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Name quotes #122: Fingal, Cecil, Madison

double quotation mark

Greetings everyone! Here’s this month’s quote post…

From a 2017 article about the off-Broadway play They Promised Her the Moon (which tells the story of pilot Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb, the first American woman to test for space flight):

“I immediately fell in love with the story,” the show’s director and producer, Valentina Fratti, told Space.com. “I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about Jerrie Cobb.” 

Fratti had been named for the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, but hadn’t known about the “almost first,” her American counterpart. 

From a 1907 article in the Deseret Evening News called “Genealogy“:

A very good guide, in the study of New England genealogy, is given by the Christian name. In some families, Simon, Stephen and Thomas may follow down the line of sons; while others carry only John, James and William. Genealogists have great confidence in this clue, for those Christian old worthies used to name their sons after themselves and their fathers. They had not evolved into the “Vernons” and “Cecils” and “Irvings” of now-a-days; these modern names which mean nothing but a morbid craving for the romantic and unusual. Romances guide the Christian names of babies today, alas, instead of sense of family loyalty. Have we not lost something of the real spirit of genuineness and fealty with the changed nomenclature of our babies?

From a review of the documentary The Ashley Madison Affair in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Ashley Madison launched in 2001 and took its name from the two most popular baby names at the time, “Ashley” and “Madison.” Right away, that’s creepy.

[Not technically true, but close. Ashley and Madison were the 4th- and 2nd-most popular baby girl names in the U.S. that year. In Canada — which is where the dating website is based — they ranked 13th and 4th.]

From a 1964 article in the Eugene Register-Guard called “Quite a Problem, Naming the Baby“:

The American melting pot has made something of a stew of old world cultures. Isaac and Rebecca Goldberg are the parents not of Moses and Rachael, but of Donald and Marie. Hjalmar and Sigrid Johanson are the parents of Richard and Dorothy. It seems rather a shame that Axel and Jens, Helma and Ingeborg, not to mention Stanislaus and Giacomo and Pedro and Vladimir have just about disappeared. The custom seems to be for the first generation to anglicize the given name as soon as possible. The next generation or two branches out and we get Pat Johnson, even Angus Puccini. Then, after a few generations, there is a tentative reach backward for the Shawns or even the Seans. Katy’s real name may again be Caitlin, Pat’s Padriac.

Have you spotted any interesting name-related quotes/articles/blog posts lately? Let me know!

Quotes about the names of actors

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"
Stephen Colbert and Benedict Cumberbatch

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch on a 2018 episode [vid] of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

I think England is the only place that makes people named Benedict Cumberbatch.

How Amandla Stenberg was named:

Actress Amandla Stenberg was named after a 1989 Miles Davis album — a lush, African-tinged funk fusion that takes its name from the Zulu and Xhosa word for “power.”

In South Africa under apartheid, “amandla” was — and still is — a rallying cry against oppression. It’s a lot for Stenberg to live up to.

“You think?” she asks, laughing and thanking her mother for the heavy responsibility. Then she turns more serious. “It’s something I keep very close to my heart.”

From a 2006 interview with Blake Lively:

Q: I’ve got to say, “Blake Lively” sounds almost too cool to not be a stage name…

A: People are always like, “Blake Lively! Okay, what’s your real name?” It’s kind of embarrassing to tell people, because it sounds like a really cheesy stage name.

Q: Is there a story behind the first part?

A: Actually, my grandma’s brother’s name was Blake, and my sister wrote it down when she was reading a family tree. And they said, “If it’s a boy, we’ll name him Blake, and if it’s a girl, we’ll name her Blakely.” And everybody thought I was going to be a boy, and then I came out and I was a girl. And they had already been calling me Blake for months because they were positive I was going to be a boy. And they had been calling me Blake for so long, they just [kept it].

[The surname “Lively” came from Blake’s mother’s first husband. Blake’s mother kept it after the divorce, and Blake’s father — her mother’s second husband — liked it enough to take as his own when they married.]

Actress Camila Mendes [vid] talking about her name on The Late Late Show With James Corden in 2017:

So my name is Camila Mendes, and there’s a singer called Camila Cabello, and a singer called Shawn Mendes. And people seem to think my Twitter is a fan account for that relationship.

In a 2013 interview with OK! magazine, actress Charisma Carpenter was asked whether or not she was named after an Avon fragrance:

That is absolutely true! I don’t know if you’ve smelled it, it’s awful. I was born in an era where Avon was very much the thing. My grandmother brought my mother, as a gift, this perfume. The story is I went without a name for about a week and then my grandmother brought this perfume (named Charisma) and my mom and my dad settled on that name. They had met me, they had heard the name of the perfume and I guess it just clicked.

From a 2012 interview with actor Crispin Glover, who goes by his full name, Crispin Hellion Glover, as a filmmaker:

SP: When did you begin using ‘Hellion’ as part of your name? Why the addition?

CHG: I began using “Hellion” as my middle name at birth. I was born in New York. Not too long before I was born, my parents went to see an off-Broadway production of Henry V, by Shakespeare and liked the production very much, and liked the name [Crispin, from the St. Crispin’s Day Speech] so [they] gave it to me. My father’s middle name is Herbert. He never liked his middle name Herbert. So as a young struggling actor in New York he would say to himself, “I am Bruce H. Glover, Bruce Hellion Glover. I am a hellion, a troublemaker.” And that would make him feel good. He told my mother this was his real middle name. When they were married she saw him writing on the marriage certificate Bruce Herbert Glover and she thought, “Who am I marrying?” They gave Hellion to me as my real middle name. I had always written and drawn as a child and I would always sign my drawing and writing with my whole name Crispin Hellion Glover. When I started acting professionally at 13, which was something I had decided on my own I could do as a profession at a relatively young age, it became apparent that I had to choose a professional acting name for SAG. I thought my whole name was too long for acting and just used my first and last name. When I started publishing my books I simply continued using the name I had always used for writing and drawing and had put in my books. This is also why I use my whole name for my own films.

From a Pitchfork interview with The Good Place actress D’Arcy Carden:

I put an apostrophe in my name that wasn’t there before, like Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, because of how influential this band was to me. D’Arcy was just the epitome of cool to me. In 1993, I was really into alternative and grunge music, and whereas the Nirvanas and the Pearl Jams felt so masculine, there was something sweeter and lighter about Smashing Pumpkins. The fact that they had a girl in their band was huge for me and my friends. I learned the guitar part to “Today,” and it made me feel like such a badass. It was like, “Wow, I can play guitar!” But, of course, anybody can play the beginning of “Today.”

(Name quotes #73 mentioned another Good Place actress…)

From a 2012 interview with Dax Shepard in Elle magazine:

There was a best-selling book in the late ’60s and ’70s called The Adventurers by Harold Robbins. The lead character’s name was Dax. Anyone that’s roughly my age that’s named Dax is named from that book. I’ve met probably five other [men named] Dax.

(The character’s full name is Diogenes Alejandro Xenos. His nickname was derived from his initials, D.A.X.)

From a write-up of Demi Moore‘s 2017 Tonight Show appearance:

“[Demi Lovato is] from Texas and I’m from New Mexico, so our families say our names the same but we each individually pronounce it differently,” Moore said, noting she pronounces it “Deh-mee” while Lovato says “Dem-ee.”

So what are the origins of Moore’s name?

“In my case, my mother just found it on a cosmetic carton,” she told Fallon. “It means ‘half,’ and she didn’t know that, but she just liked it.”

From a biography of English actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928):

“Ellen Terry is the most beautiful name in the world; it rings like a chime through the last quarter of the nineteenth century,” George Bernard Shaw wrote of the Dame when she was at the height of her career.

From a recent Instagram post by actor Elliot Page (formerly called Ellen Page):

Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life.

Actor Emilio Estevez on "Talk Stoop with Nessa Diab"
Emilio Estevez and Nessa Diab

Actor Emilio Estevez — who pronounces his surname ESS-teh-vez, instead of the Spanish way, ess-TEH-vezdiscussing his name [vid] on Talk Stoop with Nessa in 2019:

So I was born on 203rd Street in South Bronx. And, at the time, my father had this very Hispanic-sounding last name. […] A lot people, a lot of these agents, and folks said, if you wanna work in this business, you gotta have a more Anglo-sounding name. Of course times have changed, but there was that moment where he was finally on Broadway — 1965, ’66 — and his father came from Dayton (he was from Spain, of course) and looked up on the marquee, and saw the three names that were starring in the play, and one of them was “Martin Sheen” and not his real name, Ramón Estévez. And my grandfather just looked up, and he just shook his head, and he was so disappointed. And my father saw that. And so when I began to get into this business, we had that conversation. And he said, don’t make the same mistake I did.

…A few sentences later, Estevez added:

I can’t tell you how many people have stopped me on the street and said, you know, just seeing your name on a poster, just seeing your name on screen, meant so much to me, you have no idea.

(Martin Sheen’s stage name was created from the names of CBS casting director Robert Dale Martin and televangelist archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.)

From a video in which Emma Thompson talks about “posh” English slang [vid]:

“Pip pip” is “bye-bye.” […] Like, for instance, when I was born, yonks ago [in 1959], on the BBC, on the world service, there would be the pip, pip, pip. So that’s the “pips.” And you say pip, pip. And I was known as “pip Emma” because I was born as the pips were sounding.

[The pips were used to mark the start of each hour. “Pip Emma” is also the way to say “p.m.” in RFC WWI signalese.]

From a short item about Halle Berry in a March 1995 issue of Jet:

“My mother was shopping in Halle Brothers in Cleveland,” she recently revealed in the New York Daily News. “She saw the bags and thought, ‘That’s what I’m going to name my child.’ I thought it was the coolest name until I got into this business. No one ever says it right, it’s Halle, like Sally.”

From the 2005 Seattle Times obituary of Hildegarde:

Hildegarde, the “incomparable” cabaret singer whose career spanned almost seven decades and who was credited with starting the single-name vogue among entertainers, has died. She was 99.

From a 2013 article about actress Honeysuckle Weeks in the Independent:

With the names Honeysuckle Weeks and Charity Wakefield starring in the UK premiere production of These Shining Lives directed by Loveday Ingram, you can only imagine what rehearsals are like. It sounds as if they should all be in a Jilly Cooper novel – not a hard-hitting play about employees’ rights in the workplace.

From a 1997 article in Jet magazine about how Jamie Foxx (born Eric Bishop) found success in comedy after changing his name:

Foxx, who was determined to make it as a stand-up comedian, went to Santa Monica “where nobody really knew who I was,” he reveals, “and changed my name to Jamie Foxx.” He remembers, “Three girls would show up and 22 guys would show up [at Amateur Night]. They had to put all the girls on who were on the list to break up the monotony. So when they look up and they see Tracey Green, Tracey Brown, and these unisex names I had written on the list, they picked Jamie Foxx. ‘Is she here?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, Brother, right over here man,'” Foxx said in a deep, macho voice. “I’d go up and do my thing with the Cosby and Tyson (impersonations), and they were like ‘Who is this Jamie Foxx kid?'”

From an interview with Keira Knightley in Elle (UK):

Keira also revealed that she was never intended to be called Keira.

‘I was meant to be named “Kiera”, after a Russian ice skater who was on the TV one day. My dad fancied her and nicked her name for me. But it was my mum who went to register my birth, and she accidentally spelled “ei” instead of “ie” because my mum’s crap at spelling.

‘Apparently, when she came back he said: “WHAT THE F*CK? You’ve spelt her name wrong!” What were they going to do, though? Once it’s on the piece of paper, it’s on the piece of paper. And that’s me. A spelling error.’

[The skater was likely Kira Ivanova, who won a bronze medal for the USSR at the 1984 Winter Olympics.]

From a 2012 interview with Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington, who didn’t learn that his real name was Christopher until he was 11:

It was very strange, I went to school, and I remember that you had to do these tests to find out what set you’re in — how clever you are. I put down “Kit Harington,” and they looked at me like I was completely stupid, and they said, “No, you’re Christopher Harington, I’m afraid.” It was only then I learnt my actual name. That was kind of a bizarre existential crisis for an 11-year-old to have, but in the end I always stuck with Kit, because I felt that’s who I was. I’m not really a “Chris.”

From the 1970 obituary of actress Lenore Ulric in the New York Times:

Born in the little town of New Ulm, Minn., in 1892, the daughter of Franz Xavier Ulrich, an Army hospital steward, Miss Ulric (she dropped the H from her last name) used to say that she was predestined for the stage. Her father gave her the name of Lenore because of his fondness for Poe‘s poem, “The Raven,” and her childhood was devoted to theatrical yearnings.

(She played Wetona on stage in 1916.)

From a 2014 NPR interview with Leonardo DiCaprio:

My father tells me that they were on their honeymoon at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, I believe. They were looking at a da Vinci painting, and allegedly I started kicking furiously while my mother was pregnant. And my father took that as a sign, and I suppose DiCaprio wasn’t that far from da Vinci. And so, my dad, being the artist that he is, said, “That’s our boy’s name.”

From a 2016 interview with actor and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of Hamilton) on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron:

You know, unconsciously, you go, “No, just call me Lin,” cause I can’t deal with manual. […] I learned at a very young age how to just make people comfortable, and I learned to adapt at such a young age, that I didn’t realize the power of bringing all of myself into a room until much later.

(Manual, MAN-yoo-ul, is a common mispronunciation of the Spanish name Manuel, man-WEHL. Lin-Manuel’s name, by the way, was inspired by the poem “Nana roja para mi hijo Lin Manuel” by José Manuel Torres Santiago.)

From an obituary of actress Lina Basquette (formerly Lena Baskette) in The Independent:

In 1923, she and her mother went to New York, where Lena danced for John Murray Anderson – it was he who altered her name to Basquette, and the producer Charles Dillingham who changed Lena to Lina (‘Lena is a cook’, he explained, ‘Lina is an artiste’).

From an interview with Lou Diamond Phillips at Cowboys & Indians:

The story of his own life began on the Subic Bay Naval Station in the Philippines, where he was born Louis Diamond Upchurch in 1962. His interesting name has an interesting back story: His father, Gerald, named him after U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland “Lou” Diamond (known as “Mr. Leatherneck,” he is considered one of the finest Marines of all time); after his dad died, Phillips took his stepfather, George’s last name.

(Phillips’ co-star in the movie La Bamba was Esai Morales.)

From an interview with Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o (pronounced loo-PEE-ta NYONG-oh) on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

Jimmy: I love that they gave you a traditional Mexican name even though they were just there for a short time.

Lupita: Well, in our tradition, it’s custom to name your child after the events of the day. So, I was born in Mexico, so they thought it would be fit to give me a Mexican name.

From an Us Magazine article about Matthew McConaughey‘s 2020 book Greenlights:

The Texas native also revealed that when he was born his father wasn’t there. Instead, he explained that James “called my mom and said, ‘Only thing I have to say is if it’s a boy, don’t name him Kelly.’”

From “Michael Caine’s Name Is Now Officially Michael Caine” by Jackson McHenry at Vulture:

Maurice Micklewhite is dead; long live Michael Caine. The legendary British actor has officially adopted the name you know and impersonate him by after getting fed up with increased airport security checks. “I changed my name when all the stuff started with ISIS and all that,” Caine told The Sun, going on to describe his experiences with security guards thusly: “He would say, ‘Hi Michael Caine,’ and suddenly I’d be giving him a passport with a different name on it. I could stand there for an hour. So I changed my name.”

From an interview with Saturday Night Live comedian Michael Che:

I was named after Che Guevara. My name is Michael Che Campbell. My dad is a huge history buff, and he named me after Che Guevara cause he loved Che Guevera for whatever reason. Which is a very polarizing figure, because when I tell people I was named after Che, they’re either like, “Oh, wow that’s cool,” or they’re like, “You know, Che killed people.” I’m like, I didn’t pick my name.

From a 2011 interview with former child actor Meeno Peluce:

My parents split the country when I was conceived. They traveled across Europe looking for the perfect place to have their perfect child. It was 1969, a voice had spoken to my mom. It said, “Go to India.” Then a short time later it said, “You’re pregnant.” They had been married 10 years and my mom was not supposed to be able to have kids. But the voice spoke and so they left America behind and headed for the world. They made great friends in Yugoslavia, one had the perfect name. Miroslav, Man of Peace. So I was named after him, but not in Yugoslavia.

[…]

My folks pulled into Amsterdam on a snowy night with all the lights glistening and my mom knew it was the perfect place and that’s where I was born, their little man of peace, Miro.

A couple years later we were in Katmandu at the foot of Swayambhunath where Buddha had come to make his last speeches. A monk came over, picked me up, and asked my name. “Miro,” my mother told him. “No,” I corrected her. “No more Miro, only Meeno, only Meeno.” And I wouldn’t answer to anything else.

(Meeno, the half-brother of Soleil Moon Frye, co-starred with Jon-Erik Hexum in the early ’80s sci-fi TV show Voyagers!)

From a 2001 article about actress O-Lan Jones in the Los Angeles Times:

Jones’ mother, Scarlett Dark, named her after the character O-lan in Pearl S. Buck’s 1931 novel, “The Good Earth.” The “O” part, Jones said, means “profound,” and the “lan” means “wildflower.” Her mother, ever an original, chose to celebrate the wildflower part with a capital L.

From Piper Laurie‘s 2011 memoir Learning to Live Out Loud:

It never occurred to me that I didn’t have to change my name. For the last twenty or thirty years, I’ve admired and envied all the performers who have proudly used their real names. The longer and harder to pronounce, the better.

(Was Mädchen Amick one of the performers she had in mind? They worked together on Twin Peaks in the early 1990s…)

From an 2005 interview with Portia de Rossi in The Advocate:

Advocate: When did you become Portia?

Portia: When I was 15, I changed it legally. In retrospect, I think it was largely due to my struggle about being gay. Everything just didn’t fit, and I was trying to find things I could identify myself with, and it started with my name.

I picked Portia because I was a Shakespeare fan [Portia is the character in The Merchant of Venice who famously declaims, “The quality of mercy is not strain’d / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”]. De Rossi because I was Australian and I thought that an exotic Italian name would somehow suit me more than Amanda Rogers. When you live in Australia, Europe is so far away and so fascinating, so stylish and cultured and sophisticated.

From a Deadline Hollywood article about Quvenshané Wallis:

In a way, however, both of Quvenzhané’s parents are with her every time someone speaks her unusual first name (pronounced Kwe-VAWN-zhan-ay). The first part combines elements of her teacher mother’s first name, Qulyndreia, and her truck driver father’s first name, Venjie. Her mother says that Zhané is the Swahili word for “fairy,” although no direct translation can be found on an Internet search. Qulyndreia Wallis says her own name means “to you with love.” The rest of the kids include Venjie Jr., 15; brother Vejon, 13; and sister Qunyquekya, 19.

(According to several sources, the Swahili word for “fairy” is jini — reasonably close to Zhané, actually.)

From a 2015 Indian Express article in which actress and comedian Rebel Wilson talks about her name:

A little girl named Rebel sang at my parents’ wedding. My mum is really big on theme names like that – my sisters are called Liberty and Annachi, and my brother is Ryot. I did pretty well in comparison. I love it.

You can’t be a shrinking violet if you have a name like Rebel. It gives me an edge and helps me not give in to my fears. I try to live that way.

From a 2015 obituary of movie star Rex Reason:

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.

River Phoenix, as quoted in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1995:

When I was in first grade everyone made fun of my name, of course. I think it’s kind of a big name to hold up when you’re nine years old. It seemed goofy.

[His birth name? River Bottom.]

From a 2009 interview with Sigourney Weaver (born Susan Weaver) in Esquire magazine:

I changed my name when I was about twelve because I didn’t like being called Sue or Susie. I felt I needed a longer name because I was so tall. So what happened? Now everyone calls me Sig or Siggy.

(In another interview, Sigourney mentioned that she was nearly named Flavia.)

Actor Taylor Lautner on "The Kelly Clarkson Show"
Taylor Lautner and Kelly Clarkson

From a mid-2022 episode [vid] of The Kelly Clarkson Show in which actor Taylor Lautner talks about his fiancée Taylor Dome, who was planning to legally change her last name to Lautner:

We already share one name. So it’s going to be extra complicated. […] We’re literally going to be the same person. Ridiculous.

(The Taylors — who do indeed share the same first and last name now — married in November.)

From an interview with Thandiwe Newton (formerly called Thandie Newton) in Vogue (UK):

Meanwhile Thandiwe and her younger brother attended a Catholic primary school run by joyless nuns […] where the W of her name drifted inward, out of sight and earshot, in a futile hope to make her feel less different.

[…]

No longer is Newton afraid of the red carpet because of how much it reminded her of her invisibility, and she looks forward to a future where the illusion of race will no longer narrow who we are. […] All her future films will be credited with Thandiwe Newton, after the W was carelessly missed out from her first credit. Now she’s in control. Many lives lived and she’s come out triumphant, preserved in the magic of the mist and sun that made her, and wanted her to shine. “That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine.”

(The name Thandiwe means “beloved” in Zulu.)

From the 2007 New York Times obituary of actor Tiger “Tige” Andrews:

Tiger Andrews was born on March 19, 1920, in Brooklyn; he was named after a strong animal to ensure good health, following a Syrian custom.

(He was one of the stars of The Mod Squad, which started airing on TV in 1968. His nickname, Tige, was one of the top debut names of 1969.)

From an amNewYork article about Broadway actress Tovah Feldshuh (born Terri Sue Feldshuh in 1952):

What ever happened to Terri Sue Feldshuh?

“I fell in love with a Christian boy, Michael Fairchild, who didn’t want to kiss a Terri Sue. He said: ‘Terri Sue doesn’t fit you at all. What’s that other name of yours? Tovah? Now that’s a name!'”

(Her stage name was initially “Terri Fairchild,” according to Wikipedia.)

From “The Eyes Have It,” an interview with Orange Is the New Black actress Uzoamaka “Uzo” Aduba, who was asked whether she ever considered changing her name:

When I started as an actor? No, and I’ll tell you why. I had already gone through that. My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

[Incidentally, there’s a Tchaikovsky in Brazil.]

From a 2011 interview with Val Kilmer in Interview Magazine:

I don’t think of my life as a cliché, but I’m a cliché eccentric. Complete with a strange name — I mean, who’s named Val? How many Vals do you know? I mean, really?

From the book The Making of Cabaret (1999) by Keith Garebian, regarding the name of English actress Valerie Jill Haworth, who was born on Victory over Japan Day (Aug. 15, 1945):

The initials of her baptismal names (Valerie Jill) were in honor of her birth on VJ Day.

[Related: American actress Robin Vee Strasser was born on Victory in Europe (“VE”) Day.]

From a 1936 article about movie actress Veda Ann Borg in the Wilkes-Barre Record:

Miss Borg was given a new tag almost the minute she stepped into the studio. It was “Ann Noble.” […] Miss Borg contended that her own name is more descriptive of her personality than Ann Noble. The former model’s argument was convincing. She will be billed as Veda Ann Borg.

Viggo Mortensen, as quoted in TIME Magazine in 2005:

I met someone last night who showed me a picture of a baby, and they had named the kid Viggo. You know, Viggo is a pretty dorky name in Denmark. It’s like Oswald or something. It’s a very old Scandinavian name, at least 1,000 years old.

From a 2008 interview with actor Vince Vaughn in Parade magazine:

My dad’s name is Vernon and my mom liked the initials, VV. My sisters and I got named Victoria, Valeri and Vincent so we’d be VV’s, too. But, then when you start getting pets’ names that start with a ‘v,’ it’s a little embarrassing. When you are Vince Vaughn, and you go out to scream for ‘Viking’ the dog to come home, that’s a little much. Then, Mom started looking in a dictionary for names and we ended up with a female Chihuahua, named Vanadis after some mythological goddess. So Victoria, Valeri and Vince were out playing with Vanadis. When I finally got a dog, I named him Rowdy. I had to break the chain.

[Vaughn’s first daughter, like Rowdy, was given a non-V name: Locklyn.]

From a 2014 interview with actress Winona Ryder in The Telegraph:

Ryder’s unconventional childhood has been exhaustively documented and occasionally used to explain the more disturbing events in her life, but the actress — christened Winona Laura Horowitz and named after the Minnesota city in which she was born — speaks fondly of the four years she spent in a commune in Elk, Northern California, from the age of seven.

[Winona’s younger brother Uri, born in the 1970s, was named after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.]

From a 2017 Teen Vogue interview with Zendaya, who explains how her name is pronounced:

Zendaya decided to break it down for viewers with a simple step-by-step guide: “Zen is the first syllable, then day, and then a.”

“I think a lot of people see my name and think it’s more fancy than it is,” she explained. “They think Zendaya like papaya. It’s just day.

From a Life article (Jan. 18, 1943) about actor and comedian Zero Mostel:

Back in 1941 Zero was a struggling New York painter who specialized in portraits of strong-muscled workmen. He went by the name of Sam, which was his own (“Zero” is a press agent’s inspiration). […] On Feb. 16, 1942, the day that news of the fall of Singapore reached the U.S., “Zero” Mostel made his professional debut as a night-club funny man.

(When Zero appeared on Dick Cavett‘s talk show in early 1971, Dick told the audience: “I’ve tried shows with three guests and with two guests and with one guest, but never with Zero.”)

From the 2012 obituary of Mouseketeer Bonita Lynn Fields Elder at U.S. News:

Elder always went by the name Lynn, but she adopted the stage name “Bonnie” — a shortened version of her real first name — at the suggestion of the show’s producers because there was already a cast member, a boy, with the first name Lynn, her cousin said.

(That said, Bonnie’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times told a different story: “Fields’ given name was Bonita, but soon after joining the cast Disney himself asked her to change it because a two-syllable name harmonized better with those of the other Mouseketeers.”)

Images: Screenshots of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Talk Stoop with Nessa Diab, and The Kelly Clarkson Show

[Latest update: Sept. 2023]

The earliest celebrity baby name debuts

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 in the U.S. baby name data. (To debut, a rare names needs to be given to at least 5 babies of one gender or the other in a single year.)

1940s

Jerilyn Jessel
Lois Andrews and baby Jerilyn

Which name was the very first to debut in the U.S. baby name data 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:

Jerilyn

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 in the data 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 in the national dataset for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942:

1940194119421943
Jerilynn.56*16258
Jerrilynn.9*3819
Gerilyn..15*5
Jerilynne..7*.
Jarilyn..6*.
Geralynn..5*.
*Debut

In fact, Jerilynn and Gerilyn were the top baby name debuts of 1941 and 1942, respectively.

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 U.S baby names was impressive, but, technically speaking, she didn’t put “Jerilyn” on the map.

Yasmin

The first exact-spelling celebrity baby name debut was Yasmin, which appeared in the data 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 in the U.S. data for the very first time.

(The name Yasmin was late addition to this post. Thank you, Becca!)

1950s

Elizabeth Taylor and daughter Liza on the cover of LIFE in 1957
Liz & Liza in 1957 © LIFE

At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:

Romina

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 in the SSA’s data for the very first time.

Taryn

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 in the data.

Seneca

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 in the data as a female name. Patterson said the name was inspired by a street in Brooklyn.

Monsita

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.

Some honorable mentions from the 1950s:

  • 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.

1960s

Casey & Timolin Cole in 1963
Casey & Timolin Cole in 1963 © Ebony

At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:

Timolin

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 in the data.

Xan

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 in the data.

Joely

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 in the data.

Maryum

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 in the data.

Chastity

In March of 1969, singers Cher and Sonny Bono, welcomed a baby girl named Chastity. The same year, the baby name Chastity debuted in the data. In May of 2010, Chastity legally changed genders and adopted the name Chaz.

Some honorable mentions from the 1960s:

  • Devera, which became more popular after actor Vince Edwards and his wife Kathy named their daughter Devera in late 1965.
  • Dodd, which became more popular after Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee named their son Dodd in late 1961.

1970s

Rasheda & Jamillah Ali in 1971
The Alis and babies Rasheda & Jamillah in 1971 © Ebony

At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:

Rasheda

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 in the data.

(Both Jet magazine (in 1970) and Ebony magazine (in 1971) misspelled her name “Reeshemah.” The misspelling debuted in 1970 and saw peak usage in 1971.)

Ayanna

In 1971, comedian/activist Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian welcomed a baby girl named Ayanna. The same year, the baby name Ayanna debuted in the data.

Yohance

In July of 1973, Dick Gregory and Lillian welcomed a baby boy named Yohance. The same year, the baby name Yohance debuted in the data.

(I wrote more about baby names in the Gregory family a few years ago.)

Kidada

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 in the data.

Taryll

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 in the data.

Turkessa

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 in the data. 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.

Chudney

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 in the data. 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!

Katiria

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 in the data. Most of these babies were born in New York.

1980s

Condola Rashad in 1987
The Rashads and baby Condola
© Ebony

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:

Rishawn

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 in the data. It was one of the top debut names of 1985, in fact.

Shakari

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 in the data.

Condola

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 in the data.

Satchel

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 in the data. He now goes by Ronan, and rumor has it that he is *possibly* the biological son of Frank Sinatra.

An honorable mention from the 1980s:

  • Kady, which became more popular after Pia Zadora named her daughter Kady in early 1985.

1990s

Demi, pre-Scout, on cover of Vanity Fair, August 1991
Demi Moore and baby Scout (kinda)
© Vanity Fair

At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:

Scout

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 in the data, for both genders.

Aquinnah

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 in the data. (I wrote more about the name Aquinnah a few years ago.)

Sailor

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 in the data as a girl name. It had debuted as a boy name the year before.

Some honorable mentions from the 1990s:

  • 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.
  • Ronan, which became more popular after Daniel Day-Lewis named his son Ronan in 1998.

2000s

Angelina and Maddox Jolie in 2002
Angelina Jolie and baby Maddox
© People

At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:

Eja

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 in the data (as a girl name).

Xen

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 in the data.

Cashel

In May of 2002, actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Rebecca Miller welcomed a baby boy named Cashel. The next year, the baby name Cashel debuted in the data.

Diezel

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 in the data.

Moxie

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 in the data.

Dannielynn

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 in the data.

Some honorable mentions from the early 2000s:

  • 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 2010s are only half over and already we’ve seen more celebrity baby-inspired debuts than in any other decade — Naleigh, Aleph (for boys), Locklyn, Aaradhya, Sebella, Sparrow (for boys), Viaan, Naiovy, Eisele, and no doubt others I’ve missed.

Sources:

  • Manners, Dorothy. “Off the Grapevine.” Toledo Blade 14 Feb. 1977: P-3.
  • Wilson, Mary and Patricia Romanowski. Supreme Faith. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.
  • SSA

The top girl-name debuts of 2011

lotus bud

Here are the girl names that debuted the highest on the SSA’s 2011 baby name list:

  1. Magaby, 50 baby girls
  2. Gredmarie, 47
  3. Jocell, 31
  4. Cataleya, 28
  5. Khaleesi, 27
  6. Zendaya, 26
  7. Quorra, 25
  8. Jorley, 22
  9. Ayelene, 21
  10. Locklyn, 17
  11. Adrialys, 16
  12. Dim, 16
  13. Mahniya, 15
  14. Lumen, 14
  15. Brynlynn, 13
  16. Calii, 12
  17. Kiyan, 12
  18. Rhyder, 12
  19. Taisley, 12
  20. Yanilen, 12

Some likely explanations:

  • Magaby is from Magaby Garay, a young singer featured on Mexican reality/talent show Pequeños Gigantes.
  • Gredmarie is from Gredmarie Colon, a contestant on beauty pageant/reality show Nuestra Belleza Latina 2011.
  • Jocell is from Jocell Villa, also a contestant on Nuestra Belleza Latina 2011.
  • Cataleya is from Cataleya, a character played by Zoe Saldana in the movie Colombiana (2011). The character’s name is based on the word Cattleya, which refers to a genus of orchid.
  • Khaleesi is the Dothraki word for “queen” in the medieval fantasy TV series Game of Thrones. A khaleesi is the wife of a khal, or “king.” The khaleesi featured in the show is character Daenerys Targaryen, played by actress Emilia Clarke.
  • Zendaya is from Zendaya Coleman, a young singer/actress currently starring in the Disney sitcom Shake It Up.
  • Quorra is from Quorra, the character played by Olivia Wilde in the movie Tron: Legacy (2010).
  • Lumen is from Lumen Pierce, a character played by Julia Stiles during the fifth season of Dexter.
  • Yanilen is from Yanilen Diaz, a contestant on Mexican reality/talent show La Academia 2011.

Can you come up with explanations for any of the others? I’m especially curious about Dim — any ideas?

(Here are last year’s debut names.)

Source: SSA

Image: Adapted from LotusBud0048a (public domain) by Frank “Fg2” Gualtieri