x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Celebrity is the game of the name

The vampire fad has affected the choice of babies' names in the US, with Isabella toppling Emma from the top spot.

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga: New Moon. The characters' names have proved popular choices with parents deciding what to call their new babies .
Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga: New Moon. The characters' names have proved popular choices with parents deciding what to call their new babies .

Sorry, Emmas of the world. Your name is no longer number one - at least, not in America. The US social security administration has just released its list of the most popular baby names of 2009, and Isabella has displaced Emma at the top. Meanwhile, the fastest-rising boy's name, Cullen, moved up 300 places to 485. Sharp-eyed readers will have aleady spotted the connection: Isabella is of course the full form of Bella, the Twlight heroine's name, and Cullen is the surname of her love interest Edward - and, indeed, his entire vampire clan.

The diminutive Bella, incidentally, rose from 122 in 2008 to 58 last year, while Edward managed a more modest leap from 148 to 137. Meanwhile Jacob, the name of Edward's love rival, the werewolf Jacob Black, kept the title of most popular boy's name, which it has held for 11 years. Probably a bit of a stretch to claim Twilight is responsible for that one. Still, it is clear that the popularity of the books and films has had an effect. Thankfully, with the minor exception of Cullen, the Twilight-inspired names are classic, and above all, normal-sounding. The same is not true of every name that finds itself suddenly in fashion. Popular television shows such as Entourage and Grey's Anatomy paved the way for names like Sloane and Addison, both of which rose in the girls' list in 2009. Sloane entered at 999 in 2008 and is now 897, while Addison rose from 322 in 2000 to 12 in 2009.

The cult of celebrity has had an effect on other aspects of our lives, so it should come as no surprise that it influences what we name our children. And like fame itself, it seems that the popularity of film- and celebrity-inspired names is fleeting. Miley, presumably thanks to the Disney star Miley Cyrus, first entered the chart in 2007, at 278. In 2008 it shot up 150 places to 128, but 2009 has seen it on the way down again, at 189.

The popularity of the name Jonas (as in the Jonas Brothers, another Disney sensation) has also dropped, from 274 to 379. This may bode well for future generations, but what about the children who do get landed with these unfortunate names? It's all very well following a trend, but arguably parents should chose names for offspring that will not come back to haunt them in later years. This is not, it has to be said, a scruple that seems to trouble many celebrities when it comes to their own children. It almost seems a point of pride among them to choose the most improbable names they can think of.

It's also instructive to see how far the public will follow them. They are prepared, for example, to go as far as Harlow, which made its debut on the 2009 girls' list at 902, after the birth of Nicole Ritchie's daughter Harlow in January 2009. Will Sparrow, the name Ritchie chose for her son nine months ago, make it on to the boys' list next year? Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie called their daughter Shiloh in May 2006, and sure enough the name popped up at number 787 in 2007. In the 2009 list it has risen to 604. But some names are a bridge too far. Apple (the name of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's first child) and Suri (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes's daughter) have yet to break into the top 1,000.

In fact, the fastest-rising name on the girls' list suggests that some American parents are taking their inspiration from a more serious, albeit still technically celebrity, source. Maliyah (a variation on Malia, the name of the US president Barack Obama's elder daughter) has shot up the list from 638 to 296, 342 places. Malia hasn't done too badly either, jumping from 400 in 2007 to 192 in 2009.

Barack, meanwhile, has yet to crack the top 1,000, but it has risen an impressive 431 places up the boys, list to number 1,993. For girls, retro is back, with names like Alice, Dorothy and Evelyn expected to rise in popularity. And for all those Cullens out there, here's hoping that Skink remains unpopular as a middle name.