Top Five Biggest Baby Name Stories of 2008

Dec 24th 2008

Names are always the story here at the Baby Name Wizard blog.  If you listen closely enough, names are always whispering to us about what's going on in our culture and our world.  But from time to time, they speak loudly enough that the whole public sits up and listens.  Here's a coutdown of the five biggest name stories of the year, and some thoughts on what they really tell us.

5. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii

The case of a New Zealand girl named Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii made headlines around the globe because of the sheer bizarreness of the name. Look closer at the details, though, and you see a case study of children's rights and the significance that society attaches to names.  "Talula" wasn't a baby; she was a nine-year-old petitioning the court system for redress of the naming misfortune her parents had subjected her to.  The Family Court Judge took the extraordinary action of placing the child in government custody solely for purposes of changing her first name.  The court determined that a name that sparked bullying or created significant social hurdles constituted child abuse.

4. Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, Trig
I've said about all I can say about the Palin family names, but there's no question they deserve a spot on this list.  They represent a great national coming-out party for a new naming culture that will be shaping what we call one another for generations to come.

3. Happy Birthday, Adolf Hitler
A white-supremacist family in New Jersey was turned away from a supermarket bakery when they requested a customized birthday cake for their son named Adolf Hitler.  The parents expressed shock and dismay, yet they couldn't have been surprised: the same store had been denying their requests for cakes with similar messages for years.  Public outrage flew in all directions, but gradually settled on the abusive nature of giving an innocent baby a name that will provoke conflict and ostracism (see "Talula Does the Hula").  Another angle to ponder: using a child's name as a billboard to generate publicity for a cause.  How long until a parent successfully generates global media coverage by naming a baby "Vote No on Proposition 12"?

2. Bronx Mowgli, Zuma Nesta Rock
Devotees of "wacky" baby names had a bountiful harvest this year, with top media-feeding-frenzy honors going to young Bronx and Zuma.  I've written before that the supposed wackiness of Hollywood names is actually overblown. (Quick, name Jennifer Lopez's kids! Oops, they're not weird enough to remember.)  But the massive attention paid to these names is starting to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Think of it this way: you're a performer, and have spent your life pursuing the spotlight.  You know that you now have an opportunity to give your child instant global fame simply by giving her an unconventional name -- even if you're a B-lister yourself.  Why not give your kid an advantage you would have killed for at the start of your career?

1. Barack Hussein Obama
In the wake of Obama's landslide victory, reporters clamored to report on the wave of new babies sure to be named in his honor.  It's a risky sort of reportage, assuming a phenomenon exists and then searching for examples to confirm it.  Plenty of reporters called me for comment on the huge surge of little Baracks...then asked me if I could find one for them.  The Rocky Mountain News managed to find a single child given the middle name Barack and ran a full feature, only to discover that the father in question made the whole thing up.  ("I'm so sorry," the mother said. "My husband's an idiot.")

Yet a president-elect named Barack Obama really is a huge naming story, even if he never inspires a single namesake.  A president with a non-European name is as unprecedented as a president with non-white skin.  The name breaks the mold in a way that speaks profoundly to the many Americans with foreign or unusual names.

Happy New Year, Baby Name Nation!

Comments

151
By bill (not verified)
January 1, 2009 2:22 PM

also
Carden just seems like one of those names where it's just random syllables smushed toghether.

one of my friends is a Chris P (CJP, see jay pee). it was funny as kids i guess, not really a problem.

152
By Penelope (not verified)
January 1, 2009 2:27 PM

Riot Delilah- Holy cow. That was totally overwhelming. I was fascinated by how many more girl names there were. Seems people, in general, feel safer to be more creative with girls. But even with the boy's names, there were so many I hadn't heard of. I think a lot of them were ethnic and not Scottish ethnic - although it was fun to see loads of Scottish names (being half Scottish myself). I'm too overwhelmed to discuss anything beyond my thought going out to the child named 'Socrates', the kids named Tig and Tin and ones with names like Le'on and Cee-jay.

153
January 1, 2009 2:48 PM

New babies alert!

Sag3 Julia
L1la Z0e
Tallulah Jan3
Shil0h Grace
Lydia Luc1lle
Liam John
Allis0n Elizabeth

I'm seeing a lot of L- names these days.

154
January 1, 2009 5:33 PM

1 Uppy Ear: I tend to lean toward those I've heard of before. I think this does fit with your wanting something relatively easy to spell. So I like Aldon (not a fan of the one with extra D), Keldon, Maddon, and Donovan. I think if you want to stay away from trends, Aldon and Donovan are best. They seem to have a stronger history to me. I would stay away from Doan--I think this is a Vietnamese name or something, probably pronounced differently in that tradition (assuming you are not Vietnamese), seems like it would be confusing. Besides all that, I just have no idea how to pronounce it.

I could see Allison and Aldon leading to being called "Big Al" and "Little Al" in the extended family, but I think that is kind of cute.

I love hearing about your process as well!

I know a Gordon currently in high school, named after his grandfather. I thought the name was very strange when I first heard it--I associated it with Gordon from Sesame Street, but over the years I've really grown to like it.

I like Lindon too. I was going to suggest Lyndon, but I think that is too associated with the president.

Jane Mother of Five: I know a Chris P! Of course he is an adult and maybe it bothered him when he was younger, but I don't think Crispy has any really bad connotations (like sexual or scatological) so I don't think it's a big deal. I do like Ward for Edward. I think Kit works great for Christian. And I'm assuming Graeme is pronounced the same as Graham. I think Clement is cool although Clem alone strikes me as a little bit hillbilly (definitely just a little association that could be got past easily).

re: Tripp: There is the rumor about Trig Palin actually being Bristol's baby. I've found some of the evidence pretty compelling and Bristol's Tripp kind of gives even more credence to that rumor for me... but the whole family having a say in the name would also make sense.

Minnie: Youngblood and Armstrong (esp together) make me think of the stereotypical Native American names (e.g. Running Deer, etc.). They strike me as a bit gimmicky I guess. But then I guess I am not as into meaning of names as others.

Miriam: That is an awesome resource! Can you tell where it was published? Also, there is an African American scholar named Kobena Mercer.

155
By Knee Coal Peay (not verified)
January 1, 2009 6:28 PM

Hey RobynT - Can we PLEASE put these ugly, and CLEARLY UNTRUE Palin motherhood conspiracy rumors to rest? You say you found some of the so-called "evidence" compelling? Seriously???

Did you actually do the math? As in, how long is a typical pregnancy? Right.... So how could the same woman give birth to a child in April 2008 and then turn around and give birth AGAIN in December 2008? Also, do you really think Down Syndrome is more likely in the offspring of an 18-year old mother or a 43-year-old mother? Finally, why a 'cover up' once but not twice? (These are rhetorical questions - so please don't answer them.)

I'm not trying to be snarky or overly mean here, and fwiw I voted for Obama, but I don't enjoy reading ignorant mis-judgments about underage women repeated in this space about NAMES.

156
January 1, 2009 6:29 PM

RobynT:

The publication information for that little pamphlet is

What's in a Name?
Ethyl Corporation
Chrysler Building
New York NY 1942
29 numbered pages (including back inside cover)

There was during that period a fairly prominent socialite named Cobina--maybe why that name was included.

Penelope--

I don't see why you are concerned about a child named Socrates, when there are boys named things like Jack-Daniel (a scandal in the land of the Glenlivet?); Kaden, Kadinn, Kadyn, Kaeden,Kaedyn, Caden, Caeden, Caiden, Caiden-Jay, Cayden; Mikee; Tytus, and Xyzander. I went to school with a boy of Greek parentage named Socrates (nickname Soc), and his name was never a hindrance or an issue. He was proud of his name and his heritage. Socrates is obviously a very old name borne by one of the most important figures in the history of western civilization--much better than something made up or creatively spelled or derived from the name of a Tennessee sipping whiskey IMO.

157
By Penelope (not verified)
January 1, 2009 7:14 PM

Miriam! Oh, I stand corrected! Socrates versus Jack Daniels. For Socrates, I was worried about a child feeling pressure to live up to a namesake, particularly if they aren't interested in logic or philosophy. But Jack Daniels?! What will he have to live up to?

I love your sonnet on Caden. Xyzander is out of control, I noticed that on the name list and I forgot to mention it. You are funny!

158
January 1, 2009 7:58 PM

Knee Coal Peay: Okay so I haven't studied the evidence that closely, but what I did find compelling was something about Sarah Palin flying when she was near the end of her pregnancy--I heard it was at a point that doctors didn't recommend or something like that, but I am not a mother so I don't know much about how all of that works. Also heard something about her driving past one of the best hospitals to give birth somewhere more remote. But anyway, like you said, we are not here to talk about that. I thought the rumor was name-related because of the similarity of Tripp to Trig.

159
January 2, 2009 12:43 AM

So I've made some progress - at least, I think so. My husband is patiently listening to my ideas, but staying mostly non-committal. Anyhow I'm starting to try to make first name/middle name pairs, to see if any strike me.

I know we'd like to have my husband's side of the family be the inspiration for the middle name. J names are a good start. There are some other family names that might also work for inspiration: Peter, Jack, Eugene, Scott. Also, since our first name choices are a bit out-of-the-mainstream, I'd like to try to have a more traditional, less "out there" middle name. Here's some of what I have now (not all have any family influence):

Aldon: Scott, Jack, Gene, Christopher, Cale, Timothy, Graham, Jeffery, Jace, Theodore

Donovan: Tucker, Gene, Reid, Graham, Luke

Dunstin: Tate, Jack, Gene, Graham, Joel, Patrick, Luke

Lindon: Gene, Elliot

Also, I have 2 new first names:

Dunn: Alexander, Patrick, Oliver, Eugene, Gregory

Dugan: Oliver, Tyler

Dunn and Dugan both seem to be of Irish descent and both are similar to Donald.

Of all the above, I seem to love (at least today - it changes daily):

Aldon Scott, Dunn Alexander, Dunstin Tate, and Dunstin Joel. I really like Dugan, but haven't really felt I've found a great middle name to match yet, although many of the ones for Aldon would probably work find, but I haven't put them together in my head just yet.

Thoughts? Suggestions? The J names have really been hard for me - especially since I really want to avoid 2 syllable first, middle, and last name.

Thanks!

160
January 2, 2009 12:59 AM

Riot Delilah-As promised, I've been pouring over your list all day. What immediately struck me was the fact that the traditional/convential spellings were for the most part much more popular than the kre8tiv spellings. I am working on sorting the list in a few more different ways. Yes, I obviously have a serious problem and no life! LOL!

161
By Mirnada (not verified)
January 2, 2009 1:17 AM

I've just been reading lately, but I have to say (Uppy Ear) that Aldon Scott is a pretty great sounding name. I've never really paid any attention to either of those names before, but they sound fantastic together, I think.

162
By Penelope (not verified)
January 2, 2009 2:49 AM

1UppyEar:
I like Aldon Scott and Aldon Graham. I still like Donovan Tucker!
Dugan Elliot, Dugan Christopher, Dugan Jacoby, Dugan Jonathan, Dugan Jason.
Lindon Gene. But I like Lindon spelled like Linden with an 'e', like the lime tree.
Linden Scott.

I like these combos. Many of them are lovely. What does your husband fancy out of this group?

My husband is liking Xyzander. I thought was serious until he said that he'd like Xyzbac better. Sigh. He is no help at all. His name is Jonathan, so go figure.

163
By Riot Delilah (not verified)
January 2, 2009 9:08 AM

zoerhenne, dare I point out that they Scots have similar every-name-given lists going back at least three years, maybe more? All accessible from that same statistical website...

The first thing I noticed was that the last few years there were lots more little girls names variants of Abbie, including Abbie-Mae, Abbie-Rose, Abbeigh-Leigh and about every other spelling you could think of. But not this year. Ellie, Lilly and Ava seem to be on the march!

164
By Amy3
January 2, 2009 9:45 AM

1 Uppy Ear -- I like Aldon Scott and Donovan Tucker best of your current list (btw, I have 12-yr-old nephew named Tucker). While Lindon/en is a nice name, it has a more feminine vibe for me, and Dugan is nms.

165
January 2, 2009 1:20 PM

@1 Uppy Ear - My favorites from your list are:

Donovan Reid (or Reed)
Aldon Jack

Also, some of your names that I've re-listed below seemed to have rather unusual spellings - I'd suggest using these more traditional spellings instead:

Jeffrey
Dunstan
Linden
Duggan

166
January 2, 2009 1:57 PM

Uppy Ear-You've received a bunch of great suggestions. For my 2cents, here it goes:
I took all your FN + MN and made several different combos. So,adding to the list:
Dunstin Christopher
Donovan Cale
Aldon Jeffrey
Aldon Reid/Reed
Dunstin Alexander
Dugan Alexander
Lindon Oliver
Lindon Tyler
Dugan Scott
Aldon Gene
Aldon, Lindon, or Dugan Patrick
Aldon or Lindon Gregory

??'s Is Dugan pronounced DOO-gan or Dug-an?
I think Timothy works better as a FN.
I think Jack/Jace/and Joel do not work at all with your FN's. Dunn is nms. Neither is Dunstin but it works better with some of your MN choices than Dunn. Also, made up a name for you-what about Judston? Is it TOO made up? You could use the nn Jud or Stan or Don? And Maxwell is a great mn have you thought of that one? And remind me why you aren't using James in the mn spot?

167
By Guest (not verified)
January 2, 2009 4:15 PM

A suggestion for 1 Uppy Ear -
I went to school with a Donal from the UK - pronounced with a long O.

168
By Jane Soon-to-be-Mother-of-Five (not verified)
January 2, 2009 5:19 PM

Thanks to everyone who has commented on my name list for the twins! Opinion seems to be divided on Clement and on P alliteration, but all comments were extremely helpful. There does seem to be a consensus that Graeme should be spelled Graham, which is too bad, because I like the Graeme spelling very much - and yet I don’t want to burden one of the twins with a name that will be misheard or misspelled all the time.

Miriam: Edward in full IS nice, and so classic and distinguished.

Patricia: I believe we share a last name! And our tastes in first names are similar, how funny! I do like your suggestions of Andrew and Robert. (Thanks for checking the rankings for Drew.) Both names have gone on our revised list.

Nicole S.: James Patrick does sound very nice (I like it slightly more than William Henry). However, my husband is saying that under no circumstances will he go for James called Jamie, and really that’s why I would like to use James - to call him Jamie! So we are at a (temporary?) impasse. We’ll see if dh will change his mind.

Buttercup: I like all your pairings. I like your comment about James and Christian being J and C like our other children. I do like Hugo, from your other suggestions, as well as Augustus, but unfortunately our dog’s name is Gus so that one is out.

Zoerhenne: I like your PJ suggestion, but initial names are just nms. On the other hand, one of the twins will likely get the middle name Eugene (or maybe Owen or some other Eugene variation), to honor my Grandpa. If we went with Patrick Eugene P___, then his initials would be PEP… which is ALSO the name of a beloved great-uncle of my dh, in that case the Spanish nickname for Joseph. So, my husband likes the idea of occasionally calling a Patrick Eugene Pep as a nickname.

Bill: As it happens, I have always disliked visual alliteration with audio contrast (like Celeste Campbell). So that wouldn’t work for me at all!

I’ll keep you all updated as we wend our way towards making a choice!

169
January 2, 2009 6:13 PM

Mirnada - Thanks! I like Aldon Scott, too. Scott is my husband's uncle, so might be in the running as it keeps with our desire for keeping to family names.

Penelope - Another tally for Aldon Scott :-) I also like Donovan Tucker, and it's still on the list, but because Tucker has no family link whatsoever, we're doing more looking. Honestly, that part is up to my husband, because it's his family tie that would be missed, as mine is the first name. So we'll see. I like your suggestion of Dugan Jacoby! That is being added to the list. Regarding my husband's opinion, he doesn't have one yet. He's much more a thinker and I'm more a doer, so he'll ruminate about it for a while before coming to an opinion either way. It's much easier when I have the list narrowed down, though. Re: Lindon/Linden: I don't know that I have a preference. I went with Lindon because of the "don" reference as well as the president's spelling (but definitely prefer i over y). I also know a Landon. We'll see - probably also depends on the middle name and it's spelling as well.

Amy3 - Two more tallies for Aldon Scott and Donovan Tucker. These seem to be the most popular so far.

Nicole S - It's good someone likes Aldon Jack :-) Jack is a family name and it'd be great to have it on the list. I'm not sure I like it much, but I've found that I feel differently about names over time. Plus, my husband *does* get a say in the matter. Regarding your suggested spellings: Jeffrey can't be 2 syllables, which is why I have the extra "e" making it a 3 syllable name. Dunstan seems to be the traditional spelling, but because it sounds like a combination of Duncan and Dustin to me, I think Dunstin makes more sense, and it's more how I'll pronounce it. I've commented on Linden above. Duggan/Dugan I've seen both ways. I don't know that I have a preference either way, but it seemed to me that more people would pronounce it with the short U with two gs and a long U (OO) with one. Not sure, though. Plus, with the media surrounding the Duggar family, I wanted to avoid that possible misconnection.

zoerhenne - Thanks for the name combo suggestions. Dugan is DOO-gan, and based on what I've found online, seems to be spelled a few different ways. Judston is interesting - both would fit with my dad's name and the Js from my husband's family, which would free up the middle name to be anything. Not sure I like Jud, though - does it sound good with Talia and Trip? I don't think it's too made up. I have thought of Maxwell, but can't have a 2 syllable mn unless the first name is one or three...so it would work with Dunn and Donovan, but not the others. You think Maxwell sounds ok with either of these? I think it's ok with Donovan, but maybe not so much with Dunn. I think James would be a perfect middle name, but my husband's lastname ends in S (W1ll1@ms), and I don't like the two S sounds at the end. I might be able to get over it...

Guest: I'm afraid Donal would never be pronounced correctly (with the long O). And it's very close to Donald, which is what I wanted to avoid - honer my dad without a direct naming. Thanks, though!

The ideas are really great! I certainly appreciate all the comments and suggestions.

170
January 2, 2009 6:19 PM

Jane-I like Patrick Eugene as a combo. My dh's mn is Eugene. I like it better paired with Patrick than with his Kenneth. I also like PEP as initials better than PJP for example. The tribute to your dh's great-uncle is marvelous.

171
January 2, 2009 6:52 PM

Uppy Ear-I think Judston is okay with your other childrens names. I do like Donovan better though. I had Aldon Scott + Donovan Tucker on my list but didn't want to give you repeats. If you're tallying them though put my vote down for those as well. With the syllable thing, do you not want the same anywhere or just not following each other. Like Donovan Tucker LN is 3-2-2 but 2-2-2 would not work. Equally, 1-3-2 is fine but 3-3-2 is not. Do I have that correct?

172
January 2, 2009 8:07 PM

Jane,
I'm wondering if you or your husband have any Scottish ancestry or a love of Scottish names (both of which apply to me) because Andrew (patron saint of Scotland) and Robert (noble Robert the Bruce and poet Robert Burns) are beloved names in Scotland and both appear in the 2008 list of 100 top baby names there, as does Jamie as a boy's name:

  • Andrew - #20
    Robert - #43; Robbie #62
    James - #5; Jamie #17
  • I have a delightful little book of "Scottish Forenames" which tells that there were seven Scottish kings named James and that "by 1864 James had become the second-most popular name in Scotland... The name Jamie is now frequently used independently."

    I noticed that both of your boys' names are in the top 100 too: John - #28 and Charlie - #41.

    (BTW, Jamie as a girl's name didn't come close to making the top 100.)

    173
    By Knee Coal Peay (not verified)
    January 5, 2009 12:56 AM

    @1 Uppy Ear - Good for you for getting feedback on some of the options you're considering. Now, take a deep breath, and really pay attention to what people here are saying. You may need to read between the lines a little bit.

    Do remember that "kre8tive" spellings like you're suggesting with "Lindon" and "Dunstin" tend to be frowned upon both on this board, and IRL (though the latter is almost always behind people's backs!). Such spellings might cause people to view your child's otherwise good name in a not so positive light.

    It's great that you want to honor relatives, but there are better ways to do that without getting "krea8tiv."

    I agree 100% with everyone here who has so wisely advised you to stick with the more traditional spellings and conventional pronunciations. Good luck.

    174
    By Guest (not verified)
    January 27, 2009 3:58 AM

    This has been a hot topic around my circle lately with a recent round of births. Yes it is too close. I have an Alexia, Mia, and Izabella. One of my husband' cousins named their daughter Alexa, and another used Isabella (this one has the same last name as ours. I felt that it was too close for comfort and very unoriginal. Then his sister used our a "variation" of our daughter's middle name Rae by adding Ann to it. I just want to look at them and hand them a name book. It is a hard job to find a fitting name and you kind of want it to be unique to your child. It is kind of a touchy area when someone asks you if it is okay to use the name. I would have had a hard time saying no as to not be rude but if you feel you have to ask you all ready know the answer in your heart. My new sis in law is doing the same thing with my nephews name Braydin. She wants to name her daughter Braylee (mind you our neice is Hailey). When she is not around alot of the family members kind of laugh about it because their is a feeling of lack of originality there. As a mom I feel that my responsibility to my daughters is to teach them to carve a place in the world for themselves and be remembered. Step one for me was to give them a strong name that was original to them (at least in our inner circle). When you "borrow" a name from close family members that can no longer be true for your child- or the original family member. This is of course true only in situations when you are not carrying on a traditional family name or paying homage to a family member by naming your child after them. This does not seem to be the case in the scenario you are describing. This is only my Humble opinion. I realized after I started writing this that I feel even more strongly about this than I originally thought. WOW! (BTW the latest name-napping I have witnessed with a little disapproval- my BFF has a daughter Addison. Her friend from another circle that gets together every few weeks named her girl Addison...picked it after they met. WHY!!???)

    175
    By Guest (not verified)
    January 27, 2009 4:07 AM

    I forgot one more name-napper that I have to get off my chest :) As I said I feel strongly about this- probably because I am a common victim among our family. My bro-in-law has a sister who named one daughter Alexa and one Miya. I know we aren't technically family but we do get together on occasion. And it seems a little more odd to think that my Sister has 4 neices named Alexia, Mia, Alexa, and Miya. Some say "be flattered" but I'm just annoyed. It's one thing to have repeated names in your classroom and a whole other in the same branch/level of your family tree....even if it is the middle name.

    Remember they may not say anything about it to you but what about when it is just her and her hubby alone. They may be annoyed that they struggled for 9 months to get the perfect magical name combo and then you swoop in and steal a little bit of their daughters' magic. Let's face it when your pregnant that is one of the most magical important thing that you decide. It's one of the first three questions every pregnant person is asked...."Have YOU (emphasis on you not your sis in law) picked a name yet?"

    176
    By Guest (not verified)
    May 4, 2010 8:01 AM

    The name Isaac means "he will laugh"

    Maximilian means "most joyous/most wonderful"

    177
    By lifeisabeach (not verified)
    October 24, 2010 1:40 PM

    My 12 y/0 biracial son's name is Kaemon. I never have to pronounce it for people, but it is misspelled often. He wishes he had a more popular name, but I LOVE it.

    178
    By Free Auto Insurance Quotes (not verified)
    May 12, 2011 1:36 AM

    these stories are really so interesting, thanks for sharing