The name of the game

Mar 31st 2006

It's been a tough offseason so far for New England Patriots football fans. Some long-time favorite players have moved on to other teams, and it can be hard to say goodbye.

Especially if you just shelled out a hundred bucks for a replica jersey.

Across New England, fans are staring glumly at shirts that say #4 Vinatieri, knowing that kicker Adam Vinatieri is now a member of the hated rival Colts. As a wardrobe problem it's just a nuisance. But what if you'd named your child after him?

Consider the most visible Patriot, quarterback Tom Brady. Brady is the 122nd most popular boys' name in America -- but #53 in Massachusetts, home of the Patriots. (It firstcracked the top 100 in the state in 2002, the year Brady led the team to its first Superbowl victory.) Brady is signed to a long-term contract, but who knows what the future may bring?

Naming a child after a living person is risky business. By and large, today's parents are wise to this. There's now a time lag in naming babies after presidents -- parents wait to see how the term in office works out. Yet sports stars are inspiring more namesakes than ever. Not only are athletes, like any young celebrities, subject to unpredictable slumps and scandals, but they change teams. Look at another New England star, former Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon, who's now...gulp...a Yankee. How do you explain to little Damon that he was named for a guy in pinstripes?

If you want a sure thing, name for a sports star whose career is already safely in the record books -- or better yet the history books. Jackie Robinson and Johnny Unitas jerseys never go out of style.


By Christina (not verified)
March 31, 2006 10:45 PM

That was very good advice--name your kid after a sports star who's already been well-established.

But please, people...stop naming your kids Jordan! Enough is enough!

By Shelly (not verified)
April 2, 2006 4:39 PM

I think Kobe is the biggest example of this...naming your kid after a basketball player who might get accused in a sex scandal (even if he turns out innocent) is not be a great idea.

By Jamie (not verified)
April 3, 2006 8:55 PM

My sister and brother-in-law are having a really hard time coming up with a boy name (they don't know what they are having and only a few days away from their due date) They really like the name Brett...but being from Wisconsin and big Packer fans they're really leary of naming the baby Brett because we still don't know what Brett Favre is going to do next season, and with the comments he's been making...who knows if he'd be a good role model to name a baby after...

By Lola (not verified)
April 4, 2006 3:33 PM

It's definitely a thing to think about! I grew up with the "If they're not dead, don't use the name" rule, for family members (it's easier than you think, if they're dead, who can complain you honored them?)and for famous people (after all, if they're dead, they can't screw up the name references anymore!). It's nice to see that sort of thinking isn't just in my family anymore! Huzzah Laura!

By Molly (not verified)
April 5, 2006 5:43 AM

I just stumbled across your blog, Laura, and I couldn't be happier! I'm a bit of a name nerd, although I don't have children. I have campaigned hard for my favorite names. While my sister was pushing in the delivery room, I was pushing Lily over Hannah.

I want to point out that although Violet Affleck wasn't born until December, her name was an open secret on the Internet. reported on it months earlier, which may be why name-watchers thought it would make a splash this year.

I wonder if Finn's popularity is due to the fact that John F. Kennedy Jr. and his stylish wife Carolyn liked the name. I remember hearing the name for the first time around the time they died.

Have you hear the rumor that Gwyneth Paltrow plans to name her baby Tink, as in Tinkerbell? Surely it's untrue.

One name I'm curious about is Chiara - (key-ara). You've said you think Ciara is due to rise in popularity; what about Chiara? The only celebrity I can think of with this name is Catherine Deneuve's daughter.

By Molly (not verified)
April 5, 2006 5:56 AM

Have you ever noticed the unusual names that Martha Stewart Living has included in its pages (on invitations, place cards) over the years? At the height of the magazine's popularity, when editors went looking for a name, they choose something with snob appeal. At least they did before Martha went to prison and the magazine started trying to appeal to a wider audience. One name I remember seeing in the magazine in the 1990s was Beatriz. It seemed perfect for their audience - recognizable and yet slightly foreign.

There was an Isolde at MSL, but she was an editor. What, if anything, is happening with Isolde/Yseult? Do you think it's moving up the charts?

I really love the way your work blends scholarship and pop culture; it's easily my favorite new blog.

By Stacia (not verified)
April 6, 2006 4:39 PM

I've looked in a lot of places for info on the name Isolde because I was considering it for my daughter. I never could find much except for the heroine in the opera Tristam & Isolde.

By Lisa (not verified)
April 13, 2006 9:14 PM

I ran across a beautiful female name today. Her name is Ola. It is pronounced like Lola but without the first "L". Nice huh?

By Jessica (not verified)
April 13, 2006 9:16 PM

As a matter of fact I like that name... Ola. It is sweet and exotic. My neighber is named Ola, in her ealry 20's, is absolutely beautiful. The name suits her perfectly.

By Kine (not verified)
April 17, 2006 12:32 AM

Haha... that's funny. I don't find Ola sweet and exotic at all. In Scandinavia (where i am from), Ola is a very traditional, almost old-fashioned male name, and absolutely not a name for a girl. I associate the name with an energetic and perhaps naughty little boy.

By Laura (not verified)
May 24, 2006 2:42 AM

"Ola" is a nickname for Alexandra, if you're Polish, like my mum's side of the family. :)

By Kira (not verified)
May 30, 2006 10:50 PM

Ola has a sweet, old-fashioned sound to me, like the name Viola. But I like it because it means "wave" in Spanish, as in ocean wave.

By Lia (not verified)
July 4, 2006 9:34 PM

I also like the name Ola. As a matter of fact there is an actress who recently gave birth to a baby girl and named her Ola. I agree with Kira it has a sweet sound to it.

By Lisanne (not verified)
July 20, 2006 7:57 PM

Shelly, if you happen to name your kid after Kobe, just change the story and say you name him after the Japanese city.

It worked when we name my daughter after my father's now ex wife. Instead of the cheating, money grubbing harpy we tell her that she was the state of Carolina.

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