“Mummy” Baby Names: Anubis, Mathayus

Anubis
Anubis

A slew of Mummy-movies have come out since The Mummy in 1999.

After going through the names of the main characters in all the films, I came away with several that might have influenced the baby name data (Imhotep, Pollux, Valina) but only two that I considered slam-dunks: Anubis and Mathayus.

The Mummy Returns (2001) was the second film in the series, but the first to feature the wolf-headed god Anubis. A year after the movie came out, the baby name Anubis debuted in the data:

  • 2004: unlisted
  • 2003: unlisted
  • 2002: 10 baby boys named Anubis
  • 2001: unlisted
  • 2000: unlisted

Anubis was the god of “death, mummification, embalming, the afterlife, cemeteries, tombs, and the underworld” in ancient Egypt. “Anubis” is actually the Greek form of the name — in ancient Egypt, the god was known as “Inpw.” His name could have been derived from an Egyptian word meaning “royal child, prince,” or from a different Egyptian word meaning “to decay.”

The second film also featured a bad-guy character called the “Scorpion King” (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). In the 2002 spin-off movie The Scorpion King, this character was not only turned into a good guy, but also given a birth name: Mathayus. Right on cue, the baby name Mathayus debuted in the data:

  • 2005: 7 baby boys named Mathayus
  • 2004: 7 baby boys named Mathayus
  • 2003: 11 baby boys named Mathayus [debut]
  • 2002: unlisted
  • 2001: unlisted

Mathayus was an Akkadian warrior, but the name “Mathayus” doesn’t seem to be Akkadian. My guess is that the movie-makers simply got creative with the Biblical name Matthias.

Which of these two names do you like more, Anubis or Mathayus?

Which do you prefer, Anubis or Mathayus?

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Sources: Anubis – Behind the Name, Anubis – Wikipedia

The Horrific Baby Name Samara

Samara Morgan (played by Daveigh Chase) in “The Ring” (2002)

Halloween is a few days away, so here’s a pair of horror-imbued baby names, each of which got a boost from the same scary film.

That film was The Ring, released in October of 2002. The film’s main character was a journalist dealing with a cursed videotape (that killed anyone who watched it). But the film’s memorable character — as in all good horror films — was the villain: the vengeful spirit of a little girl named Samara (sah-MAHR-ah) Morgan. Samara was played by young actress Daveigh (dah-VAY) Chase.

The year after The Ring came out, the name Samara saw a steep rise in usage, and the name Daveigh debuted in the U.S. data:

Samara usageDaveigh usage
2005825 baby girls (rank: 380th)12 baby girls
2004857 baby girls (rank: 365th)21 baby girls
2003656 baby girls (rank: 456th)22 baby girls [debut] [peak]
2002242 baby girls (rank: 929th)unlisted
2001261 baby girls (rank: 883rd)unlisted

The Ring did well at the box office, and it was followed by two successful sequels: The Ring Two (released in March of 2005) and Rings (February of 2017).

Daveigh Chase was not actively involved in either sequel, so her name didn’t see any subsequent boosts in the data. But Samara Morgan was central to both films (of course) and we can see the corresponding peaks in usage of “Samara” in 2006 and 2018:

(The rise that began in 2016 may have been kicked off by Australian actress Samara Weaving, who was being called a “newcomer” in Hollywood around that time.)

The Ring was a remake of the 1998 Japanese film Ringu, which was based on the 1991 Japanese novel Ringu by Koji Suzuki. In the novel and the original film, the little girl was named Sadako Yamamura. I couldn’t find any information on why the American version of the character was renamed “Samara” specifically, but my guess is that “Samara” was chosen simply because it was a 3-syllable S-name like Sadako.

What are your thoughts on the name Samara? Would you use it (despite the horrific association)?

Source: The Ring (2002 film) – Wikipedia

P.S. Other horror-filled names we’ve discussed before include Rhoda, Thedy, Tippi, Pleshette, Marnie, Annabelle, Aristede, Jamison, Josette, and Angelique.

The Launch of Lara

Yesterday we looked at the baby name Laura, which saw a curious dip in usage from 1965 to 1967:

You know what was happening at the very same time? A drastic increase in the usage of the very similar name Lara, which suddenly jumped into the top 1,000 in 1966:

Here’s the data, side-by-side:

Laura usage (rank)Lara usage (rank)
196818,743 baby girls (11th)1,295 baby girls (227th)
196715,817 baby girls (15th)945 baby girls (277th)
196615,549 baby girls (19th)236 baby girls (618th)
196516,213 baby girls (18th)65 baby girls (1,376th)
196418,974 baby girls (14th)57 baby girls (1,512th)

So…what caused Lara to suddenly skyrocket (and thereby steal some of Laura’s thunder)?

Doctor Zhivago movie poster

The film Doctor Zhivago, which was released at the very end of 1965 and which, accounting for inflation, currently ranks as the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S.

Doctor Zhivago, based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name, was a drama set in Russia during the early 1900s — primarily around the time of WWI and the Russian Revolution. The main character was married physician/poet Yuri Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif), who was having an affair with Larisa “Lara” Antipova (played by Julie Christie), the wife of a political activist.

But it was more than just the character — we can’t ignore the influence of the film’s leitmotif “Lara’s Theme.” After Doctor Zhivago came out, it was turned into a Grammy-winning pop song, “Somewhere, My Love,” that name-checked the character in the lyrics:

Lara, my own, think of me now and then
Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again

Renditions of both versions of the song ended up peaking on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” list during the summer of 1966: Ray Conniff’s “Somewhere, My Love” at #9, and Roger Williams’ “Lara’s Theme” at #65.

Ironically, the names Lara and Laura are not related. Laura comes from the Latin name Laurus, meaning “laurel,” whereas the Russian name Lara is a short form of the Greek myth name Larisa, which may have been inspired by the ancient city of Larisa.

The movie also seems to have given a boost to the name Yuri (which had debuted a few years earlier thanks to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin). And it must be connected somehow to the 1980 debut of the one-hit wonder name Zhivago. (Perhaps it was airing on TV around that time?) “Zhivago” isn’t a Russian surname, incidentally — it’s a Church Slavonic word meaning “the living.”

Getting back to Lara…the name’s popularity declined after the 1960’s, but, so far, it has never dropped out of the top 1,000. (The uptick in usage in 2001-2002 corresponds to the release of the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which starred Angelina Jolie.)

Now let’s try a poll: Which name do you prefer, Lara or Laura? Give me your reasons in the comments!

Which name do you prefer, Lara or Laura?

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Sources: Doctor Zhivago (film) – Wikipedia, Doctor Zhivago – Orthodox England, Lara’s Theme – Wikipedia, Top 10 Highest-Grossing Films of All Time in the US, Ray Conniff – Billboard, Roger Williams – Billboard, Ray Conniff – Grammy.com, Laura – Behind the Name, Lara – Behind the Name

P.S. A woman named Lara after the Zhivago character was mentioned in Name Quotes 78.

The Inception of Sway

sway, gone in 60 seconds, movie, character
Angelina Jolie as Sara “Sway” Wayland

The word Sway popped up for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 2001:

  • 2003: 14 baby girls and 5 baby boys named Sway
  • 2002: 12 baby girls named Sway
  • 2001: 8 baby girls named Sway [debut]
  • 2000: unlisted
  • 1999: unlisted

For a long time I assumed the main influence was MTV personality Sway Calloway. But, while I still think Sway had an influence on male usage, I’ve since discovered a much better explanation for the 2001 debut as a female name.

One of the main characters in the 2000 car heist film Gone in 60 Seconds was mechanic-slash-bartender Sara “Sway” Wayland (played by Angelina Jolie). She was the love interest of protagonist Randall “Memphis” Raines (played by Nicolas Cage), who was tasked with stealing 50 specific, expensive cars inside of 72 hours.

The film didn’t get great reviews, but I do remember appreciating the fact that each of the 50 cars was assigned a feminine code-name:

Mary, Barbara, Lindsey, Laura, Alma, Madeline, Patricia, Carol, Daniela, Stefanie, Erin, Pamela, Olga, Anne, Kate, Vanessa, Denise, Diane, Lisa, Nadine, Angelina, Rose, Susan, Tracey, Rachel, Bernadene, Deborah, Stacey, Josephine, Hillary, Kimberley, Renee, Dorothy, Donna, Samantha, Ellen, Gabriela, Shannon, Jessica, Sharon, Tina, Marsha, Natalie, Virginia, Tanya, Grace, Ashley, Cathy, Lynn, Eleanor

So, how do you feel about the name Sway? If you were having a baby girl, would you be more likely to name her something modern, like Sway, or something traditional, like Sara or Susan?

Sources: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia, Talk:Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia

The Rise of Angelina & Jolie

Angelina Jolie, Tomb Raider, 2001, movie

Actress Angelina Jolie was a rising star in the late ’90s and early 2000s, thanks to movies like Gia (1998), Girl, Interrupted (1999), Gone in 60 Seconds (2000), and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001).

But she wasn’t just becoming a familiar face in the movie theaters — she was also having a strong influence on baby names. In 2000, the name Jolie broke into the U.S. top 1,000 for the first time, and, a year later, the name Angelina entered the top 100 for the first time:

Angelina usage (ranking)Jolie usage (ranking)
20034,271 baby girls (71st)377 baby girls (691st)
20023,979 baby girls (74th)412 baby girls (620th)
20013,368 baby girls (93rd)385 baby girls (655th)
20002,140 baby girls (157th)275 baby girls (820th)
19991,327 baby girls (237th)152 baby girls (1,241st)
19981,167 baby girls (268th)109 baby girls (1,536th)

Best of all, though, are the debuts of Anjolina and Anjolie — names that cleverly blend “Angelina” with “Jolie” — in 2000. I know of other actresses (e.g., Cyd Charisse, Pier Angeli) who popularized both their first and last names, but Angie is the only one I know of to inspire mash-ups like this.

Which name do you like better for a baby girl, Angelina or Jolie? (Or do you prefer one of the portmanteaus?)

Source: Angelina Jolie – Rotten Tomatoes