Movie Magic: Pop Culture Chart-Shapers

Childhood can be the source of so many life-long preferences: Your love of homemade meatballs, your joy at the smell of fresh-cut grass, and even what baby names you favor.

It might sound strange but its true, even when you’re just years from your own babyhood, you can accrue experiences that lay the foundation for your future baby naming. It is something I’ve touched upon before, when discussing Olivia here.

Here’s another example:

In 1984, there was a hugely popular (and completely awesome) Golden Globe winning film called Romancing the Stone.  The dashing leading man was a rugged but romantic character who resonated with the audience. The year before the movie came out, that character’s first name was #172 on the Top 1000. His last name charted at #807. Now, those names are at #44 and #73, respectively— and they’re names you’ve seen and heard in baby name chats and playgrounds everywhere.

His name was Jack T. Colton.


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Outsiders Part III: Sounds Familiar?

You’ve read parts one and two of my tribute to little-used baby name treasures and now it’s time for the third segment: an assortment of names that may be rare, but feel familiar.

The names that follow fall outside the Top #1000— so they’re all less common than baby names Legend and Kimber—but, like the names found in installment two, they probably won’t seem that way.

Here’s why: their hot sounds. These are names that sound enough like common names that they don’t appear “too out there,” while they are unique enough to feel fresh.

Sampling well-known sounds and making them new again can be a wise choice, just ask this guy.


Here are some names that might strike your fancy:


Linnea (145 born in 2010)- A name that sounds like Lydia and Olivia, it’s a floral choice that would give a parent both tried-and-true sounds and freshness. Linnea is also a character in a popular children’s book.

Tressa (26 born in 2010)- She sounds like the perfectly coiffed  cousin to more-popular Tessa and Teresa. Tressa is also the name of two veteran actresses, and would be a sassy and feminine pick.

Ellery (185 born in 2010)- This strong and preppy unisex name means alder tree and sounds a bit like Ella and Hilary. Ellery would make a unique and easily-pronounceable choice.

Maisie (123 born in 2010)- Once a pet form of the name Margaret, Maisie is a name in its own right, one used by an actress in a popular HBO show. A name meaning pearl, Maisie adds a vintage quality to the sounds popularized in Maci.

Waverly (56 born in 2010)- It shares sounds with the popular Avery, is leant an oceanic quality through the word ‘wave,’ and is a name whose virtues have not gone unnoticed. 1980s kids will recognize it as the baby name in an iconic kids’ movie.


Grey (106 born in 2010)-  It has the sound of Grayson or Greyson without the more trendy -son ending. A hip name familiarized through a hugely popular TV drama. The name Gray is nearly as popular, 96 were born in 2010.

Anton (188 born in 2010)- A gentlemanly name with a bit of a bold streak, it is a name meaning priceless and is similar to Anthony, Antonio and Antoine. It is also the name of a charming Dexter character.

Langston (176 born in 2010)- Similar to popular Landon and boasting an attractive literary association, Langston has hip sounds and an elegant quality that should have broad appeal.

Judd (38 born in 2010)- One-letter off from chart favorite Jude, Judd provides a different take that offers a western flair. It may come from Jordan, which means flowing, and is shared by a Breakfast Club bad boy.

Canaan (161 born in 2010)- Cannon and Kane made the chart, their Biblical brother isn’t so different. It also happens to be the name of a Nashville music writer and recent Reality TV star.

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Celebrity Baby Names & Why One ‘Weirdness’ Scale is out of Balance

There’s somewhat of a fascination with celebrity baby names, and it seems heightened these past few months, with the birth of the littlest Beckham, the announcement of a music icon’s  pregnancy, and a little boy for Alyssa Milano.

It also means the proliferation of stories like this one.

The post does make valid points about the perceived “weirdness” of celebrity baby names; for every Apple or Suri there are many more celebrity baby names you hear less about, like “normal” monikers Sean  and  Flynn (A name I posted about here).

But what’s surprising (and in my opinion, incorrect), is the author’s assumptions about which names are “weird” and  will invite ridicule. Many offer great options for new parents. I’ll break down each of their name choices below.

Tina Fey and her baby girl, Penelope.


As I’ve said here many times before, a name’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder (so is its weirdness), so for me, a lot of these ratings seem a bit arbitrary.

I’ll take you through them, referencing the article’s ratings. They say a rating of 1/10 “crying babies” signifies an “innocuous” name, and 10/10 “crying babies” denotes a name “destined to invite taunting.”

Jordan Kay Federline (1/10)- Jordan is hardly a rare name for a baby girl, it is #178 on the 2010 chart, but it’s kind of funny to see it described as an “innocuous,” being that it wasn’t even on the girls’ name radar a few decades back. It’s a sweet name that should appeal to many a parent. However, the 1 rating seems a bit low because of a large group of people who detest what they perceive as “boys names” on girls.

Agnes Lark Bettany (3/10)- This three ranking is a shocker, in that Agnes wasn’t even on the 2010 Top #1000. In fact there were just 66 babies named Agnes born last year. This would be a nice pick for parents looking for vintage baby names, but one could also argue its popularity has taken a steep decline for a reason.

Willow Sage Hart (4/10)- At #290 on the 2010 chart and already in use on other celebrity children, it’s hard to believe this name got this many “crying babies”  on this blogger’s scale.  The soft sounds should draw the interest of many modern parents, and Pink’s reason for picking the name only adds to its appeal. 

Penelope Athena Richmond (4/10)- Like Willow, Penelope ranking above a name like Agnes on the “weirdness scale” seems a bit off. At #200 on the recent chart, it has more popularity than Agnes while maintaining a certain antique quality. 

Haven Garner Warren (5/10)- This makes it half-way up the “weirdness scale”, and in all fairness, I think that’s about right. It lands at #651 on the charts, not too far from the Top #1000’s midpoint. While for some it’s ending may seem a bit masculine, it has the hip beginning sounds of Haley and Hazel, and “safe haven” associations.

Harper Seven Beckham (5/10)- This name might split the difference between “weird” and “innocuous” but Harper certainly doesn’t come this far up the scale in terms of inviting ridicule. Just check out how smart, funny and sophisticated people think Harper sounds. It’s a name many expectant parents favor, and I posted about it in the Beckham link above.

Bingham Hawn Bellamy (6/10)- Like Haven, I’m on board with Bingham’s ranking here. That might seem out of line, being that there were less than 5 Binghams born in 2010 last year— you might think that alone should score more “weirdness” points. But with names like Hudson and Brooks within the Top 400, Bingham would fit right in and hardly invite ridicule.

Kase Townes Murray (7/10)- Although there were only 81 Kases born last year, this name doesn’t strike me as so odd. Case makes the chart at #713, and it has jumped in popularity in recent years. Also, Kasen charts in a variety of spellings. Its sounds are right on trend, and I can’t see it inviting ridicule or raising much of an eyebrow.

Aleph Portman-Milliped (7/10)- Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, should perhaps even be higher on the “weirdness” scale. As far as I can tell, there haven’t been other incidences of its name in use. It isn’t Apple, but it is a word that hadn’t previously attained name status.

Bear Blu Jarecki (9/10)- OK, so Bear strikes me as a bit odd. (And the combination of Bear and Blu reminds me of this guy.) But with this famous Bear, and the 53 born last year, it might not be as out-of-left-field as you might think.

The moral here, as always, is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure: Or one blogger’s “somewhat weird” may be a prospective parent’s “perfect.”

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Name Cupid’s Pick of the Day: Hazel

Looking for a somewhat unexpected baby name that combines hot sounds with a classic antique feel? Hazel might be just what you’re looking for.

It calls to mind a refined turn-of-the century woman, a dignified professional and an adorable little girl.

Your little Hazel would also have a name that packs the hip beginning sound that helped propel Hailey into the national Top #20.

But Hazel has a few things Hailey doesn’t: a long history of usage that lends it weight and depth, and less frequent popularity.

It is well outside of the Top #100—at #262 on the 2010 chart— making it about as popular Shelly and Ruth were in 1982.

Not bad for a name in use by a Bollywood Star.


Hazel also evokes a striking eye color and soft sounds, while also holding  an ending that will set her apart from her peers.

A baby name that can refer to a hazelnut tree or the Hebrew meaning “God Sees,” Hazel could be a beautiful name for your little one.

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I Got My Name From Name Cupid: Meet Jax

Sometimes, when I dole out naming advice, I never hear from the soon-to-be parent again, so I never know if my efforts are an exercise in futility.

But other times I get messages from parents who are thrilled with a name I helped them discover. Those times are the best - they’re so rewarding, and allow me to look at adorable pictures like this one:

This little guy’s mom and I went through many names before she arrived at eventual winner: Jaxson James.

Jax is now the first member of the I Got my Name from Name Cupid Hall of Fame!

Jax’s mom wanted a name that was spunky and strong. I dreamed up several names for her, baby names like Landon, Ryder, Max and Gage.  The first email I sent Jax’s mom included a list of 10 names. The fourth on the list was Jack/Jaxon/Jackson, and with a spelling twist, Jax’s mom found the perfect baby name for her son. How did she come to decide upon a name she so loved (and how did Name Cupid help)? I asked her a few questions to find out.

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You can’t make It Up: A Baby Name Near-Certainty

Think you made up a unique name for your baby? You may want to think again.

I’ll start with a little personal tale:

When I was in elementary school (and OK, middle school too …) , spelling tests and writing prompts doubled as opportunities to insert names into sentences, and play with as many baby names as possible.

I had two memorable “inventions” during this time.

Braden- What began as a typo-version of the name Brandon, this name became my go-to favorite when I was about 10 years old. It may seem ridiculous that I thought I made up this name—its most popular spelling, Brayden is now #40 on the Top 1000. Braden itself is #207. But while it was rare in my youth, it did exist outside of my imagination. The year I was born, .01% of babies were named Braden, making it about as popular as Lathan and Broderick were among babies born in 2010.

Here is a Braden born about 20 years before I “invented” the name. 


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Namer’s Dilemma: Amanda, Alexandra and ?

You’ve given your first two children your long-time favorite names, flowery girls names Amanda and Alexandra: names you love for nicknames Mandy and Lexi.

Then you find out  there will soon be an unexpected baby #3. You’re not sure what you’d pick if your surprise is a little girl, you’ve already tapped your two favorite girls names. For a boy, the prospect is even more daunting, you’ve never had to name a boy, and you want a name for a little guy that would match your daughters’ name style.

A reader brought me this riddle through the naming survey— and it’s a good one. What kind of names should she consider for a little sibling to big sisters with cute nicknames?


Mandy Moore has brothers Scott and Kyle…but they don’t have the same nickname-ability that this mom is looking for….

Here are some of the favored suggestions:

The Girls

Cassandra- Amanda and Alexandra rhyme and sound a bit alike— but you wouldn’t notice it on a day to day since the girls go almost exclusively by Mandy and Lexi. So Cassandra, nickname Cassie or Casey fits right in. At #328 on the 2010 chart, it is an unexpected choice with a familiar feel.

Victoria- This elegant, classic name is spiced up by nicknames Tori and Vicky. For this mom, I suggested the nickname Tori as it continues the pattern of beginning a nickname with a different letter than the girl’s first name. It is #32 on the 2010 charts, and as popular as Holly and Tracy were among babies born in 1979.

The Boys

Zachary-  Zachary, nickname Zack, seems a good fit with the same mix of spunkiness and sophistication as her girl choices. At #61, it is about as popular as Keith and Peter were in 1979.

Christian- Like Zachary, it’s a handsome name with strength that fits in with this mom’s girls picks. Christian also packs the nickname Chris, which lends versatility and allows her to keep with the nickname theme. At #29, it is about as popular as Kenneth and Gregory were among boys born in 1979.

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Chart Climbers: When Rarer Names Go Large

After that last post, one of Name Cupid’s moms-to-be asked a really interesting question: If parents are drawn to, and choose, names that are not popular, do those names then jump to the top of the charts?

Although that can be a tough trend to measure, I’m confident the short answer is yes.

When I was growing up, I knew one little girl named Olivia— the name seemed pretty and unusual.  Judging from name charts at the time, other kids had a similar experience. In 1982, just .06% of baby girls were named Olivia, making it about as popular as girls’ names Presley or Danna were in 2010.

A lot of little girls probably thought about that name like I did, and had it brought into their homes weekly as the name of an adorable character on an iconic TV show.


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Popularity Assumptions: Everything you Know Is Wrong

The title of the post is not as much of an exaggeration as you might think; it’s also a sweet Weird Al song. 

Many people’s perception of popularity is off because most (non- name-obsessed) parents don’t start thinking about baby names until they start thinking about conception.

And so, many parents think popular names are those they’ve been hearing their whole lives—that’s not always the case.

Take Brian, perhaps you love its fashionable long “i” sound, and you feel it splits the difference between a name that’s formal and one that’s trendy. But there were three Brians in your high school class, and you’d like to give your baby a rarer name. So, you turn your sights toward Carter. It’s fresh and hip, and you’ve never encountered someone with the first name Carter in your life. Here’s the problem: Brian is 100 on the Top #1000 chart. Carter is within the top 50 (it’s 47). Maybe we can thank a certain ER hunk for that.


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The Outsiders Part II: Who Can Believe These Aren’t Insiders?

They’re back….

Here, I wrote about the hidden gems that fall outside the USA’s Top #1000 Chart and delivered the first set of outsiders, some Irish favorites. Now I’ve got some outsiders of a different variety for the second installment. 

But there’s one thing all my outsiders will have in common: they aren’t popular.

Popularity is a funny thing. Remember high school? Everyone knew who was popular and who wasn’t, but often there weren’t striking differences between the girl who was the queen of the school and the girl who no one seemed to notice.


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