There's method in the madness of celebrity baby names.
We try to picture the child, but the name pushes us to imagine a superhero, a futuristic car, a cleaning product.
For anyone seeking to prove that L.A. is full of weirdoes, Hollywood is a good place to start. On any given day, gossip columns and serious media outlets are peppered with the antics of this celebrity or that. Thanks to the latest celebrity baby boom, the eccentricity of Tinseltown is manifesting itself in the names of its children.
The outpouring of names like Apple and Moxie CrimeFighter sparked the interest of Saundra K. Wright, a professor of linguistics at California State University, Chico. (See below for celebrity parentage.) In a lecture at the 2007 Linguistics Society for America meeting in Anaheim, Wright presented research suggesting that celebrity name selections aren't calculated for maximum psychological damage, but closely resemble corporate marketing strategies.
"While the baby name selection may be unique, the strategies for creating these names are not," Wright told LALA. The orthographic variations in "Jourdyn" or "Jett," for example, are typical of tactics used in branding. Even a name like Audio Science is a compound, a type of name that is by no means unusual in product brand names or even in regular speech.
The difference lies in the product. "Hamburger Helper" and "Audio Science" may show similar linguistic structures, but presumably the glitterati are not actually trying to sell their children like Betty Crocker sells its dry goods. As they do with designer clothing, celebrities use kids' names sell the image projected by the brand. Wright says that some naming selections are motivated by fan pressure or plain creativity.
A Better Sandbox
Of course, a name like Moxie CrimeFighter conjures a confusing set of images. We try to picture the child, but the name pushes us to imagine a superhero, a futuristic car, a cleaning product. Regardless of which images these names create in our heads, they all scream "unique."
So where does this leave the Moon Unit’s and Daisy Boo’s of the world? Hopefully not on the playground. And maybe that’s just it: celebrity kids aren’t playing in the same sandbox as the rest of us. In a town where infinity swimming pools and private tutors replace schoolyards and taunting bullies, is it that bad for mom and dad to use their offspring in a little shameless self-promotion? Strange names just don’t have the same traumatizing consequences in Tinseltown. At least not until these kids outgrow the Hollywood sandbox.
Apple: daughter of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin
Moxie CrimeFighter: daughter of Penn and Emily Jilette
Jourdyn: son of Germaine Jackson and Margaret Maldonado
Jett: son of John Travolta and Kelly Preston
Audio Science: son of Shannon Sossamon
Moon Unit: daughter of Frank Zappa and Gail Sloatman
Daisy Boo: daughter of Jamie and Jules Oliver
Published: Thursday, February 01, 2007