Friday, June 24, 2011

the trouble with names

We're now a month out from my due date and it seems jparks and I are no closer to picking a name for this kid than we were nine months ago. Technically we are right on track with our naming history as Truman was two days old before he had a name but this time we really wanted to do better. Sadly, we are failing at this endeavor.

Here's the thing: there's a name I really love but I'm torn about using it because it has become very visible and is now associated with a celebrity. And so I'm asking y'all for advice.

Let's pretend the name I love is Bella. (It's not) Would y'all think I'm some nutty Twilight fan (which I suppose I am as I've read all the books and went to a screening of all the movies back to back but that's beside the point) or would you think that I just really like the name Bella? I mean Bella was a legitimate name option for parents before Twilight ever came into existence. It wasn't just an emotionless Kristen Steward fawning over an inappropriately old sparkly vampire; it was a cute name for little girls.

What if we took it a step farther and I said the name I love is Oprah (again, I swear it is not). There is definitely an attachment of the name Oprah to the media proprietor Oprah Winfrey. Like I even needed to say that. Hell, her name didn't exist until she came around because her parents created it by reversing Harpo. But what if I really loved it? What if I could remove the tv personality from the name and see Oprah as the perfect name for my kid? Again, would you think I'm some nutjob that secretly has Oprah's face tattooed on her back?

So what say you dear internet friends? Am I dooming a kid if I use a name that is currently associated with a celebrity? Will everyone think jparks and I spend our spare time stalking said celebrity? Or can people remove the celebrity from the name and accept that we're not crazy? Is it really back to the drawing board for us? Not that we really ever left the drawing board in the first place.

(For the record, even if you say you can all remove the celebrity from the name, it's not certain we'll go with that name. Jparks doesn't love it yet which is how he feels about almost all the names I like.)


  1. oh, just tell us the name. i can't answer it unless i know it.

  2. I think people who know you will quickly forget the celebrity connection. But there will probably be at least a few seconds of "huh" from new people. The bigger question I think is whether the celebrity connection has made the name popular enough that the kid will be facing loads of similarly named classmates, which I can tell you is a big pain.

    I read a New Yorker essay a while ago that took place in the backwoods of Louisiana, where lots of young women bear the names Krystle and Alexis. It did make me automatically think that their parents were kind of idiotic, especially in the context of the story, but I'm assuming your name choice is not as dippy as that.

  3. What Pyjammy Pam said, I'm afraid.

  4. I have to 2nd Pam and just ask that you PLEASE TELL US THE NAME! :) Just kidding, I'll try to help. In a perfect world, I'd tell you "who cares what people think?! It's YOUR precious, sweet baby," but that would be incredibly hypocritical since I don't even have a kid yet and I'm already making lists of names based on all kinds of things that relate to how the world will perceive my nonexistent child and his/her cool parents.

    That said, I still think that if you really like the name, you should just use it. I know you said it wasn't "Oprah," but for some reason I keep thinking it is, lol. That would be the only name that I can think of that people would almost always associate it with "that' Oprah, because there just aren't any others.

    For any other kind of celebrity name, I think the association will pass after a couple of years. So yeah, maybe you'll have some ignorant people asking you if you named her after "that" person (seriously, it's non of their business), but I think that will go away after a while.

    Shit, I just realized that my answer would be SO much better if I knew this name...

  5. It really depends on the name, honestly. If it's unique enough, such as Oprah, then yes, you are probably dooming your kid. If it's a name that is "common" but is attached to a current celebrity (such as Bella or Paris or Heidi) then I think you're safe.

  6. Agree with Steen. If it's Bella a character on a current fad TV show (sorry I do not watch the show), by the time Bella is old enough to go to school, her classmates and friends won't even know about the show. Their parents might, but that would hardly influence the kids. And like you said, Bella was a perfectly fine name before, and it will be again.
    However, Oprah is totally unique. There aren't many Oprah's out there, so I think it will be difficult to disassociate the name from the celebrity. I think Oprah will be around in 10/ 25/100 years in some form or another, so the kids will probably know who Oprah is...
    But whatever you do, please PLEASE for all that is holy in the world, do NOT name her DORA!!

  7. Okay, here's what I think: a name like 'Bella' which was popular BEFORE it was taken over by a vampire /famous person is no big deal. It's such a widely accepted name that no one thinks twice. So if it's a common name, but a famous person or franchise happens to use it, who cares.

    However, if you're talking about a very unique name that only one famous person seems to have and it's not a widely known name otherwise, I would think twice. Here are the points I would consider: Will this person famous enough to still be known when the kid is older (in other words, will the child be associated with that person, or will the famous person have been forgotten about?); what exactly is the famous person famous for?; does the celebrity live his/her life in a respectable way (I know that may seem weird, but you don't want to name you child the same as a person who's known for drunk driving/womanizing/being trashy/etc in the tabloids - though I'm sure you already thought of that); and do you think there will be lots of other kids the same age with that name, if it's a newer name that just catching on?

    Anyway, those are the points I would consider. Can't wait to hear what you go with!

  8. Hmm. I would probably say the name is safe unless it's, like, Fergie. Or Beyonce. Or Ke$ha. That dollar sign really gives it away.

  9. Ali Martell would disagree with Bella, since it's her daughter's name. :)

    I think you go with it, regardless of celebrity/notoriety. Because let's face it, even all those people who named their kid Emma after Rachel's baby on Friends, in 10 years, no one will even remember.

    Same goes for the name you're thinking of. It might be a little odd at first, but the name is cute and you should definitely name your kid that. Because in a few years? It won't have any buzz, but the name will still be adorable!

  10. Troy & I wanted Bella because it gave a 2 nd syllable to Belle for a 1st name. Then when Twilight came out Troy couldn't use the name. :( We settled on Zooey, but chose that spelling because it all of a sudden became a popular choice. And, yes, we named her after a celebrity.

  11. or... reframe it. Does the name have any meaning behind it? Like the "L" for Leah is really for "Louis", my grandfather. So, even if "Leah" was associated with a celebrity, the story is STILL that "L" is for Louis.

    Either way, I agree with folks above - in 10 years no one will remember the celebrity connection. We don't make huge stars any more, we make starlets. Starlets burn out. ;)

  12. I agree with the comments about the super unique names. If it's a more common name, the celebrity bit will be forgotten over time. The one thing I would recommend against is naming her a name that will become an old-lady name. My name, for example, is everyone's Mom's / Aunt's / Mom's Aunt's Friend's name so I always think of it as an old-lady name. I met a young girl named Lisa the other day, and she thought her name was an old lady name for the same reason.

  13. OK, that last anonymous comment was from Linda H. Don't know why it's not taking my Gogole account....

  14. I agree with what most people have said so far. Depending on the name and celebrity, the association will probably be forgotten at some point. But really, I think you can't win. What if you pick a name that seems pretty unique at the time and then a few years later some celebrity/singer/actress becomes popular with the same name? Total coincidence. And even then, after a few years, people forget the association. (I speak form experience on that one.) So I say name the kid the name that you love and who cares what celebrity might happen to share it.

  15. If the name is trendy now because of a celebrity now, it may not be so when she goes to school. The real question is, can the named be turned into anything nasty on the playground/locker room- does it rhyme with anything, etc?! No, really, choose a name that you like as long as it doesn't guarantee her a life at the Men's CLub (anything with -ee), you'll be fine.

    Good luck.

    Also, if we had a third girl (we're not), a leading contender would be Lorelai, which is a Gilmore Girl character but I also just really love that name.

  16. I think it depends on the celebrity. Like anyone named Michael Jackson wants to kill themselves, right? But even Oprah, while it has a complete association with the tv host, she's not a horrible person, so I would think even that would be fine. People who know you will come to know the name with YOUR child, and people who don't know you won't really care. Plus, any name is vulnerable to celebrity. I mean, you could pick Jane and next year Disney could create a Princess Jane and you'll be out of luck.

    Can't wait to hear the verdict! :)

  17. Ha. Kristin.
    Truthfully, my Isabella was born waaaaay before Bella Swan even came on the horizon...but NO ONE has ever said anything to me about it being the same name.
    I think the thing with names that are associated with celebrity or may seem like a big deal now...but in a few years? no one will know and no one will care. If you LOVE the name, I say that you go for it, regardless of any celebrity association.

  18. I think it really depends on the name. I mean, if we're talking about OPRAH, well then I think it's hard to remove the celebrity from a name. But, if we're talking about a name that was a name before it was famous, then I think it's fine. I think what matters most is that YOU love the name. Unless the name is ESPN, in which case, it's not okay, regardless of how much you love it.

  19. Wow, I'm glad I didn't read this until after I knew the name. It would have made me crazy!

    Were there really Pippas before?