey
2017: English musician Howard Donald had son Dougie Bear
2013: English actress Kate Winslet had son Bear Blaze
2011: American actress Alicia Silverstone had son Bear Blu
2010: English chef Jamie Oliver had son Buddy Bear Maurice
In the U.S., the baby name Bear is currently sitting just outside the top 1,000:
2016: 186 baby boys named Bear [rank: 1,055th]
2015: 134 baby boys named Bear [rank: 1,311th]
2014: 131 baby boys named Bear [rank: 1,327th]
2013: 84 baby boys named Bear [rank: 1,730th]
2012: 79 baby boys named Bear [rank: 1,845th]
2011: 85 baby boys named Bear [rank: 1,728th]
The England and Wales data for 2016 isn’t out yet, but Bear entered the top 1,000* there in 2015:
2015: 36 baby boys named Bear in E/W [rank: 859th]
2014: 19 baby boys named Bear in E/W [rank: 1,330th]
2013: 15 baby boys named Bear in E/W [rank 1,546th]
2012: 19 baby boys named Bear in E/W [rank 1,319th]
2011: 7 baby boys named Bear in E/W [rank 2,650th]
But this data only accounts for first names. The principal usage for Bear could be happening under the radar, with middles. Two of the celebs above used Bear as a middle, and so did this Canadian couple who hit on a bear on the way to the delivery room. And don’t forget American actress Zooey Deschanel, who didn’t opt for Bear, but did give her kids the animal-middles Otter and Wolf.
Do you like Bear as a baby name? How high do you think it will climb on the U.S. charts?
Last week, Becca commented with some interesting Jeopardy! contestant names (e.g., Hobie, Dorcas) and mentioned J! Archive, which lists tens of thousands of Jeopardy! contestants going back to 1984, when the show premiered.
I skimmed through all the contestants from 1984 to 2015 (as we don’t have baby name data for 2016 yet) and spotted hundreds of unusual names. And it looks like at least two of them got a boost thanks to the show:
One-time player Alancia Wynn, a family practice physician from Virginia, was on Jeopardy! in October of 1999.
The name Brannon saw an increase in usage in 1998:
1999: 118 baby boys named Brannon
1998: 158 baby boys named Brannon
1997: 113 baby boys named Brannon
One-time player Brannon Denning, a graduate student from Connecticut, was on Jeopardy! in September of 1998. (Looks like Brannon Denning is now a law professor at Samford University.)
Alaric & Ezgi …?
These two names may have gotten a slight boost as well, though it’s hard to tell.
Alaric, in 2005. One-time player Alaric Smith was on the show in October of 2005.
Ezgi, in 2015. One-time player Ezgi Ustundag was on the show in October of 2015.
Ezgi is a female name that means “melody” in Turkish.
Anjali (false positive)
“Kids Week” contestant Anjali Tripathi was on the show in September of 1999. The same year, the baby name Anjali more than doubled in usage:
2001: 222 baby girls named Anjali
2000: 230 baby girls named Anjali
1999: 202 baby girls named Anjali
1998: 93 baby girls named Anjali
1997: 80 baby girls named Anjali
But this was a suspiciously steep rise. And it was accompanied by the debut of an alternate spelling (Anjalie). And usage didn’t drop back to normal levels the next year, as one would expect. These facts pointed me to something more high-profile than a Jeopardy! contestant.
Turns out the very successful Hindi coming-of-age romantic comedy Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had been released in 1998. The movie featured not one but two main characters named Anjali.
Here are the rest of the names that caught my eye, sorted by year:
Last year we saw that nearly 75% of the original American Gladiator names (e.g. Blaze, Laze, Siren) had appeared on the SSA’s baby name list. None of them appeared due to the influence of the show exclusively, though.
Not so with Alaetra! In 1991, contestant Alaetra Dorsa appeared on American Gladiators three times before being eliminated. Her name debuted on the SSA’s list the same year:
1993: 6 baby girls named Alaetra
1992: 5 baby girls named Alaetra
1991: 17 baby girls named Alaetra [debut]
This is the only American Gladiators contestant-inspired baby name debut I know of, but I’ll be on the lookout for others. (I thought Tareva was the only Star Search debut when I found it, but I’ve found since found one more…)
P.S. What’s the best American Gladiators contestant name of all time? Purple Roundy, who competed during season three (same as Alaetra Dorsa). Check out the Purple Roundy fan site. There’s even a Purple Roundy definition at Urban Dictionary.
So, here’s my advice I tell everyone: One of the best ways to avoid having your kid share a name with a classmate is to browse through these personalized towels/bedsheets/backpacks in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. Despite how much you might love the name, if you see it in the catalog, your kid will have a higher risk of name repeat. Sadly, if I could go back to the PBKids catalogs in 2005, I would see Ella monogramed on every pillow. Same with my boys in 2007. Look! There’s some left over Owen baskets they are still using. Do you see your kids name in some of the items in the current catalog? Prepare yourselves.
Racism doesn’t play by the rules. Black parents cannot win the respectable name game in America.
Black people are discriminated against primarily because we are Black; our names are just a scapegoat. For example, “Tyrone” has come to stand for a “stereotypical” Black man. But did you know that the name Tyrone is Irish in origin? A name doesn’t have to be “creative” or “ghetto” to be Black; it just has to be Black long enough. And as soon as we make something “Black,” the cycle of discrimination begins afresh.
You’ll look cool sporting a binkie with a handlebar mustache though, because you’ll have a name to match your level of sardonic suckling. Yes, hipster babies, your names will be either gender neutral or plucked from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Nothing goes better with your ‘stachifier than an alpaca-hair blankie and the name Myrtle or Gatsby. Have fun at the independent coffee house where you’ll meet up with Zelda and Jasper in your vintage pram that makes even Mary Poppins say, “Practically perfect in every way.”
If your folks take the gender-neutral name route, then on paper some of your names will prompt people to wonder, “Is that a boy or a girl?” It’s all fine and good to choose Jane or Bob, but today’s babies are sporting the sweetest little genderless names, like Harper and Riley. If you’re lucky, you’ll be born to real envelope pushers. Maybe you’ll be named Person or Human!
Between 80 and 100 babies were born each month in the eight-mile square district of Poplar. “If there’s one thing I’ll say about East End mums, it’s that they love their kids,” adds [Sister] Christine. “In the 100 years we were there, just one baby was abandoned on our doorstep. We cared for him before the police came. They named him John Divine.”
(Speaking of Call the Midwife…the convent in the show, Nonnatus House, is named for St. Raymond Nonnatus. His nickname Nonnatus, Latin for “not born,” refers to the fact that he was born by Caesarean section because his mother died while giving birth to him.)
My husband and I have kept our boy and girl name choices on the DL because we want the special privilege of introducing our first joint venture (a.k.a. child) to the world with as much pomp and circumstance as we can muster. Plus, we love surprises.
Well the other day while chatting with friends about what people are calling their kids these days, our boy name came up and got slammed!
I couldn’t hide my horrified reaction, thinking “Great, back to the drawing board!”
But my husband surprised me by saying he liked hearing the negative reaction because it didn’t change his emotional connection to our choice.
Name crisis averted, but lesson learned: Keep mum on baby name talk!