Names and fandom: The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat

May 21st 2009

In September 2001, unheralded young football quarterback Tom Brady took over for the New England Patriots' injured star Drew Bledsoe. By the close of that season in February 2002, Brady had led his Cinderella team to a Superbowl championship.

Brady proved to be more than just a one-year wonder. He soon lead the Patriots to two more titles, and in 2007 to the greatest statistical season of any QB in history. Also, he was a nice-looking fella. But February 2008 brought a tough Superbowl defeat, then at the start of the Fall 2008 season Brady tore up his knee and was lost for the year.

Let's tell that story again, in baby-name terms:

Popularity of the name Brady over time

You can see the strong, steady rise that began with Brady's 2002 Superbowl triumph, the extra burst in record-setting 2007, then the six-year surge coming to an end with the 2008 injury. (Note that a baby Brady on "Sex and the City" makes no impact in comparison.) Of course, it's possible that the name had just run its course by 2008 and wasn't reflecting the quarterback's injured-reserve status. But the closer you zoom in, the more the pattern spells football.

Massachusetts, home of the Patriots, experienced an especially strong Brady surge -- and an especially strong post-injury dip. Nationwide, the number of baby Bradys fell by just 3% in 2008. In Massachusetts, the drop was 21%. Take into account that Tom Brady started the year as King of the World and wasn't injured until September, and it's likely that the rate of little Bradys in the Bay State fell off a cliff in the 4th quarter.

Is this the ultimate example of fair-weather fans? The guy leads your team to four Superbowls, then the minute he's hurt you abandon him? I may be biased (I'm a Patriots fan myself), but I don't think it's that simple. For a diehard football fan, a season-ending injury to your star quarterback is a punch to the gut. Thinking about Tom Brady during the "lost season" became painful, so the name Brady was a tough sell.

It's a risky business, tying your child's name to the vagaries of sport. Brady's a relatively safe bet; barring massive scandal, he's a guaranteed lifelong New England legend. But as 2008 proved, nobody's Superman. Worse yet, there's no saying that Brady or any other team-sport athlete won't wind up his career playing for a hated rival. To stay on the safe side of fan naming, stick to retired players, locations (Wrigley and Fenway are big with baseball fans), or other lasting symbols of the team you love.


May 21, 2009 1:32 PM

Yay Laura being a Pats fan!! I think Mass fans take their teams so seriously that it is highly likely people couldn't think the name Brady all winter (Matt anyone;)?

Do people actually name their kids Fenway and Wrigley? Or is that just an example of places baseball fans love?

May 21, 2009 1:36 PM

Jenny L3igh -- I've come across lots of kids with MIDDLE names Wrigley and Fenway after the parks. As first names, they seem to fail the style test!

May 21, 2009 1:48 PM

A friend who recently named a daughter Addison saw it as a subtle tribute to Wrigley Field, since the stadium is located on the corner of Addison and Clark Streets. He had even considered Addison and Clark as a twin-set. It's not obvious (and certainly Addison is riding on the coat-tails of Madison), but I wonder if other parents have had similar motivations in the big Addison surge of recent years.

By Yolanda (not verified)
May 21, 2009 1:52 PM

I wonder if Brady might have caught on because while it played homage to a sports superstar, it wasn't so overtly connected that the star's eventual demise would taint the name in the future. Another example would be Jordan, as compared to Kobe or Farve.

I also wonder if another explanation for he quick demise of the name might be better explained not by the player's injury, but by his becoming a father himself in 2007 (cloaked in a bit of scandal, nonetheless). I'm no sociologist, but I argue that it's harder to project the fantasy of Tom Brady as a surrogate father, bestowing his good looks and athletic prowess on your son, if Brady has a son of his own and is publicly ambivalent about it.

If you're going to name your child after someone you don't know, you'd rather believe he were a deity, not a fallible human being.

By Eo (not verified)
May 21, 2009 1:57 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the same Brady (I'm completely oblivious to football, but I did read about a guy who did this) who left his girlfriend while she was pregnant, only to pursue and then marry a "super-model"?

Gack-- if the above events transpired at the same time as a name decline, that would please me no end. It would be nice to think there are still some people who exercise value judgments about unacceptable behavior...

Interesting fictional sibling group: Was just reading a review of a new thriller set in an English village in the 1950's-- "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie". Eleven year old sleuth "Flavia" has two sisters named "Ophelia" and "Daphne".

Flavia, Ophelia and Daphne are a nice combo, although maybe ever so slightly too self-consciously literary or something? The author seems to be partial to the "ph", "f", (or closely related v) sound in names...

By slk34 (not verified)
May 21, 2009 2:01 PM

Eo, you're right, that's the same Tom Brady. The mother of his son (John Edward Thomas) is Bridget Moynahan and the model he's currently dating is Gisele Bundchen. The baby was born in 2007, though, I think, so I'm not sure it necessarily correlates w/ the decline in Bradys.

May 21, 2009 2:11 PM

Tom and Gisele are married now.

I have a friend that named her daughter Brady last year. The Dad really liked it because of Tom Brady. This post is evidence that Dads do have naming influence! :)

By Tau
May 21, 2009 3:08 PM

Wrigley to me says chewing gum. It also seems like a good name for a cat.

If I ever met a little boy named Fenway, I might be tempted to call him Frank.

By Tau
May 21, 2009 3:22 PM

Upon further reflection, perhaps that's because cats are rather wriggly things.

By hyz
May 21, 2009 3:35 PM

Ok, I LOVE Addison and Clark as a sibset with that back story. And that's true even though I do *not* like the name Addison. Street names are really not necessarily a bad source of inspiration imo--this makes me think of other intersections I might want to honor. In fact, we live at the intersection of Graham and Coral. I could totally see naming kids that. There's also an Ivy street in my town, and I get warm fuzzies every time I pass it.

May 21, 2009 3:39 PM

re: Flavia: Unfortunately, I know this as the name of a beverage company.

By I-I Guest (not verified)
May 21, 2009 4:21 PM

i've been running this over in my head for a few days, but i've loaned out my bnw and have had a hard time coming up with names on my own... i've got a friend with irish heritage and her partner is of italian hertige. his name is simlilar to 'spicolli' for flow/sound reference.
anyone have suggestions on how to honor both cultures? with a name that's not overly trendy and difficult to pronounce and/or spell?

By Rosamond (not verified)
May 21, 2009 4:25 PM

OK, I'm embarrassed that I even know this, but...I just read a long interview with Gisele where she described how she & Brady had been together for a while (a month or two?), were in love, and THEN they learned that his ex-girlfriend was pregnant. FWIW.

By slk34 (not verified)
May 21, 2009 4:27 PM

oh-- i keep forgetting to mention this. there is a school near my parents' house that has a big sign outside of it saying something about it being in memory of the XXXXX Family-- Sam, Tammy, Tom, Tim, and Pam. ack!

By Jessica L (not verified)
May 21, 2009 4:28 PM

This is somewhat related, but I've been wondering what will happen to the name Rihanna this year. The singer and the name had been growing in popularity over the last few years, but she received a lot of flack and criticism after her assault earlier this year. I'm curious if any parents-to-be are now avoiding this as a namesake. I'm guessing it will either grow slightly or drop off dramatically.

May 21, 2009 4:40 PM

re: Irish and Italian names: This guy ( suggests Ciara/Chiara but notes they are pronounced differently. He also recommends that if the surname will be Italian to go with an Irish first name and vice versa, which I think is a common approach.

this site ( says they went with Julianna. Also a lot of posts there from how others negotiated the same challenge.

May 21, 2009 5:00 PM

So, the Park family from my town had all girls with normal names, like Krystal, and then along came their first boy. His name is Fenway Park. No, I am not joking, and this isn't just a "I heard from somebody..." story. My little brother played little league with him. I always felt so bad for the kid, because the announcers would laugh when they got to his name! So, believe it folks, people really do use stadiums as names!!

By I-I Guest (not verified)
May 21, 2009 5:03 PM

I've looked a bit at those sites, thanks. I was hoping the bnw crew might have some fresh ideas... I should point out they are looking for both boy and girl names.
Also - his taste runs toward the more obvious - Isabella, Sophia, etc... She prefers more of the older generation names - Oscar, Henry, etc. (yes, trendy, but this is just to show taste).

May 21, 2009 5:25 PM

Irish/Italian is such a tough one because stylistically the names are so different. MAybe Danielle/Daniel?

Naming after stadiums seems a bit odd, as does naming after anything that is not extremely connected to you and your family. It's easy to pick Tom out of a hat (so to speak) and not have it necessarily MEAN something, Brady is accepted as a common name too now. Fenway would be a stretch. Like if you worked there or fell in love there or something maybe but otherwise its just odd.

Street names:Grumman anyone? Its a bit like Griffin and Truman combined but it is pron Grum-man.

By Tom Zarek (not verified)
May 21, 2009 5:40 PM

Circe, I also know of a family who last year gave their daughter the middle name Addison for that very reason. I have a feeling that they'd heard the name Addison around and immediately connected it to Wrigley Field, rather than pulling the name off a street sign (a la the mermaid in Splash!).

By jt (not verified)
May 21, 2009 6:03 PM

I also personally know a young boy named Wrigley Field.

May 21, 2009 7:06 PM

Re: I-I Guest @the Intersection of Irish & Italian

Not to make a stereotypical judgment here, but perhaps a common meeting point would be saints' names?

Anthony, Patrick, etc are obvious, but perhaps any of the following:
Finan, Finnbar, Fintan, or Flannan

Attracta (surprizingly common in Ireland)
Columba (technically male but works as well or better for girls)

All are saints with a connection to Ireland, but are not overtly or exclusively Irish (and most avoid the complex spellings I love so much)


May 21, 2009 8:49 PM

My college alumni magazine came today... I always flip immediately to the Births section in the back to check out the latest in Canadian baby naming (leaning a bit toward the urban hipster set). I thought I'd share this month's lists:

BOYS: Akira - Ewan - Graye - Theo - Jameson - Dawson - Colton - Kyan - Jack - Finn - Isaac - George - Connor - Cameron - Lukas

GIRLS: Evelyn - Madison - Anne - Sophia - Isabella - Sarah - Rachel - Kate - Chloe - Avery - Olivia - Mhairi - Lorelei - Sophia - Sloane

The boys' list is more interesting this month. I'm noticing a consistent swing toward short, snappy, often nickname-ish names for boys these days... almost like the 70's. Goodbye Brad, Chad and Todd, hello Jack, Finn and Theo. Kyan is interesting... is it an invented combination of trendy sound elements, or is there a meaning/history behind it? I'm not sure I like Gray-with-an-E... looks like Faye, and "gray" has such a bland, elderly image. I'm really intrigued by the very Japanese "Akira" on a very white-looking baby with an Anglo surname... English teachers in Japan? Or video game fans?

Not much exciting on the girls' list by comparison, plenty of conventional classics. Another Sloane - that's definitely up and coming. Nice to see Anne as a first name instead of stuck in the middle - quietly classy and surprisingly distinctive. I've noticed a lot of parents using just Kate now as a full name, instead of Katherine or Katelyn which are so common now. Maybe one of the Irish name enthusiasts can help me with the pronunciation of Mhairi? (If I'm not mistaken, it starts with a V sound...)

May 21, 2009 9:36 PM

re: Kyan: I know two although I'm not sure about the spellings (I think at least one is Kian). One has siblings, K@cen and Ki3ryn (girl, sp?).

May 21, 2009 10:26 PM

While not attracted to Addison, I, too, think the pairing of Clark and Addison is kind of charming (and so are Graham and Coral, hyz!). Street names might make very personal connections for people without broadcasting those feelings quite so publicly (a la Wrigley, etc.) And while I would criticize naming your children after sports stadiums as taking fandom too far, I'd have no hesitation naming kids after literary figures, so I should probably cool it.

However, naming your kids after street names could also be dangerous: I used to live near Bonerwood Drive in Nashville. (No kidding. You can Google it--at your own peril.)

May 21, 2009 10:48 PM

I agree that twins named Addison & Clark would be a very sweet and subtle tribute. My boyfriend and I have often joked about naming children after an intersection near our house: Harbert & Rozelle. We find this hilarious, but I could see someone actually doing it. "Rozelle" is very pretty.

Gold star to anyone who can name our neighborhood/city! (Not currently Minnesota, despite my user name.)

By Aybee (not verified)
May 21, 2009 10:52 PM

I once met a little girl whose name was Shea. She was a child of mets fans. I thought it was a nicely subtle tribute, as Shea is a name on its own.

By Guest (not verified)
May 21, 2009 11:05 PM

The closest intersection to our house is Walker and Dora. That would work perfectly as names.

However, we are moving to Cactus. :)

By Beth the original (not verified)
May 21, 2009 11:42 PM

Stoked to name my kids 23rd and De Haro. The first set of twins was 58th and Shattuck, but Shattuck's put in for a name change.

May 22, 2009 12:23 AM

What do you all think of the name Schuyler/Skylar/etc. in general? The talk of street names made me think of it as there is a street near me with a similar name. I knew one once in a daycare I worked in about 20 yrs ago now. (Yes, from that you may guesstimate my age). Anyway, its not a name I hear much anymore. According to SSA stats, Skyler(b) peaked @214 in 1994 and (g)@250 in 2000; Skylar(g)peaked @131 in 1999 and (b)@358 in 1998; and Schuyler(b)was in and out of the bottom 1000 and was 1003 in 1995. Schuyler was never recorded in the top 1000 as a girls name.

Is it something you would ever consider? Which spelling? I think I like SkylAr for a boy, Skyler or Skyla for a girl. Schuyler just seems not to be intuitive to me.

May 22, 2009 12:48 AM

@ Ayaka:

Re: Mhairi

The tricky thing with Irish pronunciation is always the "h" - it changes everything. In some case, "mh" makes a "v" sound, as in "Niamh" (Neev). However, in others, it's a "w". usually, in my experience, at the beginning of the word it's a "w", and the "ai" is short - so think "Warry" rather than "Very",

BUT just to make things difficult, I did some checking and Mhairi is given by most as a scottish variation, so the above rules won't necessarily apply (I'm not up on my Scot-Gaelic). The namepedia gives both "Mah-ree" and "Vah-ree" as pronunciations, so I'd trust that.

BTW, met with my fincial advisor at the bank today, whose name, I thought, was "Corrine". It's actually spelled "Korean". Seriously.

May 22, 2009 12:49 AM

Oh, on the street front, my twins would be Baile and Boyce.

Actually an *almost* Irish connection there!

May 22, 2009 1:41 AM

So since it sort of came up, I have an unanswerable question regarding baby Brady from Sex and the City. His father was named Steve Brady, so she named him Brady. But then Steve and Miranda got married, so what's the kid's name? Is it still Brady Hobbes? Brady Brady? Brady Hobbes-Brady? Awkward...

By Liz & Louka (not verified)
May 22, 2009 2:42 AM

For street names, my twins would be Jersey and Hampden. Would they be boys or girls? When we move to the new house, they'll be Glen and Soldiers. Definitely boys, I think.

By Bianca (not logged in) (not verified)
May 22, 2009 3:12 AM

I like the old school Schuyler spelling, and for a boy. Although I know one girl Skylar and I like it for her, so I guess that spelling if it's for a girl.

Corrine/Korean lol. That sounds like an English blunder that could only happen IN Korea. Speaking of Korean, I got to give a boy his English name today - my favorite time! It's like my secret testing ground..)

By Tess not signed in (not verified)
May 22, 2009 3:13 AM

My twins would be Gardner and Winthrop---how very posh of me!

May 22, 2009 6:32 AM

Hehehe the street name thing is funny- I could have Michigan and Mountain, or Park and Diamond....sometimes it works or sometimes it just doesn't! Right now we live on a country road, so that isn't any fun at all!

May 22, 2009 8:01 AM

My street name twins would be Mortimer and Woodmount. Yikes! That's a pair of names that would make life difficult in Junior High.

Now, my parents live at Alma & Sawyer... and before that, at Lawrence & Bellamy. Either of those would be great for boy/girl twins.

Re Skylar: A friend of mine loves this name and she's been saying for years she wants to name her daughter Skylar/Sky. But so far, she's only had a boy. Personally, I prefer just Sky, or Skye. Somehow I think "Skylar" looks odd in print... maybe because used to -er endings rather than -ar? (But Skyler looks more boyish.)

May 22, 2009 8:39 AM

Ayaka-It's interesting that you say Skylar with an A looks better for a boy than for a girl because you are used to -er endings for a boy. I thought the exact opposite. I thought Skylar had an ending so it rhymed with Car and it reminded me of Clark. The -er ending somehow seemed softer ?? but I don't know why. I can't think of any girl names ending in -er right now.

By slk34 (not verified)
May 22, 2009 8:59 AM

i'm enjoying these intersection names! our nearest intersection would be Park and College. I don't think I'd use either of those.

as for Skyler/ar/Schuyler-- I actually kind of like Schuyler best of those options. The TV show Heroes had a bad guy named Sylar (sp?) and I can't think of Skyler/Skylar without thinking of him (and he *really* creeped me out, so this is a BAD association).

May 22, 2009 9:08 AM

My sibset would be Kenora and Kenora, unfortunately, so that hardly works. I suppose I could use Ken and Nora if I was really hard pressed...

As far as Mhairi goes (in Scottish Gaelic), it's another case form of Mairi (Mary). Essentially, a person with the name Mairi would be referred to as Mairi, but addressed directly as Mhairi, with the additional 'h' changing the pronunciation to a 'v' sound. Mhairi is used as a name on it's own, however. The Gaelic for James, Seumas (Shay-muss), is the same. The vocative case form is Sheumais, pronounced 'Hamish'. Hamish is also used as a name independently of Seumas. Also, orthographically speaking, the 'a' in Mairi/Mhairi has a down-sloping accent mark over it (forget what that's called).

Disclaimer: I don't speak Scottish Gaelic, have just studied it a bit, so if there is someone present who does, please correct me if the above is incorrect

May 22, 2009 9:44 AM

Bianca: How do you get to choose their names? And how do you do it? I've always wondered how this works.

My twins would be Arrowwood and Pontiac. Um... no. My parents' closest intersection is Hinali'i and Maiaku. I kind of like Hinali'i...

By Second Due in October (not verified)
May 22, 2009 9:57 AM

Hello everyone! I was once a regular poster here until my mom had a health scare. While I have tried to keep up with Laura's posts, I no longer had time to read all the comments. In the meanwhile, I am happy to report that (1) my mom is out of the woods healthwise and (2) my husband and I are expecting our second child in October! We don't know the gender and are hoping to get a Name Enthusiast take on some of our choices and maybe some suggestions. DD's name is $ophie Eli$@beth.

For a girl: We still plan to go with Alice, after my grandmother. Her middle name was Bernadette, which I don't love. Anyone have any middle name suggestions? Our last name is pronounced REE-dul. I'll give you a few on our list so you can get a sense of our style:
Alice Juliet/Juliette--DH loves, I'm lukewarm
Alice Madeleine--DH not crazy about
Alice Vivienne--DH really dislikes
Alice Jacqueline--DH loves, I'm not sure about the flow
Alice Eloise--are the first syllables too similar???
Alice Catherine--DH and I both like but don't love

For a boy: Our frontrunner is still Oliver. I would like to sandwich a breezy 1-syllable middle name in between Oliver and our 2-syllable last name. My initial thought was Charles, but hubby just isn't fond of Charles. I thought of Pierce or Pearce a while ago as sounding particularly handsome with Oliver, but I am not a fan of the last-name-as-first (or middle!) name trend (unless it's a family surname, which in our case it is not). The only example of Pierce as a first name that comes to my mind is Pierce Brosnan. While not such a bad association (swoon!), I have mostly heard Pierce as a last name, so I crossed it off my mental list. Then I did a little googling of the name and found that it's actually a derivative of Piers, a Norman French version of Peter. And there is even some evidence that its use as a first name predates its use as a surname. Peter is a family name on my dad's side and I think it would mean something to him if we used a form of it--Peter was the name of his grandfather and his favorite uncle. Although I wouldn't consider Oliver Peter for aesthetic reasons (too rhyme-y!), we are practicing Catholics, so the first Pope/rock association would be deeply meaningful to us. What I would love to know from you NEs out there, what kind of evidence is there that Pierce/Pearce is a legitimate first name? I don't want to be one of those moms that picks a name for its sound and then searches around for an appealing meaning or history, even where the etymology is tenuous at best. I know that a lot of Internet sources of baby name information are not very reliable. Anybody care to check their baby name desk reference and weigh in?

By Second Due in October (not verified)
May 22, 2009 9:58 AM

BTW, the post above is from Sharon, for those of you who may remember me. The website wasn't allowing me to post under "Sharon" because it's the name of a "registered user". I know--ME!!!

By Jillc (not verified)
May 22, 2009 10:17 AM

Someone mentioned on the last thread that it was considered “low brow” to name your baby after a certain British soccer player (the other one that’s not Beckham): is it considered similarly “low brow” to name your baby after a sports star (or stadium) in the US? I would say celebrity, yes, but some people seem to really have a deep relationship with their sports teams, making it more like a “family” name for some people...

Zoerhenne, Skyler is nms, mostly because it seems like one of the popular sounds that people riff on endlessly (Skye, Skyler, Skyla, I actually met a Skyleigh recently, I’m sure there are a couple of Skylens lurking out there). So it’s more my dislike of trendy “sounds” than the name specifically.

DH and I were discussing twin names recently, and we were coming up with some great pairs. Our long-standing joke is that we can only use his favorite name, Hurl, if we have twin boys and name the other Ralph. This time, most of his suggestions came from the cycling magazine he was reading, so lots of European names: Ernesto, Alberto, Dag-Otto (his new favorite name). Albert is his grandpa’s name, so we got (al)Bert and Ernie. Even better, after discussing favorite color names (mine Cerulean, his Burnt Sienna), we got Burnt and Ernie. Oh, the hilarity.

By Melanie1 (not verified)
May 22, 2009 10:21 AM

Hmmmmm, maybe I should name our baby Emery after our street, that could work. I don't have any good intersection sets, but if we went by our past addresses it would be Clark, York, and Emery. Don't think I would do York but Clark and Emery is workable.

I could see using a street name to honor an event or location with special meaning. I like names that have a story behind it, some kind of meaning other than just I liked the sound of that name. My husband likes family names, my family used scripture and literary names. Either way, there is a reason behind the name and I think that is nice.

May 22, 2009 10:42 AM

I much prefer Schuyler, it looks like a "real" name to me, whereas Skyler/Skylar seem more made up and trendy as Jillc said.

My street twins would be Houghton and Bilby...not so much! My parents would be Sierra and Granada though, which I guess could possibly work. But somehow I don't see Granada taking off...

@2nd October/Sharon, I don't like Alice Eloise at all, it's too matchy/almost rhymey for me, but I like all your other options!

By Jillc (not verified)
May 22, 2009 10:47 AM

Sharon, Pierce has been used on and off in the US as a first name since at least the 1880s, according to the SSA. And, according to Namipedia, "The name was common in the Middle Ages and gave rise to several surnames."
(BTW, as a mother of an Oliver, I love your name choice!)

Of your girl choices, I like Alice Juliette and Alice Catherine best. I'm a little low on additional suggestions -- maybe after coffee I'll think of some!

May 22, 2009 10:50 AM

Oh I love the street-twins, these are great. Now I would have Lake and Trapelo which doesn't really work. There is a Kenrick Street nearby so I could name them Ken and Rick. We make jokes about Lochness since we're near a Lake and reger to it as "Nessie" so maybe Kenrick and Nessie! My Parents are Central and Horace (or Horace and Roscoe which is quite something!).