The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 7, 2011

MICHELE M. BENDER | What’s in a name?

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

— My friend Leanne will become a grandma for the second time very shortly.

“Have your daughter and son-in-law selected names?” I asked.

Leanne rolled her eyes. “If it’s a girl, she wanted to name her Daphne.”


“But we talked it over,” she continued. “Now, it’s Ellie for a girl and Mason for a boy.”

You’ve gotta wonder about names. Take Zsa Zsa Gabor, for example (and you can HAVE her!). Wouldn’t one “Zsa” have done the trick?

Frequently, children inherit names of relatives. My mom totally expected a boy, and chose the name Michael after my dad. Michele arrived instead. Surprise!

My friend Music Dude (aka Jonathan) told me his niece named his great-nephews Gideon and Cademon. Knowing these kids will acquire nicknames in school, the family calls them Giddy and Caddy.


Movie stars, TV characters and other celebrities often influence name selecting. In 1960, Debbie Reynolds was America’s sweetheart. One of her most beloved movie roles was the endearing “Tammy.”

In 1975, in sophomore English class (mostly 14- and 15-year-old students) I had seven Debbies!

I placed those with easy surnames anywhere, because I could call on “Debbie Smith, Debbie Jones, Debbie White” easily.

The others, four to be exact, I positioned around the classroom strategically. We had “Debbie in the front; Debbie in the back; Debbie by the window; Debbie by the door.”

In 1976 and ’77, we had an epidemic of Tammys. The mid-80s brought Kaylas, apparently inspired by a “Days of Our Lives” heroine.

When I think about it, I suspect these trends have existed for years.

My two aunts resided in a nursing home in the ’90s. All the women there were named either Helen, Ruth, Shirley, Ethel or Dorothy. Is it possible that their moms named them after Helen Hayes, Ruth Roman, Shirley Temple, Ethel Barrymore or Dorothy Lamour? Sure, it is.

I consulted my crystal ball and I’m ready to predict future popular names.

I bet we’ll have Angelinas, Chelseas, Lilys, Katherines and, alas, a Snooki or two.

Boys will be Tys, Dwaynes, Justins, Sidneys and Maxs.

My phone just rang. Honest!

Welcome, and Happy Birthday, Ellie Elizabeth. Mommy Kortney and her lovely daughter are doing fine.

When Ellie grows up and becomes a mom, too, I wonder what she’ll name her child.

Maybe Daphne?

Happy Mother’s Day!

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