Kevin Polowy’s article on Yahoo Movies tells the entertaining story of how the name Madison started as a joke in the movie, “Splash” starring Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah as a mermaid.
“Splash” was released 30 years ago on March 9, 1984. According to baby-name expert, Joal Ryan,
Madison was nowhere on the radar as a girl name until 1985 — a year after the release of ‘Splash.’ So, there definitely seems to be a connection there, especially since there’s no other major female Madison, either real or fictional, who was out there as a role model.
The name took off as soon as the movie came out. It showed up in Social Security Administration popularity statistics in 1985. By 1990, it was ranked at #216. By 1995, it had zoomed up to #29. And by 2000 it was the #3 most popular girl’s name in the U.S. The popularity of Madison ranked among the top-five girls’ names from 2000 until 2008. And in 2012 Madison was still among the top-ten names for girls, ranked at #9. Madison is one of the most classic illustrations of the effect of movies (or mass media) on baby-name popularity.
Now that you know how the name Madison was launched by Darryl Hannah’s character in “Splash” and how popular it has become, here’s how Hannah explains the “joke.”
The whole point of me choosing that name was because it [was such a] silly name. Obviously everyone knew it as the name of the street [Madison Avenue]. No one really saw it as a first name and that was a joke. And now, of course it’s not funny at all. It’s just like, Oh, what a beautiful name!’ … It was funny at the time and now it’s not even ironic.
As I write this post, I’m aware of the fact that I advise parents against giving babies “joke” names, because it’s highly likely that the joke will be on the baby (and ultimately, the parents who will have to pay for the child’s therapy). Madison proves that some “joke names” can turn out well for the child (and the parents).