This comes from a newspaper article published in the mid-1960s:
The American melting pot has made something of a stew of old world cultures. Isaac and Rebecca Goldberg are the parents not of Moses and Rachael, but of Donald and Marie. Hjalmar and Sigrid Johanson are the parents of Richard and Dorothy. It seems rather a shame that Axel and Jens, Helma and Ingeborg, not to mention Stanislaus and Giacomo and Pedro and Vladimir have just about disappeared. The custom seems to be for the first generation to anglicize the given name as soon as possible. The next generation or two branches out and we get Pat Johnson, even Angus Puccini. Then, after a few generations, there is a tentative reach backward for the Shawns or even the Seans. Katy’s real name may again be Caitlin, Pat’s Padriac.
The last two sentences are rather prescient. We see many parents nowadays taking that “tentative reach backward” to find a name that pays tribute to their cultural heritage. The key, of course, is finding a name that conforms to modern tastes. Names like Hjalmar and Zbigniew may be legit family names, but they’re probably a no-go. Family names like Giuliana and Liam, on the other hand, fit right in.
Source: “Quite a Problem, Naming the Baby.” Eugene Register-Guard 9 Feb. 1964: 10A.
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, chose unusual names for their five children:
Track, boy, 19 years old
Bristol, girl, 17
Willow, girl, 14
Piper, girl, 7
Trig, boy 4 months
Todd explained the origins of the names in a recent interview with People:
Sarah’s parents were coaches and the whole family was involved in track and I was an athlete in high school, so with our first-born, I was, like, ‘Track!’ Bristol is named after Bristol Bay. That’s where I grew up, that’s where we commercial fish. Willow is a community there in Alaska. And then Piper, you know, there’s just not too many Pipers out there and it’s a cool name. And Trig is a Norse name for “strength.”
But wait…in an earlier MSNBC interview, a Palin spokesperson had stated that Trig was a Norse name meaning “true” and “brave victory.” The Bad Baby Names Blog takes issue with both definitions:
Trig doesn’t appear to be any kind of “Nordic” name, as the family claims. There’s “Trygg”, a Norwegian name which means “safe” or “reliable” – but there’s unfortunately no “brave victory.”
Regardless of its meaning, Trig was the name of the baby’s great uncle, KTUU News learned from Sarah Palin’s father. He also mentioned that one of Trig’s middle names, Paxson, was chosen in honor of Paxson, Alaska — home of the Arctic Man snowmobile festival.
Several sources, including the NY Daily News, have suggested that Piper’s name was inspired by the Piper PA-18 Super Cub, a bush plane popular in Alaska.
Odd names tend to elicit strong reactions — mostly negative reactions, in this case. For instance, Rachael Brownell of Strollerderby calls the names “bizarre.” Conservative political commentator Debbie Schlussel says they’re “[w]hacked out and pretentious. And frankly, stupid.” Nancy Friedman of Fritinancy asks: “Do we want someone with such poor judgment in naming to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?”
How do you feel about the names?
Update, 6/2020: Looking back at the data for 2008, we can see that the focus on Palin — and her young baby Trig, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome — boosted the rare name Trig back into the SSA data after an absence of over 40 years.