The Start of Sylar

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Quinto as Sylar

The futuristic-sounding name Sylar debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 2006:

  • 2010: 76 baby boys named Sylar
  • 2009: 91 baby boys named Sylar [peak]
  • 2008: 47 baby boys named Sylar
  • 2007: 38 baby boys named Sylar
  • 2006: 9 baby boys named Sylar [debut]
  • 2005: unlisted

(A smattering of baby girls have been named Sylar as well.)

What put this name on the onomastic map?

Sylar, the primary antagonist of the TV show Heroes (2006-2010). Played by Zachary Quinto, Sylar was a super-human serial killer with a strong desire to feel special and admired. So, he hunted down other people with super-human powers, killed them, and absorbed their abilities.

Sylar’s birth name was Gabriel Gray, and he was originally a watchmaker. Upon giving up his old way of life, he adopted an alter-ego and renamed himself Sylar, taken from a (fictitious) brand of watches. Here’s how one author described the name change:

In Sylar’s mind, Gabriel Gray [had] become “a name.” Unlike an anonymous watchmaker, who — despite the implications of his job title — does not really make watches, but in fact only repairs broken watches brought in by equally anonymous customers, Sylar [took] his name and thus his identity from an origin that [implied] both a certain level of activity and creativity — in that the brand really [did] produce watches — and [constituted] a brand thus signifying fame and achievement.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Sylar? (Do you like it more or less than the similar name Skylar?)

Sources:

  • Caeners, Torsten. “”You’re Broken. I Can Fix You”: Negotiating Concepts of U.S. Ideology.” Investigating Heroes: Essays on Truth, Justice and Quality TV, ed. by David Simmons, McFarland & Company, 2012, pp. 130-143.
  • Sylar – Wikipedia

The War-Inspired Name Nasiriyah

The name Nasiriyah was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in 2003:

  • 2005: unlisted
  • 2004: unlisted
  • 2003: 15 baby girls named Nasiriyah [debut]
  • 2002: unlisted
  • 2001: unlisted

Where did “Nasiriyah” come from, and what happened in 2003 to draw people’s attention to it?

It came from the city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. The city was founded and named after a local sheikh name Nasir in the 1870s. (The Arabic name Nasir means “helper.”)

The event that introduced Nasiriyah to the American public was the Iraq War (which overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein and, thereby, had an influence on Iraqi baby names). The Battle of Nasiriyah, one of the first major battles of the war, was fought between U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces and lasted from March 23 to April 2.

(One of the female soldiers involved in the battle, Jessica Lynch, had a baby girl in 2007 and gave her the middle name Ann in honor of Lori Ann Piestewa, the first woman in the U.S. military killed in the Iraq War.)

What do you think of Nasiriyah as a baby name? Do you like it more or less than the similar names Nayirah and Nasiya?

Sources: Nasiriyah – Wikipedia, U.S. Marines in Battle: An-Nasiriyah (PDF)

The Arrival of Aeris (and Aerith)

The baby name Aeris debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1998.

The curious name Aeris first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1998:

  • 2001: 26 baby girls named Aeris
  • 2000: 26 baby girls named Aeris
  • 1999: 22 baby girls named Aeris
  • 1998: 23 baby girls named Aeris [debut]
  • 1997: unlisted

Where did it come from?

The role-playing video game Final Fantasy VII, which was released in early 1997 for PlayStation and later for other platforms.

The game was set on a nameless planet whose future was up for grabs. The antagonist, Sephiroth, was out to destroy the planet, whereas the protagonist, Cloud Strife, sought to save the planet from destruction.

Aeris was one of Cloud’s friends. (In fact, he had a bit of a crush on her.) She was the last surviving member of one of the planet’s oldest races, the Cetra, and thereby had access to planet-protecting magical powers.

final fantasy, aeris death scene
Cloud holding Aeris’s body (Sephiroth in background)

In a now-infamous plot twist, Aeris was unexpectedly killed by Sephiroth. (Aeris was kneeling and praying, eyes closed, when Sephiroth descended from the sky and ran her through from behind with a sword — all right in front of Cloud.)

And here’s another twist: the character’s English name was never supposed to be “Aeris” — even if it does sound like the word “heiress,” which is fitting, given her racial status.

FFVII was created in Japan, and the character’s Japanese name is Earisu. The official English transliteration of her name is Aerith, based on the English words “air” and “earth.” But, somehow, Aeris is what ended up in the game.

The transliteration was corrected in later Final Fantasy games and in the Kingdom Hearts series (which combined FF characters with Disney characters). In fact, the first Kingdom Hearts game was released in 2002, and official spelling Aerith debuted in the U.S. baby name data the very next year:

  • 2007: 11 baby girls named Aerith
  • 2006: 10 baby girls named Aerith
  • 2005: unlisted
  • 2004: unlisted
  • 2003: 5 baby girls named Aerith [debut]
  • 2002: unlisted

What are your thoughts on the baby names Aeris and Aerith? I’d especially love to hear the opinions of any gamers out there!

Sources: Final Fantasy VII – Wikipedia, The Real Reason Aeris’s Death Made You Cry

The Source of Shakira

shakira, baby name, movies, 1970s
Shakira in Dec. 1975

These days, when you say the name Shakira, most people think of the Colombian singer (“Hips Don’t Lie”) who became famous in the U.S. in the early 2000s. In fact, the name saw peak usage in 2002 thanks to her.

But the name Shakira first caught the attention of America’s expectant parents decades earlier:

  • 1973: 74 baby girls named Shakira
  • 1972: 20 baby girls named Shakira
  • 1971: 7 baby girls named Shakira
  • 1970: 12 baby girls named Shakira [debut]
  • 1969: unlisted

Why?

Because of Shakira Baksh (later known as Shakira Caine).

She was born and raised in British Guiana to Muslim Indian parents who had relocated from the Kashmir region of British India.

In 1967, she won the Miss Guyana contest and placed third in the Miss World contest in London. Following that, she became a London-based model and actress.

In early 1970, she was mentioned (and pictured) in a short article in the “Youth Notes” section of Parade magazine (the Sunday newspaper magazine distributed in U.S. papers nationwide). Here’s the piece in full:

Ever since Diahann Carroll hit it big in the “Julia” TV series, television producers the world ever have been scouting for other talented black beauties to star in a weekly program.

In England, Shakira Baksh, 22, who came to London from Guyana in 1967 as contender in the Miss World beauty contest, has just been signed in a new and as yet unfilled weekly series.

The objective in starring Shakira is to attract a large share of the non-white TV audience.

And, right on cue, we see her name debut in the data.

Shakira Baksh married Michael Caine, star of Alfie, in early 1973. (He first spotted her in a Maxwell House commercial, believe it or not. Here’s the story of how they met [vid].) They appeared together in the 1975 movie The Man Who Would Be King together (along with Sean Connery, whose eyebrow is in the photo above) and on the cover of People together in 1976.

The name Shakira is Arabic and means “thankful” or “grateful.”

Sources: