Name Game: Celebrities Have Nothing on the Rest of Us

Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf named their son Pilot Inspekter in 2003, but Pilot Light of Tennessee was born 101 years earlier.
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Much has been made in recent years of the proclivity of celebrities to give their children unusual names. Who among us wasn't at least a little befuddled upon first encountering the names Moon Unit Zappa and Moxie Crimefighter Jillette? Contrary to popular belief, though, celebrities have nothing on the rest of us. Distinctive names have been with us through the ages. Want proof? I submit the following:

  • Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin were far from the first to add an Apple to their family tree. A quick search reveals 32 Apples in the 1930 census and 24 in the Social Security Death Index (including an Apple Pie).
  • Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf named their son Pilot Inspekter in 2003, but Pilot Light of Tennessee was born 101 years earlier.
  • Paris? Dallas? Brooklyn? Naming offspring after locations is so 19th century. In fact, there were a whopping 2,215 people named Paris in the 1900 census, along with New Jersey Cannon, New Orleans Boice, Newark Berkowitz, Prague Sherman, Moscow Beard, Cairo Izard, Munich Miller, and Bombay Pasquale. Detroit Foreman, Detroit Francisco and Detroit Gay are listed in alphabetical order in one database I perused, and both England Bobo and London England liked their names so much that they passed them on to their sons.
  • Gift is a hard name to live up to, but at least 14 people born in California are trying to do that now, and I have to wonder if folks consulted Gift King (now deceased) each holiday season for shopping advice. Other names that must be hard to live up to include Brilliant Victory and Prince Charming (there are several scattered across the U.S.).
  • Love Peace Joy from India can be seen living in Canada in the 1911 census. And I'd love to know if Handsome Major ever met Handsome Minor.
  • Native American names are often descriptive, so I imagine that Toothless Widow assumed her name later in life, but it's harder to fathom what the parents of Selfish Adams and Bald Weaver were thinking. It can't have been much fun going through life named Typhus Black, so I wouldn't be surprised if this poor fellow was given a hard time when he showed up to register for the WWI draft.
  • Approximately 185 Americans named Square have died since the early 1960s. Among them are Square Sleigh, Square Wheat and Square Kitchen.
  • Prisoner Wing of Montana named her son Pius, and I don't blame her one bit.
  • Certain names like Giggle Davis and Hopeful Hudson make me smile, as do their cheery and more literal companions Smiles Bliss, Smiley Corn, Smiley Day, Smiles Gonzalez and Smiley Magee (of course, it must be acknowledged that many names are instantly enhanced with the addition of Gonzalez and Magee).
  • Sacred Heart has passed away, but the torch is being carried by others named Sacred Love and Sacred Salvation. Sadly, Sacred Mango is no longer with us either.
  • I suspect that Gamble Moore of South Carolina probably would have gotten along well with Poker Hill, Poker Huff and Poker Fish.
  • Santa Claus, Merry Christmas, Pere Noel, Feliza Navidad, Auld L. Syne and others with Chanukah and Kwanzaa as part of their names probably see their popularity soar toward the end of each year.
  • As someone who sports two Smolenyaks in her name, I have a fondness for others with double names such as Smith Smith, Jones Jones, Elliott Elliott, Smart Smart and my favorite, Mustard Mustard.
  • No matter how you look at it, some names are just plain perplexing: Sweater Glass (the youngest of 10, so perhaps her parents ran out of ideas), Purple Hopkins, Weird Boomgaarden, God Pinto, Bam Elam, Gossip Anderson, General Head, Sunny Anger, Icky Cox, Mild Amazee, Wide Armes, Pinky Bell Dolly and Aaa God.

So today's celebrities are far from the first to dream up creative names for their youngsters, but they can take solace in the fact that they are definitely trendsetters. Dweezil, Banjo and Rumer all make multiple appearances in American and British birth indexes from the 1990s and 2000s, and that can't be an accident!

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