How popular is the baby name Zen in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Zen and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Zen.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Zen

Number of Babies Named Zen

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Zen

American Gladiator Names vs. Real-Life Baby Names

american gladiators trading card
I had no idea American Gladiators trading cards existed before I wrote this post.
Ready for a game?

The original American Gladiators TV show (1989-1996) featured 32 American Gladiators and 31 mostly-tough-sounding Gladiator names. (Why 31? Because “Lace” was used twice.) Here are the 31 names:

  1. Atlas
  2. Blaze
  3. Bronco
  4. Cyclone
  5. Dallas
  6. Diamond
  7. Elektra
  8. Gemini
  9. Gold
  10. Havoc
  11. Hawk
  12. Ice
  13. Jade
  14. Jazz
  15. Lace
  16. Laser
  17. Malibu
  18. Nitro
  19. Rebel
  20. Sabre
  21. Siren
  22. Sky
  23. Storm
  24. Sunny
  25. Tank
  26. Thunder
  27. Titan
  28. Tower
  29. Turbo
  30. Viper
  31. Zap

The short-lived American Gladiators remake (2008) featured 20 new gladiators and 18 new tough-sounding gladiator names. (Why 18? Because Siren and Titan were recycled from the original.) Here are the 18 new names:

  1. Beast
  2. Crush
  3. Fury
  4. Hellga
  5. Hurricane
  6. Jet
  7. Justice
  8. Mayhem
  9. Militia
  10. Panther
  11. Phoenix
  12. Rocket
  13. Stealth
  14. Steel
  15. Toa
  16. Venom
  17. Wolf
  18. Zen

So here’s the game: Try to guess what percentage of the 31 original Gladiator names and what percentage of the 18 new Gladiator names have appeared on at least one of the SSA’s annual baby name lists. (To appear on a list, a name has to be given to at least 5 U.S. babies in a single year.)

Come up with your guesses before reading on!


Ok, here are the answers.

Of the 31 original American Gladiator names, 23 have appeared on an SSA list: Atlas, Blaze, Bronco, Dallas, Diamond, Elektra, Gemini, Gold, Havoc, Hawk, Jade, Jazz, Lace, Malibu, Rebel, Sabre, Siren, Sky, Storm, Sunny, Tank, Thunder and Titan. That’s 74%.

Of the 18 remake American Gladiator names, 9 have appeared on an SSA list: Fury, Jet, Justice, Phoenix, Rocket, Steel, Toa, Wolf and Zen. That’s exactly 50%.

How close did you get to 74% and 50%?

Name Quotes for the Weekend #14

name quote amy poehler

From an interview with Amy Poehler in The Daily Beast:

Amy Poehler has five parenting tips: “Always remember your kid’s name. Always remember where you put your kid. Don’t let your kid drive until their feet can reach the pedals. Use the right size diapers…for yourself. And, when in doubt, make funny faces.”

From an old episode of the The Rachel Maddow Show:

[T]he single, least important but most amazing thing about covering the life and times of Buddy Cianci for me was always the name of his wife. Buddy Cianci was married to a woman named Nancy Ann. Here name is Nancy Ann Cianci. Nancy Ann Cianci — the single, most awesome name in all of the names tangentially related to American political scandal ever. Nancy Ann Cianci.

From The baby name dilemma: sensible English or crazy Californian? in the Telegraph:

Why not give my first born a head start in Californian life? I’m sure when he’s older and I take him and his mates Zen and Jazz out for a wheatgrass smoothie, he’d thank me for it. But what if his cruel English father one day moves him back to London? What then for poor Dove, as he tries to make friends with all the Toms and Harrys back in Blighty? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it: Tom and Harry would throw bird s*** at him and then flush his head down the bog.

From a 2003 interview with Jhumpa Lahiri in the New York Times:

JG: In the new book, you explain that all Bengalis have private pet names and public “good names.” But the main character in “The Namesake” is given only one name: Gogol, after the Russian writer.

JL: That happened to me. My name, Jhumpa, which is my only name now, was supposed to be my pet name. My parents tried to enroll me in school under my good name, but the teacher asked if they had anything shorter. Even now, people in India ask why I’m publishing under my pet name instead of a real name.

JG: What does Jhumpa mean?

JL: Jhumpa has no meaning. It always upset me. It’s like jhuma, which refers to the sound of a child’s rattle, but with a “p.” In this country, you’d never name your child Rattle. I actually have two good names, Nilanjana and Sudeshna. My mother couldn’t decide. All three are on the birth certificate. I never knew how to write my name.

From a live chat with Prudie of Slate:

Q. Who Is Courtney?: I’ve noticed that whenever you need to make up a fictional female name, you always pick “Courtney.” What’s up with that? Just curious!

A: I used to reflexively write, “Denise” and I once got a funny letter from a Denise asking what a Denise ever did to me. Good point that I need a name book by my computer. I like Courtney because I don’t know any and it’s a likely name of a person in her 20s, the way Susan is Courtney’s mother, Dorothy is her grandmother, and Myrna is her great-grandmother.

…and later in the same chat:

Q. Re: Courtney: I once had a professor who would reflexively use the name “Stacy” for a generic female and then mutter, to a room full of students born in the ’80s, “That’s such an ’80s name.” The Stacys in the room—and there always was at least one—got a good laugh out of it.

A: I’ll add this to my repertoire! But a quick look at a reference confirms my sense that Stacy is such a ’70s name.

From an article on ostentatious baby names:

The reason is simple. If you really want your kid to be special, a name is not going to do it. Your kid is going to have to earn it. She is going to have to work hard and sacrifice. She’ll have to try and fail and eventually find her place — find whatever she’s good at — and then work harder to develop her talents.

It will be easier to do that if she is humble. And it will be easier for her to be humble if she doesn’t have a name that makes her think she’s precious and special and God’s gift to the universe (such as Nevaeh, which is heaven spelled backward).

It’s nobody’s fault that we’re screwing up kids’ names — we’re screwing up a lot of things. We’re doing it because we’re able to. We’re able to because the American experiment has produced untold wealth — which shifted our focus from trying to subsist, as our parents did, to fretting over what to name our kids.

We have to knock it off, though.

From an ESPN interview with Frostee Rucker, football player:

How did you get the name Frostee?

“My pop [Len] was a DJ while he was in the military and they called him DJ Frost because they said he was cold on the spins. [They called him] Frost, Frostee all that. No matter what he named me they were going to call me Little Frost anyway, so they named me Frostee.”

So Frostee is your given name?

“Yup, that’s my given name.”

What was it like growing up named Frostee?

“It sucked growing up really because kids at Christmas time and teachers, and me being African American, it just didn’t all come together but about [the] time I came to high school it became a household name in Orange County (Calif.).

“It’s just benefited [me] from then. It’s always caught peoples’ eye in the paper and they wanted to know more. So I don’t know if I’ll name my kid that if I ever have one but at the same time being unique isn’t bad either.”

From German Court Upholds Ban on Extra-Long Names in TIME Magazine:

The decision on which names to accept and which to reject is generally left to the local registrar, but that decision can be contested in court. And sometimes the court’s ruling can seem rather arbitrary. While the names Stompie, Woodstock and Grammophon have been rejected by German courts in the past, the similarly creative parents of Speedy, Lafayette and Jazz were granted their name of choice.

(Grammophon is German for Gramophone.)

From a Slate article on Puritan names:

A wide variety of Hebrew names came into common usage beginning in 1560, when the first readily accessible English Bible was published. But by the late 16th century many Puritan communities in Southern Britain saw common names as too worldly, and opted instead to name children after virtues or with religious slogans as a way of setting the community apart from non-Puritan neighbors. Often, Puritan parents chose names that served to remind the child about sin and pain.

(The book they used as a source — Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature — is one I’ve referenced here on the blog a bunch of times, in posts about Acts of the Apostles, George William Frederic, Gib & Tib, Job-Rakt-Out-of-the-Asshes, Nan & Nanny, Posthumus, Robert and Tibbe.)

From an article about tennis-playing sisters Alicia “Tornado” Black and Tyra Hurricane Black:

[I]t’s their mom, Gayal Black, who is behind the girls’ brand-worthy names, designed to minimize comparisons with Venus and Serena Williams, and establish a unique, powerful identities for the sisters.

“I have a marketing degree…and I knew I needed to do something for them to stand out, and we thought it was cute,” Gayal told ESPNW.

Tornado was born Alicia, but Gayal says the nickname came from her daughter’s ferocious tennis skills as a three-year-old. “We couldn’t believe how amazing she was and we knew then we had a champion. When the next one was born, we knew she could do it, too, and so her [legal] name is Tyra Hurricane.”

“[Tornado didn’t like her name] a few years ago. Kids tease you. But now they understand it’s marketing and it’s very big to say a storm blew through the US Open.”

Dad Sly added that the names started as “a little joke” but “turned out to be a pretty big deal.”

“Yes, Tornado and Hurricane are names for marketable athletes, but that’s a big part of it nowadays, and if you can get a good, strong name, all the better.”

(Found out about the Black sisters via Abby – thanks!)