Julia Roberts gets the Gwyneth treatment

Dec 9th 2004

A few months back, I wrote about the flood of criticism that was aimed at Gwyneth Paltrow for naming her daughter Apple. Well now Gwyneth can rest easy, the pressure's off. All those bad vibes have been redirected toward Julia Roberts and her new twins, Hazel Patricia and Phinneaus Walter.

Newspaper columnists around the country have written snickering pieces on these "weird" names, dragging out examples like 30-somethings Moon and Dweezil Zappa as further proof that the rich and famous have no common sense. But hold on a minute...Hazel is no Dweezil. Let's take a look at the names have set off all this eye-rolling.

Hazel is a botanical name that was extremely popular from the 1870s through the 1920s, outpacing such familiar flower names as Lily and Daisy. It also showcases the red-hot letter Z. Phinneaus is a biblical classic, extremely unusual today but a natural up-and-comer -- other Grecian biblical names like Elias and Silas are rising hits, as are sound-alikes Finn and Finley. Do these names really deserve to be labelled "whacko" by the Boston Herald?

Partly, this is simple schadenfreude. There's an undeniable delight in watching the missteps of the privileged. But I believe there's also an element of culture clash at work. If you're shocked and horrified by a name like Hazel, chances are that you don't travel in the same circles as Julia Roberts. (Not that she comes to my birthday parties, either.)

For the record, here's what the upcoming Baby Name Wizard book has to say about Hazel:

In most places, the idea of naming a little girl Hazel is still unthinkable. But this name is ultra-fashionable in certain circles and it could get hotter. The handful of parents who love Hazel today are the same cutting-edge tastemakers who led names like Ruby and Lillian back from the desert in the '90s.
Yes, for the past several years, Hazel has been a stylish favorite in the elite urban neighborhoods where artistic sensibilities and high incomes meet. Ironically, Hazel's new celebrity status may well turn off those trendsetters, even as it introduces the name to a new audience.

And a final note to the Herald writer, who ended her column with this observation:

Well, at least Julia won't have to worry about her children's middle names becoming hackneyed. If there's one good thing about Walter and Patricia, it's this: They're safe.
Ah, not so fast. Walter and Patricia are endangered species, less common than names like Jaxon and Heaven and fading fast. In a few more years, Hazel and Phin may prove to be "safer" than Patty and Wally.


By elswhere (not verified)
February 13, 2005 11:04 PM

I don't think either Hazel or Phinnaeus is a "weird" name; I hang out with arty/lefty/yuppie types in Seattle, and know at least two Hazels and two Phinney/Finneys (one boy, one girl). Hazel is the Olivia of the 2000's around here, maybe even heading for overuse.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 14, 2005 5:43 PM

Hello -- Hazel and Phinnaeus have been names for a long long time. Apple, however is a Fruit.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 15, 2005 3:52 PM

I don't think they are weird. I think they are unattractive names. Quirky at best. Luckily they will have money and fame to cushion the blows ordinary people would have to face.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 16, 2005 2:10 AM

On the topic of celebrity names, it appears that Jermaine Jackson has a son named "Jermajesty"! Any comments on this... er... rather unusual appellation?

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 17, 2005 2:29 PM

I had a great aunt Hazel. I always thought it was such a pretty name. I love that the names from the early part of the last century are coming back. Let's have classrooms full of Inas and Gretas and HAZELS!!! My grandmothers' names are Persis and Lois--don't think I'll be reviving those anytime soon.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 17, 2005 7:20 PM

So she picked names that not all would like, but they ARE true names. As someone posted earlier, Apple is a fruit.Actually when it comes to Hazel, I think it will make it back to a more popular status. Phinnaeus is likely to not regain that popularity, but Finn, oh that looks very likely.As a kid, I remember the names Emily, Olivia, Rachel, and Anna were too OLD. Look at them now! I even have an Anna (6 1/2) now. Which is a name I never would have considered 15 years ago.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 19, 2005 9:48 PM

So, if clothing fashions come in 20-year cycles, maybe baby name fashions come and go in 100-year cycles!

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 19, 2005 11:02 PM

My grandmother's name is Hazel and my husband and I both like the name and plan to use it if we have another girl. I am just disappointed that Julia Roberts got to it first and has drawn such attention that it might be said that we are naming our child after hers.

By Hazel Lascelle (not verified)
February 23, 2005 12:38 AM

My name is Hazel and I certainly don't find anything weird about it at all - I was named after my Aunt Hazel who was a beautiful human being and her new grandaughter - age 10 months - has also been names Hazel. Thank goodness for people like Julia Roberts who has helped keep tradition alive and well.Hazel is nothing like the name Apple, but I always say - to each his own. I am just happy Julia had the sense to call her little girl baby Hazel

By totmom (not verified)
February 23, 2005 6:59 AM

To the earlier poster lamenting the factthat Julia got the name 'Hazel' first....be worried about that. We have friends who named their baby Hazel about a week after Julia bestowed the moniker, and they have been teased for it by nearly everyone from nurses in the hospital to family memebers. "We didn't know you were such a big fan..." is the most common. Thing is, they chose that name in the summer, months before they were due.I think that Gwyneth is safe thought...I doubt many "Apples" will be showing up at places other than the Farmer's Market!

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 23, 2005 5:18 PM

I went to school with an Apple & knew a Sunshine "Sunny" for short. I also have an unusual girl name, Audie, & used to be embarassed as a child. Now, I find myself hunting for less used names to give my future son/daughter. I say God Bless originality & people who aren't afraid to be different...Love your site too!

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 23, 2005 6:59 PM

Hazel is my sister's name, which I chose for her aged 7 - it was the only one on both my mother and father's short lists that I also liked. She hates it as people have always made fun of it, which I feel bad about - but it's short, strong, doesn't end in A, is easy to spell, less common for her age group (she's 21) yet everyone knows it, and it has a non-stupid meaning - what more could you ask for? I really don't see what the fuss is about, in an age when people are calling their kids Lexus and ESPN.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 28, 2005 8:02 PM

For years my husband and I planned to name our first son Thaddaeus. It is the biblical spelling of the name--the Puritans removed the second "a". We kept it a secret because we didn't want to hear all of the whining about our name choice. We now have a son whom we called Thad for short. When he began preschool, I noticed that all of his friends and teachers were calling him Thaddaeus. I asked him if he wanted to be called Thad or Thaddaeus to which he replied, "Just call me Faddeus, Momma. Dat's my name." It's old-fashioned--but not weird.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 28, 2005 10:55 PM

My mothers name was Hazel what a beautiful lady she was . I don`t think she liked her name because she made fun of it . She would answer the phone with "Hazel Nut here " what can I do for you.? She had 8 children and she said she drew names out of a slope jar after the babys were born to choose . I`m 7th and she said she named me after a comedian name Judy Conova. Now I wish I had name my kids after family names. Because it`s very meaningful . Maybe Julia did just that.

By Anonymous (not verified)
March 2, 2005 3:06 PM

Yes, Apple is a fruit. Daisy, Lily and Rose are flowers. Hazel is a nut. Summer is a season. April, May and June are months. Dakota and India are names of places. Names come from everywhere, one man's meat is another man's poison. I don't like Apple either for the record.

By Anonymous (not verified)
March 6, 2005 3:37 AM

Jermajesty?!!! Ha! That's as fun as Lemonjello! (from another page on this site) And I like Hazel and Phinnaeus, although I wish she'd picked a shorter spelling for the boy. (Hazel reminds me of that awesome eye color!) And I like Apple. It just sounds so British or something (you know - there are probably lots of apple orchards in England, right?) Sometimes it's the celebrities that can get away with cool stuff like this and help us all get creative. I get SO BORED with some of the same names being used over and over again within the same time period! Like a zillion John's in the England and U.S. history books, for example, cool as the name is.

By Anonymous (not verified)
March 7, 2005 11:02 AM

I liked the name Hazel and had no idea it was becoming popular in 'elite urban circles'. In the UK it is a known name, that is not common but perfectly acceptable. I can't imagine it being seen as very odd. People named Hazel I know of would generally be in their 20s now I expect, and with a little decline in use now I would think it is a good name for being not common, but known.

By Anonymous (not verified)
March 9, 2005 2:39 PM

This is my first post; I am enjoying this blog and I love the Wizard! What fun!Anyway, I was upset when I heard that Julia Roberts named her boy Phinnaeus, because that's the name my husband and I have settled on for if we ever have a son, only spelled Phineas (like the character in A Separate Peace by John Knowles). We both love it. And guess what? She also claimed "our" middle name! We were planning to use Walter, after my grandfather. Oy. Anyway, while I doubt Phinnaeus or Phineas will rocket into popularity, it will certainly be in the spotlight as one of those "wacky" celebrity baby names. I can imagine people will assume we picked the name because of Julia Roberts. *sigh*

By Anonymous (not verified)
May 26, 2005 3:18 PM

What about Courtney Cox and her child - Cocoa? Hot Cocoa anyone?

By Anonymous (not verified)
May 29, 2005 10:14 PM

I think if you want to name your kid Hazel, go ahead and do it. Julia Roberts who is a transitory celebrity at best shouldn't stop you. In a couple years, no one is going to remember what Julia Roberts kids are killed. Know why, because Paris Hilton will name her first born something seemingly stodgy like Barbara and everyone will gasp and the whole Julia Roberts thing will be forgotten. If you can take a few months of "Oh, did you name her for Julia's baby," you'll have a whole lifetime left of liking the name and no one will rememeber. Kids get named for people played on TV or movies BY celebrities. Not the celebrities themselves in general. Certainly not the children of celebrities. The only reason Hazel is making a slight comeback (and I sincerely doubt it'll ever get as popular as the old fashioned Ella, Ava, Emily, Sophia, Olivias) is because it's an old name and people are about finished with Madison, Sydney, Tanner et. all.

By Anonymous (not verified)
June 19, 2005 6:48 PM

I don't understand why people are so critical of other peoples choice of name for their baby. Hopefully they put thought into naming their child,they like it, they are happy with it,so get over it! If the only thing that the child has to worry about is their NAME getting made fun of, then I think they are ahead of the game.

By Anonymous (not verified)
June 23, 2005 6:56 PM

"Hazel" to me will always be a fat woman in a maid's costume due to a television show on when I was a kid. To annoy my sister and I, my brother used to say, "Get me a soda, HAZEL," infuriating us! And "Hazel Moder?" My God, that's just AWFUL!

By Anonymous (not verified)
July 10, 2005 10:00 PM

okay, why does everyone care so much? I liked the comment that someone made that said that Apple is a fruit, Lily is a flower, Hazel is a nut, etc., 'cause it's true! Why do people care what others name their babies? If someone wants to call their kid Apple or Coco or Fifi-Trixibelle or Alchamy or Moon Unit or Dweezil or Diva to name a few of the more interesting celeb baby names, why should the rest of the world care? If the kid doesn't like it later in life or whatever, it's not hard to be named Apple and ask to go by some other name, or to even change your name! WHO CARES?

By Anonymous (not verified)
July 13, 2005 11:38 PM

My first daughter is legally named Bronwen but we've nicknamed her Buffy--yes, after the show. And you wouldn't believe how FEW comments we get about that. I've been criticized for my choice of Bronwen more than Buffy; most people think Buffy is really cute.So I wouldn't worry about the celebrity name thing. Just tell people that it's a cherished family, give them a bite-me smile, and move on.

By Anonymous (not verified)
July 18, 2005 4:55 PM

I agree with what seems to be the majority : who cares! You don't have to be a celebrity to give your child a unique name, and I couldn't believe how many people overreact about them. My name is Shari (Pronounced like sorry with an h)and when I was in school I HATED My name, the teachers could never pronounce it (a complaint from another topic on this blog) and all the kids made fun of me. I grew up with Tiffany's and Emily's and felt so out of place. Now I am Proud to have a wierd name (unlike my sisters Jennifer and Ashley) and although I vowed never to, I have given my daughter a unique name also, Riley. And now that I have another on the way I have chosen Hazel for a girl. Unfortunately Julia got to it first, but good for her because it is a beautiful name, not deserving of the ridicule.

By Anonymous (not verified)
August 5, 2005 12:32 AM

Shannyn Sossamon (from Knight's Tale and 40 days and 40 Nights) named her kid Audio Science.

By Anonymous (not verified)
August 18, 2005 12:23 PM

Hazel is a beautiful name, with a cool nickname (Haze / Hazy). When I found out about Julia roberts naming her daughter Hazel I was disappointed, as it's been a "secret" name I've loved for about 15 years. I'm pregnant now, and while I don' t know if I'm having a girl or a boy, Hazel is definitely on my shortlist for girls

By Antoinette (not verified)
November 22, 2005 3:47 PM

I know a girl named Hazel... it's not my favorite name but it's nothing weird. Phinnaeus is pretty bad though. I don't like any boys names ending with -us.

By Tansey (not verified)
January 19, 2006 9:27 PM

I like Hazel and Phinnaeus as well. My great aunt who died aged 8 was a Hazel and the couple of Phineus's I know tend to be called Phinn (or Finn). Apple is a pretty name as is Cocoa, although I think of the latter more for a poodle. Maybe my age is showing. I did want to comment about a name an earlier post mentioned - that of Persis. I love it, along with a lot of Roman/Greek names such as Hebe.

By Anonymous (not verified)
January 26, 2006 1:03 AM

I think Hazel is a lovely name, a nature name just like Ivy and Willow. The reason people dislike it is just b/c they can't think out of the box. The name is old-fashioned and not popular, ergo it is "unattractive" or "weird".But I don't like Phinnaeus as much. The name itself is not bad, but I think it will be misspelled a lot. I had to look at it several times before I could write it down correctly.

By Meaghan (not verified)
April 13, 2006 7:22 AM

I never liked the name Hazel until I met a wonderful girl at college who had the name. Ever since then when I think of the name Hazel I think of my friend, and I would have no trouble giving the name to a little girl.

By jean (not verified)
May 19, 2006 6:29 PM

Hi, I have just become the proud grandmother of beautiful little girl named Hazel, it suits her so much, as she has lots of dark hair and Hazel eyes, I for one think it is a beautiful name!

By Michelle (not verified)
June 20, 2006 5:00 AM

I have a Hazel with blue eyes and I think it makes people notice her beautiful eyes even more!

By Iris (not verified)
June 23, 2006 3:56 AM

The hazel tree is steeped in magic and mythology. It grew from the fountain of life. Its nuts provide wisdom and its branches make magic wands for shapeshifting and telling the future as well as amazingly accurate divining rods. Fairies live in hazel trees and ancient kings are often shown wearing crowns of hazelwood or holding staffs made of it. Check out Yeat's poem "Wandering Angus" for a beautiful reference to hazel trees. And as for apples, well, we all know the magic of apples--from the Bible to Snow White! It's too bad more people don't look into the meanings of names; there's so much to them!

By Maria (not verified)
June 28, 2006 5:18 AM

Modern/eccentric names do not bother me, as long as they are pretty sounding; Brianna, Mikayla, Jayden, Kieran..etc, BUT to give a child an old ugly sounding name, like Phinnaeus, Ichabod, Ernestine, or Ebenezer is just asking for trouble. The kid WILL resent you for it. He/She is the one who has to go to school and has to deal with years of ridicule for having an ugly sounding name.

Names like Hazel, Emma, Lily, Ethan, and Jacob may be old, but they are not ugly sounding. A kid could have those names and can be able to complete 12 years of school without getting a severe case low self esteem, from getting picked on. Not just that, but I've read that studies have been done, proving that a name (if it sounds old, ugly, and horrible), can keep you out of attending better schools (colleges), and can affect your grades in school.

I wish people would think about their children and the children's future, before they decide to give them a really off the wall or ugly sounding name.

By Hazel (not verified)
November 28, 2006 5:22 PM

My name is Hazel. I used to hate my name as a child because of the names being hurled at me. Hazel nut, nut case, witchy hazel. But as I got older I started to love my name since not too many people have my name. I think it's unique but not too uncommon or weird.

By Hazel (not verified)
November 28, 2006 5:26 PM

Julia Roberts isn't the only celebrity to have named her daughter Hazel. Actor Henry Thomas from 'ET the extraterrestrial' and 'Legends of the Fall' named his daughter Hazel.

By Amy A (not verified)
January 21, 2007 1:21 PM

Hazel is a beautiful, sweet name; just right for a dark-haired little hazelnut of a girl. Here in England it is unusual, but certainly not unheard of and not seen as odd or particularly old-fashioned.
As for Phinnaeus, well, it's flexible in that it can be shortened to 'Finn'/'Phin'. And it's soft-sounding, elegant in its full form; not ugly although not as masculine as the nickname Finn. What makes a name ugly is when it's said with a bad taste in the mouth. If you spit out the name like "Phinnaeus? What kind of name's that??", then no wonder it sounds ugly to you.
Perhaps the middle names are to honour relatives; the perfect solution for names you don't like which belong to people you do!

By Sunny (not verified)
January 23, 2007 12:49 PM


By Hazel Gutierrez (not verified)
March 13, 2007 1:29 AM

My name is Hazel and I don't think it's that rare.. as a kid I did get laughed at because in spanish the H is not pronounced, & it's a dif. sound, so the would call me asel (A as in apple), Azael (a boy name) and I'm still having troubles with that.. tha's why sometimes I'd rather use my second name.. still, I love my name & I'm planning to name my daughter the same =)

By Amber (not verified)
March 16, 2007 7:52 PM

I chose the name Hazel Dawn for my first daughter because I loved the image. It's a beautiful color, a wonderful plant, etc. I've been living under a rock, though, so later people had to tell me what Julia named her daughter. And, later still, I realized that Hazel Dawn is the name of my great aunt. Funny how that worked out ^_^ And since my daughter is a Hazel, people have been commenting on her beautiful eyes as well as her hair (she's a redhead). I'm glad my daughter isn't going to suffer because of my "wierd" tastes ^_^

As for Phinneaus, I'm not sure if I agree with that spelling, but I like Phineus and Finian, so I wanted to name a son of mine Phinean.

As for Apple, after thinking about it for a bit, I rather like it. Apples taste wonderful, are beautiful to look at, keep their color even in the winter (so they're a Christmas fruit), are healthy, and I love apple trees when they bloom in the spring. I love apple blossoms! The sound of the word works a a name, too. I'd be pleased to meet a real Apple.

By charlotte (not verified)
June 1, 2007 5:11 PM

i think that hazel is a lovely name an di dont see why people go on about strange names because i think it is better to have a different name than some ordinary boring one!! like the name apple i think its a lovely name and id b pleased to have the name apple or peaches or anything like that as it is a different but lovely name much better than my name 'charlotte' which is sooo boring and old:( lol <3

By anonymous (not verified)
July 12, 2007 3:57 AM

Maria, the study done was about names with creative spellings, not old names. Some teachers are prone to grade lower on subjective projects if the child's name is Allysahbeth versus Elizabeth, for instance. It's those names that also must be spelled out letter by letter over the phone for the rest of their lives, not the older, but simple names, like Hazel. I love the name Hazel.

And kids can find ways to tease others anyway they want. Granted some names are just easier to pick on, but kids are creative and can come up with something no matter what your name is.

By Iris (not verified)
July 13, 2007 4:29 AM

...And if they're not making fun of you because of your name, they're making fun of you because of some other trait! You can't win!

By Paula (not verified)
September 6, 2007 1:38 PM

I named my daughter Hazel Emily in 1999. It is a gorgeous name...and during my pregnancy I dreamed she would have brown hair and hazel eyes...which by about age 5 she did.

I named her after my husband's paternal grandmother (hazel) and my maternal grandmother (emily). Both women (now deceased), lost their mothers to the 1918 flu epidemic. Hazel was six weeks old, Emily (mema) was 8 years old. Both women were extremely strong, amazing people.

I have found that people love my daughter's name. The only people who don't...saw that 1950s tv show. My generation never saw it, so do not have a negative connotation to the name...or that's how I feel.

To be honest, I'm irritated that Julia picked hazel. I do not want this to be a popular name. LOL, my sister named her daugher Madison, before it was even in baby books as a girl's name or on the charts. Next year it was in the top ten.

October 17, 2018 9:27 AM

Holy cow, reading this 14 years after it was written is an adventure. I was 2 years old when this was posted! It's crazy to think that Hazel and Phinneas were seen as weird back then, they seem pretty typical, even generic these days. Hazel especially. It makes me wonder what other "weird celebrirty" names wil be a regular part of the world a decade and a half from now.