Roberts, and you, too, Mr. Julia Roberts, on the birth of your
little Hazel and Phinnaeus.
But our joy over your Blessed Event is
tempered by a couple of questions. To wit:
Hazel? And, more important, Phinnaeus?
We know we don't
live in a "John" and "Mary" (or "Paul") era anymore, that the
traditional honor-thy-ancestors naming consensus of previous
generations has collapsed under the weight of all those Caitlins and
Connors and Briannas. But Phinnaeus and Hazel?
Hazel is retro by at least a couple of generations.
The world stopped having Hazels around the time it stopped having
Berthas and Gladyses and Mildreds. The last time Hazel was heard from
was 1961, when Shirley Booth played a busybody maid of that name in a
sitcom of that name. Phinnaeus is even more retro, as in Old Testament
retro, and more obscure than such OT running mates as Methuselah and
But that's probably the point. Celebrity baby names
these days are very . . . different. We say this not to pass judgment,
but to point out one more way celebrities are not like the rest of us.
<> The list keeps growing.
- <>Demi Moore and Bruce Willis
are the parents of Rumer Glenn, Scout
LaRue and Tallulah Belle. >
Paltrow and Coldplay singer Chris Martin recently begat Apple.
- <>Sylvester Stallone sired Sage
Moonblood and Sistine Rose. >
- <>Courteney Cox
Arquette and David Arquette are the proud parents of Coco. >
Erykah Badu -- herself on the celebrity all-name team -- has a child
named Puma. >
- <>John Travolta and Kelly Preston named their boy Jett.
- <>Christie Brinkley's youngest is a girl named Sailor.>
- <> The late rock star
Michael Hutchence named his daughter Heavenly
Hiraani Tiger Lily.
- <>Long-ago rock star Bob Geldof calls daughter Fifi Trixabelle to dinner.
- <>Soccer star David Beckham and Victoria "Posh Spice"
includes Brooklyn, Romeo and a
soon-to-be wee one who reportedly may be
dubbed San Miguel. >
- <>Supermodel Claudia Schiffer has a girl named
Clementine, as does Cybill
- <>Rob Morrow, of "Northern Exposure"
quasi-fame, dubbed his baby Tu, as in
- <>We'd mention that Michael Jackson named one of his
children Prince Michael, but
this seems like the least Out There thing
about Michael Jackson. >
It was not always thus. Sure, back when,
Cher had Chastity, and
Frank Zappa famously named his kids Moon
Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva. But for the most part,
an earlier generation tended to name their children the way everyone
Having grown up on the west side of Los Angeles, I recall that the
children of the showbiz people I went to school with had perfectly
ordinary names. Buddy Hackett's son was named Sandy. Leonard Nimoy's
boy was Adam. Jerry Moss (co-founder of A&M Records) named his kid
Ron. The daughter of Larry Harmon (Bozo the Clown) was Lori, and the
son of actor James Darren ("Time Tunnel," "Gidget's" Moondoggie) was
also Jim. The most exotic it got was the daughter of '50s B-movie and
TV cowboy Guy Madison. His daughter was named Dolly. I imagined that
long after everyone had forgotten who Guy Madison was, his daughter was
enduring wisecracks about first ladies and snack cakes.
Which raises the question about contemporary
celebrity kid names: Isn't it hard enough being the child of a
celebrity without having to endure additional commentary about one's
unusual name? Hi, everyone, my name is . . . Heavenly Hiraani Tiger
Psychologist Cleveland Kent Evans, who studies names
and their social effects, says the unusual-name trend among celebrities
is a kind of self-reinforcing phenomenon. "I don't think of these names
as coming just from celebrities so much as coming from creative
celebrities, or at least those that want to be thought of as creative,"
he says. "It's the musicians and actresses and to some extent the
visual artists who give those sorts of names to their children. You
don't find the politicians and athletes giving names like that to their
Apparently true. Sen. John and Elizabeth Edwards's
youngest children, for example, are the pleasantly pedestrian Jack and
Emma Claire. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky and actress wife Janet Jones
have Ty, Trevor, Tristan and Paulina. Former heavyweight boxing champ
and low-fat-grilling tycoon George Foreman was creatively uncreative
(or maybe it's the other way around) in naming five of his 10 children
Brown University professor emeritus Lewis P.
Lipsitt, an expert in human development, says children's names can have
social consequences, both positive and negative, but that this is
generally less important to their well-being than other factors, such
as their relationship with their parents. He speculates that unusual
names are a way to give a celebrity's child "a chance to be distinctive
in [the child's] own right instead of just being known as [Celebrity
As for being teased on the playground or in the
classroom, that's far less likely when every other child in your
exclusive private school is an Apple or a Rumer, says Evans, a board
member of the American Name Society, which studies naming trends.
Besides, he adds, celebrities
understand better than anyone what is -- and is not -- in a name. Julia
Roberts? She was born Julie Roberts, but tweaked her name to avoid
confusion with another actress. Maybe she shouldn't have bothered: Now
there's a country-music singer named Julie Roberts.