Who was Silbestre Esquivel? In 1811, he inscribed his name in what would become Petrified Forest National Park. Was he passing through? Was he a lonely cowboy or shepherd? Even the history of discovery of the inscription is mysterious. Two different articles in a magazine and a newspaper in 1943 and 1945 claim to discover the name. The earlier one found it by directions from a business woman in the area—wouldn’t she be the one to have discovered it? A professional photographer, Michael Bend, did find out that the man was part of a party traveling from Santa Fe to Utah lead by José Rafaél Sarracino to trade with the Ute people. Such fascinating secrets!
(The name Silbestre — like the related name Sylvester — can be traced back to the Latin word silva, meaning “forest.”)
By the time Rzeznik had ironed out some of the “ugly chord sequences”, he had a swooning future classic on his hands. Only the name was required. “I’m horrible at naming songs,” he says, “so it’s the last thing I do. I was looking through a magazine called LA Weekly and saw that a great singer-songwriter called Iris DeMent was playing in town. I was, like: ‘Wow! What a beautiful name.’
(The song doesn’t actually include the name Iris in the lyrics, and yet the usage of the baby name Iris does seem to rise at a faster rate in 1998 and 1999, so…did the song influence the name? Wdyt?)
From the book Indiana’s 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State (2016) by James E. St. Clair:
Amid much publicity in the early 1950s, [Herb Shriner and his wife] had given their children names that reflected his Hoosier heritage: They had a daughter named Indiana (known as “Indy”) and a son, Kin, named in honor of Abe Martin creator Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard. Kin Shriner became a soap opera actor; his twin brother, Wil (named for Will Rogers, but with one l), became a comedian, television, director, and talk show host with a laid-back style reminiscent of his father.
When Jim and I were choosing a name for our son, we turned to the dictionary.
Sawyer has three half-siblings — Sonnet, Sky and Savannah. Each name is an actual word, not a name like Sam or Sarah. We wanted to do the same for this baby.
Our list is still there in my Random House College Dictionary with the red cover — 22 possibilities neatly printed in purple pencil on the back of a sheet of paper shaped like a cluster of grapes: Street, South, Story, Satchel, Sage, Saracen.
We had narrowed it down to a handful — Storm, Sawyer, Story, Scout, Scarlet — when we saw him on an ultrasound for the first time. A boy. And he was instantly Sawyer, one fist raised above his head, all boyhood and adventure.
The one truly radical act for a British parent is to pluck a name from further down the class ladder. Yet it might not be the worst idea for the downwardly mobile upper-middle classes, whose jobs in accounting and law are about to be replaced by Elon’s robots. They continue to worry that Liam or Wayne wouldn’t fit in at Eton, little realising that will be the least of their concerns. Cressida and Monty will have a much harder time fitting in at the robot repair shop.
According to the government of College Station (in Texas), the most popular baby names in the Texas city in 2019 were Olivia and Aiden.
Here are College Station’s top 3 girl names and top 3 boy names of 2019:
Olivia, 17 baby girls
Aiden, 11 baby boys (tie)
Liam, 11 (tie)
In the girls’ top 3, Olivia replaced Ava.
The boys’ top 3 is entirely new: Aiden, Liam, and Grayson replaced James, Jackson, and Aaron.
The most popular middle names were Grace, Rose, and Marie (for girls) and James, Lee/Leigh, and Michael (for boys).
Some of the interesting first-middle combinations bestowed last year include Alpha Dewdrop, Birdie Scout, Brontayveai Imblessed, Castyn Maverick, Indie River, Klutch Christian, Piston Jayne, Rupert Badlands, Tesla Eden, and Zoiimi My’Life.
In 2018, the top two names in College Station were Emma and James.
She’s called Finch because we call all of our dogs after characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. So we have had a Scout, a Radley, and a Harper. And let me tell you, they are not happy about Finch’s arrival.
From a 1995 interview with R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe, whose paternal grandfather was a Methodist minister:
Well, Methodism was started by John Wesley, who was, in his way, a really radical guy who believed in a lot of individual responsibility. It’s not the kind of religion that’s right around your throat. Actually, I was named after him, John Michael Stipe.
From an article about Lara Prescott, author of the new book The Secrets We Kept, a fictional account of the dangers of publishing Doctor Zhivago in the 1950s:
You could say she was born to write this historical novel: Prescott’s mother named her after the doomed heroine from her favorite movie, the 1965 adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s epic.
Fun fact :Always wanted a daughter and I always used to say imma name her HennyLynn. It’s a cute mix of my sisters name but then I started calling my sister HennyLynn then it became one of the nicknames I gave my sister so it woulda been weird naming my daughter that .
From an article about a Georgia man whose name, Neal, came from a POW bracelet:
His father, the late John Carpenter, was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy and was deployed overseas at the time. He arrived home in time for his son’s birth. When it became necessary to scramble and find a boy’s name, John Carpenter looked down at the POW/MIA bracelet he was wearing.
The engraved name was Neal Clinton Ward Jr. He had been listed as Missing in Action since June 13, 1969. An airman, his plane had been shot down over Laos in the jungles of Southeast Asia, nine days before his 24th birthday.
The Carpenters named their son Neal Ward Carpenter.
(Neal’s mom had been convinced the baby would be a girl. Neal said: “I was going to be April Michelle, and that’s all there was to it.”)
Research professor and author Brené Brown on her unique name:
Growing up, every time we drove from San Antonio to Houston, going to Stuckey’s — all these places where you buy monogrammed shirts and glasses — I was so put out because there was never a “Brené.” So I think I made up in my head that it was French. And then I hitchhiked across Europe after high school and I got to France and I was like, “Je suis Brené!” And they were like, “What kind of name is that?” They’d never heard of it. My parents just made it up. I had a whole narrative in high school — “When I bust out of this suburban Spring, Texas, high school I’m going to go back to France where my people are!” But, no, it’s not French — it’s south side San Antonio.
When your middle name is ‘The’, it means you’re it. The only one. The one that defines the category. I think that focus is a choice, and that the result of appropriate focus is you earn the middle name.
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.)
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:
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 on the national list for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942 (asterisks denote debuts):
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.
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 the post. Thank you, Becca!)
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Honorable mentions from the ’50s include:
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.
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Honorable mentions from the ’60s include:
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.
At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kady, which became more popular after Pia Zadora named her daughter Kady in early 1985.
At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:
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.
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.)
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.
Honorable mentions from the ’90s include:
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.
At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Honorable mentions from the ’00s include:
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.
You asked me what my middle name is. When you care about people, you want to know more about them. My middle name is McFeely. I was named after my Grandfather McFeely. That’s the name we decided to use for the man who does the deliveries on our television visits.
Before Aoife, we were never big on meaningful names, on names that represented something. With Greer and Scout, we just went with ones that were right for the moment, oblivious to what serendipity had in store. With Aoife, there was a purpose, a reason. And if when she curses us for it, we have a story to tell her. A story she can tell. She may not immediately appreciate it, but in time she will.
I was named after Jaime Sommers, The Bionic Woman. True story. My mom was a huge fan and evidently watched a lot of it while pregnant with me. But these days it’s cooler to tell people I spell it like Jaime Lannister.
(The “ShezCrafti” handle comes from the Beastie Boys song “She’s Crafty.”)
Most of the little girls were what you’d expect from the affluent suburbs of a major American city. They were cute, thin, predominantly blond, with WASPy names that were so white they were practically invisible.
Weighing in at 6lb 14oz Kirra Smith was born at 5.09am to the delight of Ella and her mum Claire, 42, and dad Richard, 46, from Neston.
Gazing at her new-born, Claire, a speech and language therapist, said: “Yes. Ella wished for a sister and now she has got one. It was a shock as she was not due until January 6 but this is very special and I will never forget this Christmas.”
Kirra’s unusual name was inspired by Kirra Beach on Australia’s Gold Coast where Richard likes to surf when visiting Claire’s ex-pat mum Triana, 65, who flew over to be at the birth.
“We were trying to figure out what the characteristics on it were,” he said. “We share a lab with some arachnologists, and one of them looked at it and said, ‘You know, that looks like that guy from Star Wars.'”
[Jonathan] Armbruster and his colleagues figured out the arachnologist had been referring to Greedo. “As soon as we heard that, we knew what the species would be,” Armbruster said.
At university, I accrued the ear-splitting nickname Choliver, until I simply refused to respond. And while my favourite, Carlotta, worked when I lived in Mexico — mostly with Mojito in hand and salsa on the stereo — I soon realised it caused something of a stink when I returned to the UK. Like a very English John, who replies: “Ay, no papi, call me Juan.”
I have this one friend Sabina, though, we’ve been friends forever. She’s gorgeous. She’s a Ford model, she’s dating a professional athlete. And that name Sabina, that’s one of those annoying names you have to be really hot to pull off, right? … You can’t have a bum knee and a lazy eye and be like, “I’m Sabina!”
If you’re really hot you can be like, I’m Gorgonzola, whut.”
(For the record, I have yet to find a person legally named Gorgonzola.)