In the early ’90s, he and wife, Pam, who grew up in Pinellas County, settled down in the Sunshine State, drawn by family ties and the promise of a nice, safe community in which to raise their son, Robin Taylor, now 23, and daughter, Robin-Sailor, 15. (Zander’s go-to line about his kids’ quirky names: “My wife just calls us Robin, and we all come running.”)
On November 7 1955, part-way through a two-year, Guggenheim-funded voyage around America, the photographer Robert Frank was arrested by Arkansas state police who suspected he was a communist. Their reasons: he was a shabbily dressed foreigner, he was Jewish, he had letters of reference from people with Russian-sounding names, he had photographed the Ford plant, possessed foreign whisky and his children had foreign names (Pablo and Andrea).
Contrary to what one might think, Rex Reason was his birth name, not one dreamed up by a Hollywood executive. Universal Pictures, in fact, had billed him as “Bart Roberts” in a couple of films before he insisted on being credited with his real name.
There seemed to be a bit of destiny attached. Her middle name, Ka-polioka’ehukai, means Heart of the Sea.
“Most Hawaiian grandparents name you before you’re born,” she says. “They have a dream or something that tells them what the name will be.” Hawaiians also have a knack for giving people rhythmic, dead-on nicknames, and for young Rell they had a beauty: Rella Propella.
“My godmother called me that because I was always moving so fast,” says Rell. “To this day, people think my real name is Rella. Actually I was born Roella, a combination of my parents’ names: Roen and Elbert. But I hated it, and no one used it, so I changed it to Rell.”
When [Kelechi Eke] was born, his mother experienced dangerous complications, which his parents acknowledged in his naming. In Igbo, Kelechi means “thank God”, and Eke means “creation”. The usual Igbo name for God, Chineke, means literally, “God of Creation”, and you can see both elements (chi + eke) in his two names. When K.C.’s own son was born, it was in the wake of difficulties in bringing his wife to the United States; consequently, they chose the name Oluchi, meaning “God’s work”, suggesting their gratitude that the immigration problems were resolved before his mother went into labor.
My name is Tsh Oxenreider, and no, my name is not a typo (one of the first things people ask). It’s pronounced “Tish.” No reason, really, except that my parents were experimental with their names choices in the 70s. Until my younger brother was born in the 80s, whom they named Josh, quite possibly one of the most common names for people his age. Who knows what they were thinking, really.
Boy Names (spellings combined)
But combining spellings isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. For instance, if “Amelia” is combined with “Emilia” (which is actually in the Emily family) then why wasn’t “Alivia” combined with “Olivia”? That would boost Olivia/Alivia into the #1 spot. And should “Eva” go with “Ava,” since they’re occasionally pronounced the same way…?
Here are some names from the other end of the rankings, each used just five times in 2015:
When a major celebrity chooses an uncommon baby name, there’s a good chance that name will become trendy.
Seems like this might be a modern phenomenon, right? Maybe tied to the rise of the Internet?
Nope. In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised at just how far back it goes.
Let’s take a look at celebrity baby names through the decades, focusing on those that inspired debuts on the SSA’s baby name list. (To debut, a rare names needs to be given to at least 5 babies of one gender or the other in a single year.)
Which baby name was the very first to debut on the charts thanks to a celebrity baby?
The answer depends on how strict you want to be about spelling.
If exact-spelling debuts are what you want, the first I know of doesn’t appear until the late ’40s.
If variant-spelling debuts are okay, though, there’s a celebrity baby name from the early ’40s that inspired a whopping six of them:
In October of 1941, actor/comedian George Jessel (43 years old) and showgirl Lois Andrews (17) welcomed a baby girl named Jerilyn.
The name Jerilyn itself had already been on the list for a few years, but usage rose significantly in both 1941 and 1942:
1943: 182 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 558th]
1942: 325 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 397th]
1941: 135 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 608th]
1940: 10 baby girls named Jerilyn
The popularity of similar names like Jerrilyn and Jerelyn also increased, and six other variants appeared on the national list for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942 (asterisks denote debuts):
I was skeptical about this one for a while, as I’d never heard of George Jessel before. Was he really high-profile enough for his baby to have that sort influence? Turns out he was indeed a popular entertainer from the ’20s until at least the ’50s. He’s the one responsible for the “Garland” part of Judy Garland’s stage name, and some sources even claim he invented the Bloody Mary.
Even more variants of Jerilyn (e.g., Gerilynn) debuted during the ’40s and early ’50s, when young Jerilyn was being mentioned in newspaper articles and appearing on TV and in films with her father. Here’s a fundraising film from 1953, for instance, featuring both George and Jerilyn.
Jerilyn Jessel’s influence on the U.S baby names was impressive, but, technically speaking, she didn’t put “Jerilyn” on the map.
The first exact-spelling celebrity baby name debut was Yasmin, which appeared on the list in 1949.
In December of 1949, actor Rita Hayworth and her husband Prince Aly Khan welcomed a baby girl named Yasmin. The same year, the baby name Yasmin appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
(The name Yasmin was late addition to the post. Thank you, Becca!)
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In October of 1951, actors Tyrone Power and Linda Christian welcomed their first baby, Romina, who was named after the church in Italy (Santa Francesca Romana) where they had married in 1949. The same year, the baby name Romina appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
In September of 1953, Power and Christian welcomed their second baby girl, Taryn, whose name was likely inspired by “Tyrone.” The same year, the baby name Taryn debuted on the list.
In November of 1956, boxer Floyd Patterson and his wife Sandra welcomed a baby girl named Seneca. The same year, the traditionally male name Seneca debuted on the list as a female name. Patterson said the name was inspired by a street in Brooklyn.
In October of 1958, singer/actor Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer welcomed a baby girl named Monsita — their fourth child. The same year, Monsita debuted. It fell off the list the very next year, though, making it a one-hit wonder.
Honorable mentions from the ’50s include:
Liza, which became more popular after Liz Taylor named her daughter Liza in 1957.
Tyrone, which became more popular after Tyrone Power named his third child Tyrone in 1959. The increased usage could also have been influenced by the death of the actor himself the same year, though.
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In September of 1961, singer of Nat King Cole and his wife Maria welcomed identical twin baby girls named Timolin and Casey. The same year, the baby name Timolin debuted on the list.
In September of 1965, actor/director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands welcomed a baby girl named Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes. The same year, the baby name Xan debuted on the list.
In October of 1967, singer Eddie Fisher and actress Connie Stevens welcomed a baby girl named Joely. The same year, the baby name Joely debuted on the list.
In June of 1968, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed a baby girl named Maryum. The same year, the baby name Maryum debuted on the list.
In March of 1969, singers Cher and Sonny Bono, welcomed a baby girl named Chastity. The same year, the baby name Chastity debuted on the list. In May of 2010, Chastity legally changed genders and adopted the name Chaz.
Honorable mentions from the ’60s include:
Dodd, which became more popular after Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee named their son Dodd in late 1961.
At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 1970, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed twin baby girls named Rasheda and Jamillah. The same year, the baby name Rasheda debuted on the list.
(An Ebony article from 1971 misspelled her name “Reeshemah.” The same year, there was a spike in the usage of Reeshemah and a dip in the usage of Rasheda.)
In 1971, comedian/activist Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian welcomed a baby girl named Ayanna. The same year, the baby name Ayanna debuted on the list.
In July of 1973, Dick Gregory and Lillian welcomed a baby boy named Yohance. The same year, the baby name Yohance debuted on the list.
In March of 1974, musician/producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton welcomed a baby girl named Kidada. The same year, the baby name Kidada debuted on the list.
In August of 1975, singer Tito Jackson (of The Jackson 5) and his wife Dee Dee welcomed a baby boy named Taryll. The same year, the baby name Taryll debuted on the list.
In April of 1975, singer Mary Wilson (of The Supremes) and her husband Pedro welcomed a baby girl named Turkessa. The same year, the baby name Turkessa debuted on the list. Turkessa was just 3 babies away from being the top baby name debut of the year. Here’s how Mary came up with the name:
Pedro brought me a beautiful plant. I asked him was it was called. “Turquesa,” he replied, “Spanish for turquoise.” So we named our daughter Turkessa.
In November of 1975, singer Diana Ross (also of The Supremes) and her husband Robert welcomed a baby girl named Chudney. The next year, the baby name Chudney debuted on the list. Here’s how Diana came up with the name:
Friends kept suggesting popular names like Courtney, but so many girl babies were getting that. I suddenly thought of something I liked very much — chutney. Only I didn’t know how to spell it — I put a ‘d’ where the ‘t’ should have been on the birth certificate. And that’s how my little girl became Chudney!
In 1978, Puerto Rican dancer/singer Iris Chacón and her husband Junno welcomed a baby girl named Katiria. The same year, the baby name Katiria debuted on the list. Most of these babies were born in New York.
At least three of the baby names that debuted during the 1980s were inspired by celebrity babies, and at least one was inspired by a celebrity grandbaby:
In September of 1984, singer Gladys Knight didn’t have a baby, but her son James (b. 1962) and his wife Michelene did. They welcomed a boy named Rishawn. The next year, the baby name Rishawn debuted on the list. It was one of the top debut names of 1985, in fact.
In November of 1986, football player Willie Gault and his wife Dainnese welcomed a baby girl named Shakari. The next year, the baby name Shakari debuted on the list.
I wrote about Condola a few months ago, but here’s a recap: In December of 1986, actress Phylicia Rashad and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad welcomed a baby girl named Condola. The next year, the baby name Condola debuted on the list.
In December of 1987, filmmaker/actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow welcomed a baby boy named Satchel. The next year, the baby name Satchel debuted on the list. He now goes by Ronan, and rumor has it that he is *possibly* the biological son of Frank Sinatra.
At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In July of 1991, actors Demi Moore and Bruce Willis welcomed a baby girl named Scout. (And in August, that famous image of 7-months-pregnant Demi ran on the cover of Vanity Fair.) The next year, the baby name Scout debuted on the list, for both genders.
In February of 1995, actor Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy welcomed twin baby girls named Aquinnah and Schuyler. The same year, the baby name Aquinnah debuted on the list. (I wrote more about the name Aquinnah a few years ago.)
In July of 1998, model Christie Brinkley and her husband Peter welcomed a baby girl named Sailor. The same year, the baby name Sailor debuted on the list as a girl name. It had debuted as a boy name the year before.
Honorable mentions from the ’90s include:
Ireland, which became more popular after Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger named their daughter Ireland in 1995.
Seven, which became more popular after Erykah Badu named her son Seven in 1997.
Zion, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her son Zion in 1997.
Selah, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her daughter Selah in 1998.
At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 2001, singer Shania Twain and her husband Robert welcomed a baby boy named Eja. The same year, the baby name Eja debuted on the list (as a girl name).
In August of 2001, actors Tisha Campbell-Martin and Duane Martin welcomed a baby boy named Xen. The same year, the baby name Xen debuted on the list.
In March of 2003, singer Toni Braxton and musician Keri Lewis welcomed a baby boy named Diezel. The same year, the baby name Diezel debuted on the list.
In June of 2005, magician Penn Jillette and his wife Emily welcomed a baby girl named Moxie (middle name CrimeFighter). The next year, the baby name Moxie debuted on the list.
In September of 2006, model Anna Nicole Smith and her partner Larry Birkhead welcomed a baby girl named Dannielynn. The next year, the baby name Dannielynn debuted on the list.
Honorable mentions from the ’00s include:
Massai, which became more popular after Nia Long named her son Massai in 2000.
Rocco, which became more popular after Madonna and Guy Ritchie named their son Rocco in 2000.
Denim, which became more popular after Toni Braxton named her son Denim in 2001.
Maddox, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted son Maddox in 2002.
Carys, which became more popular after Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas named their daughter Carys in 2003.
Stellan, which became more popular after Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their son Stellan in 2003.
Apple, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple in 2004.
Coco, which became more popular after Courtney Cox and David Arquette named their daughter Coco in 2004.
Zahara, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted daughter Zahara in 2005.
Moses, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their son Moses in 2006.
Kingston, which became more popular after Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale named their son Kingston in 2006.
Suri, which became more popular after Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their daughter Suri in 2006.
Shiloh, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter Shiloh in 2006.
Pax, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their adopted son Pax in 2007.
Harlow, which became more popular after Nicole Richie and Joel Madden named their daughter Harlow in 2008.
Knox & Vivienne, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their twins Knox and Vivienne in 2008.
Honor, which became more popular after Jessica Alba named her daughter Honor in 2008.
Nahla, which became more popular after Halle Berry named her daughter Nahla in 2008.
Bronx, which became more popular after Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son Bronx in 2008.
The transition from Lew to Kareem was not merely a change in celebrity brand name — like Sean Combs to Puff Daddy to Diddy to P. Diddy — but a transformation of heart, mind and soul. I used to be Lew Alcindor, the pale reflection of what white America expected of me. Now I’m Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the manifestation of my African history, culture and beliefs.
The adoption of a new name was an extension of my rejection of all things in my life that related to the enslavement of my family and people. Alcindor was a French planter in the West Indies who owned my ancestors. My forebears were Yoruba people, from present day Nigeria. Keeping the name of my family’s slave master seemed somehow to dishonor them. His name felt like a branded scar of shame.
Some fans still call me Lew, then seem annoyed when I ignore them. They don’t understand that their lack of respect for my spiritual choice is insulting. It’s as if they see me as a toy action figure, existing solely to decorate their world as they see fit, rather than as an individual with his own life.
Luu writes that words with “a nostalgic air, reflecting the cultural values and tastes of the speaker,” are suddenly popping up everywhere. These include: bespoke, peruse, dapper, mayhaps and bedchamber. You’ll also find that old-timey prepositions like amidst and amongst are back. The same goes for baby names that were long considered lost to the past, such as Silas and Adeline.
From a Graham Norton Show episode [vid] that aired in October, 2014, in which comedian Stephen Fry gives actor Robert Downey, Jr., a baby name suggestion:
Could you, just as a favor, cause I know that, you know, some stars like to give unusual names, could you call him or her Uppy? Uppy Downey?
Spoiler #1: Downey and his wife Susan welcomed a baby girl that November. But they didn’t name her “Uppy.” Her full name is Avri Roel Downey.
When Simone and I were first considering names, we thought we should err towards the gender neutral side of the girl-name spectrum. We know a good number of masculine-identifying women and so many trans men who haven’t liked their more feminine given names. But that’s the problem with “gender neutral.” It mostly has just come to mean sort-of masculine. Lover of femininity that I am, was I really willing to write off all the beautiful feminine names because our kid might not be femme?
We decided no, we wouldn’t do that. Our kid can change her name if and when she wants, and in the meantime, we will call her a name we love, even if that’s feminine! In any case, I have friends who’ve later changed their names not because of gender at all, but just because they wanted to be called something else, so there really are no guarantees.
Spoiler #2: Haley and Simone’s baby girl was born in late August. Her full name is Juniper Everhart Jude [vid].
From an article about a 21-year-old Ariel (pronounced “are-e-elle,” not “air-e-elle” like the Disney mermaid):
“I mean, it’s annoying when people say ‘Ariel’ because that’s not my name,” Malloy said. “But it’s great because they’ll be like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re a princess,’ and I’m like, ‘You’re right.'”
“Everyone thinks I made up my name or I changed it at some stage and I’m actually called Joanne. But I like having a different name. Brian and I squabble all the time over baby names – because I want to give any children we have an equally mad name as the one I was given.
“Our friends in Australia had a baby girl about four years ago when we were living there and they called her Sailor. Now Liv Tyler has had a boy and she’s named him Sailor. So that’s top of the list at the moment.”
I was born in 1937 to an American mother and a naturalized German father. I was named “Gretchen” which was a mistake since war with Germany was looming and there was a lot of anti-German sentiment. Anything German was stigmatized, even innocent little daschund dogs were kicked and hated for their German origin. I was referred to as “the little Nazi” in the neighborhood and school because of my name and my father’s heavily accented English. We moved when I was about 12 years old, and I took the opportunity to change my name, dropping “Gretchen” and insisting on being called by my middle name “Lesley.” My parents knew nothing of this, and were confused when the neighborhood children came to the door and asked for “Lesley.” It took a lot of self control not to respond to “Gretchen” or even acknowledge the someone had spoken to me, but gradually I morphed into “Lesley” and have since legally dropped my birth name.
Second one is from Lloret de Mar Pelayo:
I cringe when people ask me my name. In Spanish it sounds beautiful, even in it’s native Catalan accent, but in English it sounds dreadful.
Lloret De Mar is a city north of Barcelona, a beach town. The double L can be pronounced like a Y or a J. But in English everyone and I mean everyone sounds out the double L like the L in laughter. I feel terrible correcting people because they immediately question whether I spelled my own name wrong (“You know there’s two Ls right?”) And I politely smile and have to further explain…
My father is Catalan and he and my mother (who is Puerto Rican) wanted a name that reflected Catalan ancestry and therefore Lloret was what they picked. I absolutely love the history of the name and its ties to Catalan culture…I just wish they had spelled it with a Y or a J so it’d be easier to pronounce in English!
Here’s the Wikipedia page for Lloret de Mar, which is on the Mediterranean coast.