Anything goes with names

Parents tweak common monikers and come up with new ones in the name of individuality

Parents tweak common monikers and come up with new ones in the name of individuality

July 16, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Welcome to the world, baby Apple.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her rocker husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, chose that fruity name for their newborn daughter - exemplifying the individualistic baby naming trend that's given birth to such unusual monikers as Draven, Tinder and Ayena.

"Parents are continuing to want to find less common names for their children," said national names scholar Cleveland Evans, associate psychology professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska. "It's part of the individualism of our culture. It's important to be different."

While traditionally favored names like Michael and Emily continue to appear high on the U.S. Social Security Administration's lists of popular baby names ( on the Web), the percentage of U.S. newborns receiving such names has declined steadily during the past 15 years, said Evans, who has been studying the frequency and history of given names in the United States for more than a quarter-century.


The Internet has fueled the unique names trend by giving expecting parents easy access to lists of the most popular baby names - so they can avoid them - and countless suggestions for names outside the box, Evans said.

Popular culture also inspires baby names. Evans pointed to "Draven, "the last name of the lead character in "The Crow." Draven didn't exist before the 1995 movie used it as the surname of its hero, but it had crawled up to No. 696 on the Social Security Administration's names list by 2003. The 1984 mermaid flick "Splash" put the name "Madison" on the charts - and the name that Daryl Hannah's mermaid character plucked from a New York City street sign was ranked No. 3 nationwide and No. 1 in West Virginia in 2003.

"'The Matrix' also did wonders for 'Trinity,'" said Evans, who expects baby Apple Martin to inspire a wave of fruit-related names.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see 'Mango' turning up soon," he said.

Rodney and Sheila Knable of Big Pool named their son "Eli Peyton" in honor of Rodney Knable's favorite football players, Eli and Peyton Manning. Jonathan and Cristalle Grove of Williamsport named their son "Maddux" after former Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux.

"Everyone thought it was weird at first, but now they're used to it," Cristalle Grove said. And if 4-year-old Maddux one day questions his name?

"I'll tell him he's a unique individual with a unique name," his mom said, "and he's named after a great pitcher."

K.C. and Cindy Helman of Hagers-town chose "Paige" as a middle name for youngest daughter Emily because they like the sound of the name, and they like "Trading Spaces" host Paige Davis.

"Right away my husband and I agreed," said Cindy Helman, an assistant bank manager. "We saw 'Emily' and it was just a beautiful name. And it means 'industrious' ... I thought, 'Oh, good, she's going to be career-oriented.'" The Helmans' 3-year-old daughter, Erin, also endeared her parents to the name "Emily Paige" because the tongue-tied youngster cutely dubbed her then-unborn sister "Emma," Cindy Helman said.

Popular names often spawn interest in slight variations of those names, Evans said. He said the popularity of "Emily" has triggered interest in "Emma" and "Ella," and the up-and-coming "Jaden" has provoked such spinoffs as "Braden," "Kaden" and "Haden."

"Many people want something different but not too different," Evans said.

Thus the nontraditional spelling of common names. Tammy and Richard Hummer Jr. of Greencastle, Pa., named their newborn son "Aric," which is another form of "Richard" in German. Cristalle Grove named her daughter after best friend Karen Dellon - with a twist. Karyn Grove was born in April.

"We just wanted to do something different," Cristalle Grove said.

Most popular baby names

The U.S. Social Security Administration lists the following top 10 baby names for 2003:

Male Female

Jacob Emily

Michael Emma

Joshua Madison

Matthew Hannah

Andrew Olivia

Joseph Abigail

Ethan Alexis

Daniel Ashley

Christopher Elizabeth

Anthony Samantha

Joshua and Emily topped Maryland's baby names list in 2003; Michael and Emily were No. 1 in Pennsylvania; and Jacob and Madison ranked highest in West Virginia.

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