Friday, December 19, 2014

Thinking of naming your kid after your favorite character? You’ll regret it

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Baby names sure seemed more dignified when they were plucked from characters in movies like 1970’s “Love Story,” which starred Ryan O’Neal as Oliver and Ali MacGraw as Jennifer.Photo: Everett Collection
Looking over our thick guide to baby names, my wife and I were startled to find the name “Dijonnaise” listed. In the “origin” column the guide simply said, “Condiment.”
Though the mustard-mayo combo has not yet made it even to the bottom of the list of baby names being used in the US, some oddball choices are zooming their way up the chart. Parents are intent on sending a message to the registrar of births, and that message is: We watch a lot of television. They’re half a step away from naming their kids Netflix and HBO.
Whereas parents once named their daughters Jennifer after the witty, tragic and beautifully self-composed heroine of 1970’s “Love Story,” now they’re reaching for names that will forever tie their kids to early 21st-century fads in mass-market fantasy.
There’s nothing wrong with “Isabella” and “Jacob,” though each shot to the top of the charts in 2011 because of the dippy, brainless “Twilight” series. Each name has a rich enough history that future generations won’t automatically associate them with a cheesy movie franchise.
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“Jacob” and “Isabella” shot to the top of preferred baby names in 2011, buoyed by the popularity of characters played by Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart (above) in the “Twilight” movie franchise.Photo: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP
If you want your kid to have a name so worn-out he or she is going to need a number to be distinguished from three others with the same handle in kindergarten, fine.
Some other kids may not be so lucky.
“Galina,” “Nicky” and “Piper,” all characters on “Orange Is the New Black,” shot up in popularity by double digits, registering 67 percent, 35 percent and 28 percent gains this year, respectively, according to 2014 statistics from released earlier this month.
Parents, get a clue: Call your kid “Nicky” if you want, but don’t put it on the birth certificate unless you want her to be an exotic dancer.
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Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) and Galina “Red” Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew) assess a situation on “Orange Is the New Black.” Those character names were increasingly popular in 2014, according to Ali Goldstein for Netflix
There may also be a “Frozen” effect happening. “Anna” was up slightly, “Elsa” got a boost, and even “Olaf” showed gains this year, leaping from No. 457 to 383, according to stats. What kid wants to be named after a self-deluding snowman?
You’re off the hook, partially, with “Piper,” a sturdy English name with a long history, or “Galina,” which goes back to ancient Greek and means “calm,” but does your daughter really want to be associated with a soapy TV show rather than, say, classic literature or a cool story about where her parents met? (“To Kill a Mockingbird”-inspired names “Atticus” and “Scout” have a noble foundation, but don’t get any ideas, all you couples who met at Costco.)
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The name “Elsa” — as well as those of other characters from the animated movie “Frozen” — made gains in popularity this year.
Perhaps thanks to Robin Wright’s popularity on Netflix’s “House of Cards,” “Robin” and “Wright” both saw upticks this year — up 12 percent and 65 percent, says And courtesy of “Game of Thrones,” “Arya” is a fast-growing girls’ name, leaping from the 900s to No. 277 since 2010, according to the Social Security Administration. Though it has Sanskrit origins (it means “noble”), the name is a bit too easily traceable to the vengeful tomboy daughter of Eddard Stark.
As for “Khaleesi,” the title of Daenerys Targaryen on the show, that’s just a word (for “queen”) made up by author George R.R. Martin. And yet 241 girls were named Khaleesi last year, up from zero or close to it a few years ago. (The Social Security Administration tracks only those names given to five or more babies nationwide.) “Khaleesi” is now as popular as “Louisa” or “Rachael.”
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There may be better names to bestow on your daughter than “Arya.” Unless, of course, your offspring is as murderous and vindictive as her “Game of Thrones” namesake, played by Maisie Williams.
“Katniss” and “Finnick” — two more made-up names, which appear in “The Hunger Games” — wound up on the birth certificates of 17 and 15 babies last year. These kids aren’t going to grow up to be rebel warriors — they’re going to grow up to be embarrassed. In 20 years, “The Hunger Games” is going to seem about as cool as “Conan the Barbarian” is now.
Still, there are even more excruciating choices.
For the 11 families that named a boy “Arson” last year, please keep all matches under lock and key, and don’t move in next door to me. To the 12 who named their boy “Mavric,” spell-checking software is available. And to the 48 families who named their baby girl “Female” last year, come on. You’re not even trying.
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You named your daughter “Katniss”? Really? Setting up her college fund may wind up less important than socking away money for therapy.Photo: Murray Close

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