Back in May of 2006, the name Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale gave their first son, Kingston James McGregor, a name that was out of the ordinary. Using Kingston, a place name, seemed cool, but I worried what people would call him. King? (King is a grandiose title if ever there was one. Bullies might call him King Kong. But with James as a middle name, King James (like Lebron) was the more likely moniker. If the boy were a clan or a kilt, McGregor might come in handy. But, unfortunately, McGregor comes across as an unrelated add-on to Kingston and James.The best that can be said about these three names is that James provides a strong option should Kingston (or King for short) become too unwieldy or uncomfortable for the boy.
When their second son was born in 2008, the name Stefani and Rossdale came up with was Zuma Nesta Rock. That combination was immediately considered one of the “worst celebrity baby names” of the year and was added to many all-time “worst celebrity baby name” lists as well. Stefani and Rossdale’s credentials for “notorious” or “outrageous” baby names was now established.
The name presents a practical problem; it’s not clear what people call the boy: Zuma? Nesta? Rock? On an aesthetic level, the combination of three seemingly unrelated capitalized words may call to mind the Stone Age or perhaps a post-apocalyptic time in the future, which is why the combination seems so disorienting.
Stefani and Rossdale’s first two baby-naming projects included these elements:
-a first name that didn’t look or sound much like a name
-two “middle names” with little or no relationship to the first name
-a vibe of randomness or disunity between all three names
-seemingly little or no thought given to what the child would actually be called
-the net effect: an uncomfortable, disunited or disorienting impression.
So it’s not surprising that Stefani and Rossdale have again picked a name, Apollo Bowie Flynn, that is likely to attract attention. Apollo was the Greek god of prophecy, healing, music, poetry and light. Like Kingston (King for short) Apollo makes a grandiose statement. It calls to mind Apolo Ohno, the Japanese-American Olympic short-track star and Apollo Creed the African-American fictional boxer in “Rocky” films also known as: The Master of Disaster, The King of Sting, The Dancing Destroyer, The Prince of Punch, and The Count of Monte Fisto. (Either way, it’s a very colorful and attention-getting first name.)
The two middle names, Bowie and Flynn are completely unrelated to Apollo. Bowie calls to mind Jim Bowie, a nineteenth-century American soldier, smuggler, slave trader, and land speculator, who is famous for having killed a sheriff with a long, 9 ½ inch knife that was honed sharp on both sides (and called a “Bowie knife”). Flynn is a prototypical Irish surname that has been made famous by the expression “in like Flynn” and happens to be on my list of “Cool Names for Boys.” In short, Apollo Bowie Flynn comes across as a random collection (or melting pot) of names which are as “disunited” as Zuma, Nesta, and Rock.
This is what I wrote about the name before I read an article in the Independent which reported the source of the two middle names: Bowie and Flynn are Stefani’s and Rossdale’s mothers’ maiden names. That changes the story, but it doesn’t change the overall effect. Apollo and Bowie are two glitzy names that will compete against one another for “first name” status. They will also compete against Flynn, a cool name that starts the contest in third place.
One way or another, ABF will wind up with a name he likes–we just don’t know which of the three names it will be, probably until high school or college. So there’s no need to call the Baby Name Police, except perhaps to break up some fighting between the three names that should be working together.
(BTW, here’s a link to the birth announcement in The Independent that provided me with information about the two middle names.)