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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Alan


Posts that Mention the Name Alan

Name change: Bob Miller to Ben Lexcen

Winged keel of the Australia II racing yacht, winner of the 1983 America's Cup
Winged keel of the Australia II

In 1936, Robert “Bob” Miller was born in the Australian outback — “in bone-dry Boggabri, a long day’s voyage from the sea.”

So it’s intriguing that, in his teens, Miller developed an interest in sailboat design. He went on to become a professional marine architect.

In the early 1960s, Bob Miller and his friend Craig Whitworth founded a boat-building and sail-making company called Miller & Whitworth in Sydney.

Miller continued doing his own design work on the side, though. Most notably, he began collaborating with Australian millionaire Alan Bond on a series of racing yachts in the late 1960s.

The most famous of these yachts was the Australia II, which, in 1983, became the first non-American yacht to win the America’s Cup. This was the cup that Thomas Lipton had failed to win 5 times in a row, from 1899 to 1930, and that Bond and Miller themselves had also failed to win 3 times previously, from 1974 to 1980.

Except…by 1983, Bob Miller wasn’t “Bob Miller” anymore. He was Ben Lexcen.

Why the name change?

Because, in the mid-1970s, Miller and Whitworth had had a falling-out:

Miller left the firm, but found he could not take his name with him. “I had had a great design business, a fantastic business, and I lost all that,” says Lexcen. “They were advertising everywhere, and all my mail was going to them. I tried to get the post office to change it. Noooo. I just had to do something, so I changed my name. Lexcen was one of my wife’s family names from way back. I had a friend who had a computer check it against the mailing lists of the Reader’s Digest and American Express to see if there was anybody with that name, and there wasn’t, at least not in Australia.” And Ben? “I wanted the same number of letters.”

But that’s not the only version of the name-change story.

In another variation, when the time came Lexcen borrowed a word from the project he was working on at the moment — Lexan hatch covers — and added it to the name of his recently deceased dog, Benjie.

Specifics aside, Ben Lexcen (formerly Bob Miller) and the other members of the Australia II team became national heroes following their historical victory. In fact, a baby born in Melbourne around the time of the win was named Charles Australia II John Bertrand Ben Lexcen.

Sources:

Image: Adapted from Winged Keel of Americas Cup Yacht Australia II by Ken Hodge under CC BY 2.0.

Baby born to American activists, named “america”

Abbie Hoffman, Anita Kushner, and baby america Hoffman (early 1970s)
The Hoffman family

Media-savvy political activist Abbott “Abbie” Hoffman (1936-1989) and his second wife, Anita Kushner, welcomed a baby boy in mid-1971.

Abbie’s first two children (Andrew and Amy) didn’t have politicized names, but his third got the name america — deliberately spelled with a small a in order “to distinguish the child’s name from a jingoistic sentiment.”

[T]he birth of his and Anita’s son, “america,” was treated as a political statement, as an affirmation of their optimism about the future and their roots in American culture.

Anita added (years later) that they’d gone with a lower-case a “because [they] didn’t want to be pretentious.”

Another name they’d considered for their son? Tupac.

In the Hoffmans’ book To America with Love, one of the letters Anita wrote (in July of 1974) began:

I met Affeni [sic] Shakur today. What an up. She is vibrant, beautiful, wise with experience. We talked about our children a lot and the heavy history behind each. Did you know she named her son Tupac Amaru, after the last Inca prince who rebelled against the Spaniards? We had considered naming america that. Tupac’s the same age.

(Tupac’s mother’s name was actually spelled Afeni.)

Abbie Hoffman went underground in 1974 (in order to evade arrest). He remained in hiding, using the alias “Barry Freed,” for six years. During that period, Anita and america were under constant FBI surveillance. So Anita and Abbie began to call their son “Alan” as an added layer of protection.

Alan reverted back to his real name at the start of high school (in the mid-1980s), hoping that “america” would impress a “cute punk rock girl” in his class.

Sources:

Image: Adapted from Anita Hoffman with son by Leah Kushner under CC-BY-SA-4.0.

Where did the baby name Choya come from?

The character Choya from the movie "Branded" (1950).
Choya from “Branded

The prickly name Choya first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1951:

  • 1953: 5 baby boys named Choya
  • 1952: 6 baby boys named Choya
  • 1951: 9 baby boys named Choya [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

Where did it come from?

The western movie Branded, which was released in late 1950. It starred actor Alan Ladd as a gunslinger and “morally ambiguous loner” named Choya. Here’s how the movie started:

Choya, who has shot a man in self-defense, is trapped inside a store as men gather outside, on rooftops and behind wagons, to capture him. His hostage asks if he has any friends. Choya responds, “My guns.” Any kinfolk? “My horse.” And that’s all you need to know about Choya. (The fact that “Choya” is an English spelling for the Spanish word for “cactus” is telling.)

The Spanish word cholla (pronounced choy-uh) doesn’t quite mean cactus, but it does refer to a particular type of cactus. The cholla cactus has spines with backward-facing barbs that are notoriously difficult (and painful) to extract if they become embedded in skin.

Branded was based on the book Montana Rides! (1933) by Evan Evans (a nom de plume of Frederick Schiller Faust, who also created Destry). In the book, the protagonist is called The Montana Kid. The name may have been changed to Choya for the film to help with characterization (as alluded to above) or to reflect the fact that the protagonist is slightly older in the movie (so, not a “kid” anymore).

What do you think of the name Choya?

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Name quotes #94: Guy, Penn, Lynn

quotation marks

Happy Monday, everyone! Here’s the latest batch of name quotes…

From a 2016 article recounting the time the BBC mistook one guy named Guy for another guy named Guy:

It’s now more than a decade since Congolese job hopeful Guy Goma found himself offering his not-so-expert analysis of a legal dispute between Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) and Apple Corp, The Beatles’ record label, over trademark rights.

Goma, after arriving at the BBC’s West London headquarters for an interview for a job in the IT department on May 8, 2006, was mistaken for a studio guest, British technology journalist Guy Kewney, and ushered all the way into a live BBC News 24 studio.

This was Guy Goma’s unplanned TV appearance:

[The mix-up happened just a couple of months after I started this name blog, incidentally.]

From a 1979 People article about the “eerie similarities” between two Ohio men who discovered, at age 39, that they were twins separated at birth:

Curiously, both had been christened James by their adoptive parents [who lived 40 miles apart]. As schoolboys, both enjoyed math and carpentry — but hated spelling. Both pursued similar adult occupations: Lewis is a security guard at a steel mill, and Springer was a deputy sheriff (though he is now a clerk for a power company). Both married women named Linda, only to divorce and remarry — each a woman named Betty. Both have sons: James Alan Lewis and James Allan Springer.

Penn Jillette, speaking to contestant Paul Gertner during a mid-2020 episode of Penn & Teller: Fool Us:

You gave me this pen. And you gave me the pen with a joke — a joke about my name. You said, “Here’s a pen, Penn.”

When I was in grade school, it would be, “Hey Penn, got a pencil?” “Hey Penn, how’s pencil?” I should have an index of all those pen jokes that were told to me. I’d have over fifty, maybe more than that. It was amazing.

On the name of activist/environmentalist MaVynee Betsch (1935-2005):

Even her name, pronounced “Ma-veen,” requires a politically charged translation. Christened Marvyne, Betsch added an extra e for the environment, and dropped the r in the 1980s to protest the environmental policies of the Reagan administration.

From the New York Times Magazine essay “Celebrate Your Name Day” by Linda Kinstler:

My family had chosen “Linda” in part because it sounded incontrovertibly American to their Soviet ears, practically an idiom of assimilation unto itself. According to a 2018 study, it is the “trendiest” name in U.S. history, having experienced a sharp rise and precipitous fall in popularity amid the postwar baby boom. By naming me Linda, my parents hoped they were conferring an easy American life upon me, a life free of mispronunciations and mistakes. For them, such a life would be forever out of reach.

[…]

Most of the Lindas I have encountered in my age group are also millennial daughters of immigrants; our name is a reminder of our parents’ aspirations and of the immense promise with which our name is laden.

On the experience of being a male Lynn, from a BBC piece about people with unfashionable names:

As a 61-year-old man, I have suffered all my life with the name Lynn. My mother simply named me after a little-known celebrity of the early 50s because she wanted a name that was not capable of being shortened. For a while I had people such as Welsh long jumper Lynn Davies to allay the perpetual claims that “it was a girl’s name”. But this led others to believe that it had to be of Welsh derivation. But there are no new male “Lynns” to correct either opinion. All this despite the fact that in the 1930s and 1940s, I believe that Lynn was more popular as a man’s name – especially in America. ~Lynn Jonathan Prescott, Birmingham

From the 2009 book Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity by Leigh H. Edwards:

In [the autobiography] Cash, he explicitly addresses how he represents his identity differently in different contexts, noting how he uses different names for the different “Cashes” he played in different social settings, stating that he “operate[s] at various levels.” He stages a struggle between “Johnny Cash” the hell-rais[ing], hotel-trashing, pill-popping worldwide star and “John R. Cash,” a more subdued, adult persona.

The 10 siblings of Belvin Maynard

Belvin Maynard, the race-winning pilot we talked about earlier this week, had five brothers and five sisters. All 11 kids were born in North Carolina. Here are their first and middle names:

  1. Morell Battle, b. 1890
  2. Belvin Womble, b. 1892
  3. Anna Bailey, b. 1894
  4. Sherwood Amos, called “Amos,” b. 1896
  5. Vera Claire, b. 1899
  6. Worth Jackson, b. 1901
  7. Elizabeth Liles, b. 1903
  8. Atlas Alan, called “A. A.,” b. 1906
  9. Caralee, b. 1909
  10. Junius Huston Bryan, called “Bryan,” b. 1912
  11. Lalon, b. 1914

Kids #7 and #8 were named directly after the parents. Belvin’s curious middle name, Womble, was the maiden name of his paternal grandmother (first name Kiddy).

Which of these names do you like best?

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