Choose a Famous Namesake Who Will Inspire Your Child

I recently read that Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney named his son Klay after Cassius Clay, who is better known as Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay was Ali’s birth name). Although Ali was a great heavyweight champion whose boxing style was to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” his constant bragging was a turnoff to many.

Most namesakes are like that: They’re mixed blessings, and many contemporary namesakes have the additional downside of having incomplete biographies. Here’s a brief list of contemporary celebrities whose public images (once stellar) have taken a turn for the worse: Britney (Spears), Paris (Hilton), Lance (Armstrong), Alex (Rodriguez) and David (Petraeus).

It can be risky to name your baby after someone whose “biography” is incomplete. Think about Miley (Cyrus) or Justin (Bieber), who seem to be off to good starts but whose biographies are in the “early innings.” As they age, their “squeaky clean” images are likely to change.

So, if using contemporary celebrities as “famous namesakes” is fraught with danger, whom should you name your child after if you want to name him or her after someone famous? Consider historical, biblical, sports, military, science or literary figures* whose biographies are complete and whose lives you think are worth emulating (even if they were imperfect).

My mother picked my middle name, Bruce, because she admired Robert Bruce (aka Robert the Bruce), a Scotsman who was defeated by the British many times but who never gave up his desire to lead Scotland to regain its status as an independent nation. That name has served me well. Many times, when I’ve been “knocked down,” I’ve been inspired by my namesake to try again.

Instead of looking for names based on their trendiness or uniqueness, why not consider a name with a famous bearer who can serve as a namesake to provide inspiration and be a positive role model for your child? Keeping in mind that all humans are flawed and that not everyone has a positive opinion of the people listed below, here are some famous namesakes you might (or might not) consider as role models for your child:

-Joan of Arc (a great French military leader, and a martyr during the Hundred Years War)

-St. Francis of Assisi (a pious priest whom Pope Francis used as a namesake)

-Robert the Bruce (a great Scottish warrior who battled England to regain independence for Scotland; according to myth, he never gave up when his prospects appeared to be at the lowest ebb)

-Winston Churchill (a great British prime minister who helped the Allies prevail in World War II)

-David (ancient Israel’s first great king, who bravely slew the huge warrior Goliath using only a sling and a stone)

-Billie Jean King (a great tennis star who won even greater fame by beating Bobby Riggs in a tennis match that the media billed at the time as “The Battle of the Sexes”)

-Martin Luther King (a great American civil rights reformer who was named after Martin Luther, a leader of the Protestant Reformation)

-Abraham Lincoln (the 16th president of the U.S., he lead the country through the Civil War; in the process of which he abolished slavery and strengthened the country)

-Nelson Mandela, (after being imprisoned for 27 years, he was the first black president of South Africa, and the man who ended the cruel and dehumanizing apartheid system )

-Golda Meir (Israel’s first female prime minister, known as the “Iron Lady”—long before Margaret Thatcher earned that nickname—and the grandmother of Israeli politics)

-Jesse Owens (an Olympic hero who won four gold medals in track and field at the 1936 Summer Olympics)

-Ayn Rand (author of “The Fountainhead” and a “high priestess” for many conservatives)

-Paul Revere (an American revolutionary patriot who warned the colonial militia that “The British are coming!”)

-Jackie Robinson (the first African-American in the Major Leagues; a great ballplayer and role model)

-Theodore Roosevelt (a great environmentalist and a fierce fighter against corruption)

-William Shakespeare (perhaps the greatest writer in the English language)

-Gloria Steinem (a founder of Ms. Magazine who helped raise America’s consciousness of feminist issues)

-Margaret Thatcher (the longest-serving British prime minister and the only woman to have held that office)

-Leonardo da Vinci (the quintessential multitalented Renaissance Man, and the inspiration for the popular cable TV series “Da Vinci’s Demons”)

Of course, you can name your child after a ballplayer you enjoy cheering for or a movie star whose films you enjoy watching. But think about this: If you name your child Bruce, will you tell him he was named after Bruce Wayne or Bruce Lee or Bruce Willis, or will you tell him he was named after Robert Bruce, who fought for Scottish independence and never gave up?

*You’ll find lots of helpful lists of famous athletes, politicians, military leaders, scientists, writers, actors and artists of all kinds in most of my baby-name books.

What are the Odds William and Kate will Copy Wayne Rooney and Name their Son Klay?

Although Twitter Trolls trashed the name Wayne Rooney chose for baby, Klay, online betting casinos are telling a different story. Manchester United soccer star Wayne Rooney is so highly regarded in the U.K., that many Brits are willing to bet that Klay and/or his name are destined for great things, according to an article in Online Casino Reports. Here are the current odds quoted by online betting casino, William Hill Sports:

-Klay will become the Prime Minister of the U.K. (1000/1 odds)
-Klay will play for the English national team (200/1 odds)
-Klay will be the youngest ever to play for the English national team (500/1 odds)
-Klay and his brother Kai will both play for the English national team (1,000/1 odds)
-Klay is the name that will be selected for William and Kate’s son (10,000/1 odds)

Apparently the odds against the Royal Couple naming their son Klay are fairly high, because rumors are circulating that the royal baby will be a girl. According to oddsmakers Alexandra, Victoria, Elizabeth and Diana are currently in the lead.

Brit Soccer Star Wayne Rooney’s Name Choice Trashed after He Tweeted Birth Announcement for Klay Anthony Rooney

I was disturbed by Laura Cox’s Reuters article about British soccer star Wayne Rooney, whose happy Tweets about brand new baby, Klay Anthony Rooney, were attacked by Twitter Trolls who badmouthed the baby’s name and even what he looked like.

If you want the lurid details you can read the original article, but suffice it to say their comments were rude and crude and could be fairly described as “personal attacks.”

Most articles about birth announcements either gush over the names or critique them, but this one helped me imagine how critical comments might come across to the parents. I write about celebrity baby names too; my blog is tweeted out on the internet. I get news “feeds” through Twitter, just like those British “Twitter trolls.” And I’m rarely impressed by celebrity baby names, many of of which come across to me as “self-indulgent publicity stunts,” like the names Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have been “leaking” on evening TV talk shows.

But the Rooney article reports that Klay* was named after Muhammad Ali whose birth name was Cassius Clay, that Klay’s older brother was named Kai and the Rooney’s were going with one-syllable “K”-names for both brothers (so they can remember their kids’names when their short-term memory starts to go).

There’s nothing awful or egregious about the names Wayne and Colleen Rooney picked for their two sons. In fact, I think the Rooney boys lucked out. But reading the article helped me empathize with past victims of overly harsh critical comments I’ve written over the years.

My main purpose in writing about celebrity baby names is to turn celebrity birth announcements into “teachable moments” for expecting parents who are likely to read almost anything written about “baby names in the news” (which is also the name of my blog). Of course if you’re a celebrity who gives your baby a “what-were-they-thinking?” name (like Apple, Blue Ivy, or Peaches Honeyblossom) you’re not going to be too happy about my cricial comments, if you happen to read them.

Anyway, I’m feeling contrite and hope y’all don’t perceive me as a rude and crude internet troll. So to make up for any names I may have “greeted” with overly harsh comments, I’m giving Wayne and Colleen Rooney 2 thumbs up for sibling names Klay and Kai.

*I wonder if Rooney is aware of what an amazing star Klay Thompson of the NBA (Golden State Warriors) has become.

The Themes Behind the Simultaneously Fastest-Rising Boys’ and Girls’ Names in 2012

You may have read articles about “hot names” written before the Social Security Administration released their authoritative list of the 1,000 most popular names in 2012. Forget all about them. They were based on “clicks” on websites rather than on the names that actually appeared on birth certificates during 2012. Here is my report on the themes behind the fastest-rising boys’ and girls’ names in 2012. On this list I’ve tried to explain the rapid rise in popularity of names which seemed to be rising for the same (thematic) reason, simultaneously on the lists of fast-rising boys’ and girls’ names. Most reports about “hot” or fast-rising names focus on celebrity tie-ins. I’m more interested in looking for patterns that connect several fast-rising names to a particular underlying theme.

1. Ari- or Ary- variations
Arya was the No. 1 fastest-rising girls’ name, followed by soundalike name Aria and root names Arielle and Ariel. How interesting that Ari was the ninth fastest-rising boys’ name. Ari and Arya/Aria could be nicknames for either Ariel and Arielle (Hebrew) or Aristotle (Greek).

2. Shakespearean names
Romeo and Juliette (whose Shakespearean origin is obvious) were fast-rising names on the boys’ and girls’ lists, respectively. Orlando (the name of the romantic male lead in “As You Like It”) was a fast-rising boys’ name.

3. Christmas names
Noel (a fast-rising boys’ name) and Noelle (a fast-rising girls’ name) zipped up the lists simultaneously, at about the same pace.

The Themes Behind the Fastest-Rising Girls’ Names in 2012

You may have read articles about “hot names” written before the Social Security Administration released their authoritative list of the 1,000 most popular names in 2012. Forget all about them. They were based on “clicks” on websites rather than on the names that actually appeared on birth certificates during 2012. Here is my report on the themes behind the fastest-rising girls’ names in 2012. I’ve tried to explain the rapid rise in popularity of names which seemed to be rising for the same (thematic) reason. Most reports about “hot” or fast-rising names focus on celebrity tie-ins. I’m more interested in looking for patterns that connect several fast-rising names to a particular underlying theme.

1. “-Lynn/-Lyn” suffix names
Raelynn was the fifth fastest-rising girls’ name. Also in the top 20 fastest-rising girls’ names were Raelyn, Marilyn, Adelynn and Adalyn. Not too far below those names is Adelyn. Note that Marilyn was undoubtedly helped by the popularity of the TV show “Smash.”

2. Rose and variation
Rosalie was the sixth fastest-rising girls’ name. Further down the list you’ll also find the root name, Rose (a “grandma” name which appears to be coming back into fashion).

3. Spiritual/religious names
Haven was the seventh fastest-rising spiritual and/or religious name for girls. Others include Miracle, Journey and Genesis.

4. Camila and variations
Myla, a variation of Mila, was the 20th fastest-rising girls’ name. But not far behind came Mila (popularized by actress Mila Kunis). Mila is a nickname for root name Camila and variation, Kamila. Both were also on the list of fast-rising names. Camila moved up strongly to an overall popularity ranking of No. 48 (from No. 61 in 2011).

5. Skylar and variations
Skyler was the 22nd fastest-rising girls’ name. It was followed by root name Skylar and nickname Skye. Of these names, Skylar ranked highest in overall popularity at No. 87 (up from No. 145 in 2011).

6. Charlie as a girl’s name
Charlie was the 28th fastest-rising girls’ name; it was followed by an alternate spelling: Charlee.

7. Nature names
Ivy was the 23rd fastest-rising name for girls, and the fastest rising nature name–perhaps due to controversy that promoted awareness of Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy. The only other fast-rising nature names were Willow and Iris.

8. Place names
Paris was back on the list of fast-rising place names. Much farther down the list (in the moderate-riser category) were Londyn, Charlotte, Georgia, Caroline, Brittany, Bristol and Madisyn. To put Paris into perspective, it ranked No. 274 in overall popularity in 2012, in contrast to more popular (top-100 in overall popularity) names like Madison, Charlotte, Broooklyn, Savannah, and Sydney–all of which declined in popularity from 2011 to 2012.

9. Musical names
The fastest-rising musical name for girls was Lyric. Other fast-rising musical names were Melody, Harmony and Harper. It should be noted that Harper ranked No. 24 in overall popularity.

10. Four-syllable, “-iana” suffix names
There were three four-syllable names that ended with an “-iana” suffix: Lilliana, Elliana and Jiuliana. I’m sure it will be a pleasure to call those girls to dinner, some day.

The Themes Behind the Fastest-Rising Boys’ Names in 2012

You may have read articles about “hot names” written before the Social Security Administration released their authoritative list of the 1,000 most popular names in 2012. Forget all about them. They were based on “clicks” on websites rather than on the names that actually appeared on birth certificates during 2012. Here is my report on the trends behind the fastest-rising boys’ names in 2012. On this list I’ve tried to explain the rapid rise in popularity of names which seemed to be rising for the same (thematic) reason. Most reports about “hot” or fast-rising names focus on celebrity tie-ins. I’m more interested in looking for patterns that connect several fast-rising names to a particular underlying theme.

1. Pompous titles
Three of the top 10 fastest-rising boys’ names were Major, Messiah and King. A little farther down the fast-riser list was Prince.

2. Nicknames for Jason
Jase was the third fastest-rising boys’ name, along with variations, Jayce and Jace. I noticed that Jason’s overall popularity declined to 76 in 2012 (from 69 in 2011). Apparently parents were looking for informal, one-syllable nicknames.

3. X-names
Knox was the 12th fastest-rising boys’ name. Also rising quickly were Jaxson and Jaxon, Paxton and Braxton, Dexter and Maxwell.

4. Z-names
Zayden was the 14th and Zaiden was the 19th fastest-rising boys’ name. Not far behind were Zachariah and Zander. In terms of overall popularity, Jayden declined to seventh (from fourth in 2011) and Aiden declined to tenth (from ninth in 2011). Apparently, parents were looking for more distinctive soundalike options to Jayden and Aiden.

5. “-Ett” suffix names
Fast-rising “-ett” suffix names include 16th fastest-rising boys’ name Barrett, followed by Everett, Bennett, Emmett and Beckett.

6. Weapon/hunter/military names
Remington (a popular rifle brand) was the 17th fastest-rising boys’ name. Also rising rapidly were Gunnar, Gunner and Archer, along with Cason, Kason and Kasen — names that sound like caisson, a military ammunition box celebrated in the U.S. Army’s official song, “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” The name Major also fits this military theme.

7. “-Ton” suffix names
I’ve already mentioned Remington, Paxton and Braxton. Other fast-rising names that fit this theme were Weston and two K-names: Kolton and Kingston.

8. Variations of Leonardo
Leon was the 22nd fastest-rising boy’s name. It was followed by Leo and Leonel (which is also a variation of Lionel).

9. Place names
Fast-rising place names included Orlando (Florida), Kingston (Jamaica), Hudson (River) and Davis (California).

About Wildly Popular Names—Like Jacob

Just read an interesting article by Laura Wattenberg, proving (with the aid of convincing charts) that usage of an extremely popular (#1-rated name like Jacob) peaks when it achieves #1 status and fairly quickly thereafter begins to decline in usage (presumably as people decide against using the #1 name because it is “too popular”). The point she makes is that you shouldn’t give up on using a name you love–because usage will decline—even if the name remains #1 in popularity. And, her conclusion does make sense for people who don’t realize why they are hanging on to the name as though it were the only name in the world good enough for their baby.

Here’s a completely different interpretation of Laura’s charts. Don’t pick a name that has just climbed onto the top-ten list. It is already very popular and might get even more popular. So popular there will be other Jacobs or Masons or Liams or Jaydens in your son’s nursery school, kindergarten class and college class. And don’t forget the reason everyone “loves” these names: they keep seeing the names mentioned in birth announcements, in articles about the most popular names and in kiddie parks where it seems every other mother is calling her baby–and using the name they “love.”

“Hot” names are like “hot” stocks. If your hair stylist (or barber) touts either a “hot stock” or a “hot name” forgetaboutit! If everybody else likes it, you don’t really like it. You just wish you had bought the stock or picked the name about three years ago (for your first child) before it was discovered by almost every mother (and her stylist). By the time a name is on everyone’s lips it’s time to start looking for a name that every other mother in the park is not bragging about.