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Boomerang Names

What's in a Name

Japanese male children are traditionally given a short, simple name soon after their birth that they use through puberty. As they near adulthood, they are given a formal name in a special ceremony, one that they'll be called by everyone outside of their family.

No, these aren't names from the aboriginal tribes of Australia, but rather the names that were flung out of use a long time ago that are now zipping right back. Expectant parents are digging deeper into traditional and classic lists and pulling names from decades and even centuries ago. Why? Because they're so unused, these names are sounding new and contemporary even though they aren't.

This particular naming fashion began its latest round in England, where traditional given names have always been more popular than they are in North America. In the U.S., its growing popularity is evidenced not only by current naming records but also by the naming fashions coming out of Hollywood, both on and off screen.

Hooray for Hollywood!

Name Dropping

If you want to keep on top of the newest naming fashion trends, keep an eye on the goings-on in Hollywood. Actors and actresses don't just set style trends when it comes to clothing and hair; they, and the characters they play, also have a strong influence on naming fashions, probably because they are so visible.

Rather than give the daughter of the yuppie couple played by Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt a predictably yuppie name, the writers of Mad About You chose Mabel. This particular name selection was probably made for its comedic possibilities, as the incredulous reactions expressed by various cast members that went on for several episodes were pretty funny. And they had good reasons for having such reactions. Mabel is so far out that it's hard to believe that anyone would willingly choose it. But it does indicate a naming fashion trend, and the show made a statement in using it.

Jodie Foster, who uses a trendy first name in place of her more traditional given name, Alicia, chose the decidedly untrendy name Charles for her new son. No Rivers, Dakotas, or Sierras for the quintessentially classic Foster (although I wonder if she realized that her baby's name is evocative of one of the greatest film characters of them all—Charles Foster Kane, the tragic newspaper editor played by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane).

Other Hollywood stars who have given their kids boomerang names include Ken Olin and Patricia Wettig (Clifford and Roxanne), Sylvester Stallone and Jennifer Flavin (Sophia Rose), and Cybill Shepherd, who, after naming her oldest daughter Clementine, chose Molly Ariel and Cyrus Zachariah for the twins she conceived while starring on Moonlighting.

Noah and the Rest of the Testament Clan

Some names from the Bible, like John, James, Rachel, and Sara, are so beloved that they never drop far from the top of the popularity lists, but others names in this category that are gaining in use, such as Ezekial, Esther, Edna, and Silas, definitely fall under the boomerang category.

More on: Choosing a Name


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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