Why Do Celebrities Give Their Kids Weird Names?
Sage Moonblood, Moxie Crimefighter, Pilot Inspektor and Moon Unit: Are these proper nouns from a bad sci-fi novel? Perhaps. They are definitely the names of the children of Sylvester Stallone, Penn Jillette, Jason Lee, and Frank Zappa, respectively.
Indeed, when it comes to celebrity baby names, it gets weirder than Apple (the daughter of Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin). Just yesterday, Mariah Carey announced that she and husband Nick Cannon have named their newborn twin son and daughter Moroccan and Monroe after the top floor of her apartment building and Marilyn Monroe, respectively. Why, oh why?
According to name expert Laura Wattenberg, the author of the name guide "The Baby Name Wizard" (Broadway, 2005) and founder of babynamewizard.com, unusual baby names are likely to emerge among populations of creative people.
"You would expect a community of creative artists to have somewhat more unusual naming patterns than the general public," Wattenberg told Life's Little Mysteries. "They didn't get where they are today by being conventional thinkers."
On the other hand, while you might see more "genuinely eye-popping names in Hollywood than elsewhere," Wattenberg said, the numbers suggest that celebrities aren't actually more likely to give their babies unusual names than the rest of us.
Wattenberg came to that conclusion after analyzing a list of the most famous celebrities with children under 10 years of age. She counted up the number of kids on the list with unusual names -- names not among the 1,000 most popular baby names in America -- and found that the rate of unusual names among the kids of celebrities was the same as the rate among the general population.
Most celebrities go down a more sober route when naming their kids, choosing names like Colin Hanks (son of Tom Hanks) rather than Prince Michael II/Blanket Jackson (son of Michael Jackson). "But people aren't likely to remember names that are ordinary," Wattenberg said -- instead, they remember the Hollywood eye-poppers.
Viva la baby name revolution
In general, unusual names are becoming more and more common in the United States among the famous and nonfamous alike. "In the last 30 years, there's been a naming revolution. The top 20 names in 1980 accounted for the names of a third of all babies born , and today it's 1 in 7," Wattenberg said.
"If you look at the list of names that were given more than five times last year, you'll see some very strange choices. 'Messiah' and 'Zeppelin' are two boy names on the list," she said.
To stand out these days, you have to be truly outrageous. We're thinking of you, Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen Zappa.
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Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover.
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