It’s Elvis Presley’s birthday* — that means it’s time to kick off the annual Pop Culture Baby Name Game!
So how do you play the game? Simply brainstorm for baby names that could have gotten a boost in usage in 2018 thanks to the influence popular culture: movies, music, television, social media, video games, sports, politics, products, trends, etc.
Here are some names we can start with:
Araminta – movie, Crazy Rich Asians character
Astrid – movie, Crazy Rich Asians character
Avicii – music/news, the late Swedish DJ Avicii
Banks – celebrity baby (Hilary Duff)
Billion – celebrity baby (Rick Ross)
Braven – movie, Braven
Canon – celebrity baby (Stephen Curry)
Cardi – music, rapper Cardi B
Carson – sports, Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz (particularly in PA)
Carvena – TV, The Four: Battle for Stardom contestant
Nalu was a character played by actress Ramsay Ames in the film Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944).
Nan Christy was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in 1894. Nan was also a character name in multiple films, including Nan’s Victory (short, 1914) and Nan of the North (1922).
Nazama was a character played by actress Binnie Barnes in the film The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938).
Alla Nazimova, often credited simply as Nazimova, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in Russia (now Ukraine) in 1879. Her birth name was Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon. Alla was also a character played by actress Sally Crute in the film The Cossack Whip (1916).
Nea was a character played by actress Dona Drake in the film Aloma of the South Seas (1941).
Neleta was a character played by actress Steffi Duna in the film Anthony Adverse (1936).
Nelga Petrona was a character played by actress Julia Swayne Gordon in the short film The Tigress (1915).
Nell Craig was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in New Jersey in 1891. Nell Shipman was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Canada in 1892. Her birth name was Helen Foster-Barham. Nell was also a character name in multiple films, including The Reward of Thrift (short, 1914) and Nell Gwyn (1926).
Nennah was a character played by actress Ynez Seabury in the film The Calgary Stampede (1925).
Neola May was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in California in 1891. Neola was also a character played by actress Betty Schade in the short film Olana of the South Seas (1914).
Netta Westcott was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in England in 1893. Netta was also a character played by actress Linda Darnell in the film Hangover Square (1945).
Nirvena was a character played by actress Stephanie Bachelor in the film Lady of Burlesque (1943).
Nista was a character played by actress Caroline Frances Cooke in the film The Devil Bear (1929).
Nita Naldi was an actress who appeared in films in the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1894. Her birth name was Mary Nonna Dooley. Nita was also a character name in multiple films, including Jane Goes A’ Wooing (1919) and Two Gun Sheriff (1941).
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
By now, I’ve heard all the jokes about Utah names, but what I haven’t heard is a unified theory of just why the Mormon people of Utah are so inclined to create them. I humbly offer two hypotheses.
The first is my historical-cultural theory—that the penchant for invented names among Mormons lies in its very foundation: It goes all the way back to its founder, Joseph Smith, who had to come up with the names of hundreds of figures to populate the faith’s foundational text that he wrote, the Book of Mormon.
My second theory is more sociological. […] [I]f you’re a Mormon kid in Utah, it can be hard to stand out from the pack. A differently spelled name or a new name altogether might be a reasonable way to firm up a sense of individuality from the first day. Why bring yet another Erin into the world when you can introduce an Aeryn, or better yet, an Aroarin?
When Renee Cupp became pregnant with her daughter, she toyed around with a few names. For a while, Lily was the front runner, until she and her husband had the idea to name their second child after their favorite chocolate and peanut butter candy. So, eight years ago, the couple printed the name Reese Eve Cupp on their daughter’s birth certificate.
Although the correct pronunciation of the candy is “Rees-IS,” Cupp tells PEOPLE that she has always pronounced it “Rees-EES,” which is a common inflection of the popular chocolate brand, thus the addition of her daughter’s middle initial.
[Dr. Pascaline Faure] said that a clear trend was for names ending in “a” associated with femininity, as in “Maria”, or an “o”, which is masculine, as in “Mario”. “This is turning a drug into a sort of mate. It can be a girlfriend, with women’s attributes, or a boyfriend, with male ones,” she said.
I want my son, who is almost 2, to feel the history of his ancestors as something joyful and not heavy. I want him to recognize all the improbable elements that had to align; all the miracles that kept his grandfathers alive through their difficult lives long enough to create the families that would lead to his birth. I hope that, by giving him the gift of an unburdened name, he will be able to create a life that is equally as incredible as his grandfathers’ — a life that is already miraculous just by existing.
In Melbourne, Australia, where she was born and raised in a culturally traditional Sudanese household with her mom, dad and six siblings, her peers at school couldn’t pronounce her real name, and it got to an unbearable point. […] Of course, neither name was something commonly found amongst Australian citizens. As she explains, both the words “Nyadak” and “Thot” are, in fact, Nuer, a South Sudanese language that’s native to the Nuer tribe. “Oh yeah,” she says wryly after noticing my surprised facial expression. “Many people don’t know I come from a tribe.”