Sponsored Post: Sienna
Many thanks to Toyota for sponsoring BabyNameWizard.com today. That kind of support is invaluable for somone trying to run a world-class website out of her kitchen. And as it happens, the product that Toyota is promoting is an interesting baby name story in itself.
Here's what I had to say about Sienna in the Baby Name Wizard book:
Sienna is a clay used in pigments. Treated with fire it becomes burnt sienna, a lush reddish-brown tint familiar to every child with a 64-pack of Crayolas. Coincidence or not, it started to be heard as a name right after the introduction of the Toyota Sienna minivan. Actress Sienna Miller has been attracting enough attention to tone down those automotive associations.
Unlike Royce, which became a popular name on the strength of the Rolls Royce image, Sienna is a "chicken-or-the-egg" tale. Which came first, the baby or the minivan? The baby name Sienna first hit the U.S. top 1000 in 1995. Toyota introduced its automotive Sienna in late 1997. So round one goes to the babies. But take a closer look:
The number of baby Siennas jumped with the burst of publicity when the minivan was introduced. Then once the vehicle became an established hit, the baby name started to slide -- even though the similar name Sierra was still rising. Apparently, a lot of parents decided Toyota had taken full hold of the name. One thing's for sure: the name Sienna's decline wasn't cause by lack of appeal. Because the instant that actress Sienna Miller tilted the name a smidgen back toward the human side in the mid-'00s, parents flocked to it.
What fascinates me about this interplay is that there really is no "which came first." The namers of both cars and babies came to Sienna at the same time -- and, I suspect, for the same reasons. They chose Sienna to evoke a particular image, with a sound that comfortably straddles the fresh and familiar.
A final sponsor note: Toyota has produced a new suburban-rap video about their minivans. Yes, really. We offer a brief promo video here, and hope you'll give a look in appreciation for Toyota's support for this website (or for the struggling genre of minivan rap). Watch the "Swagger Wagon" promo.