A Camry by Any Other Name

As a guy named Linus in real life - it’s not a nickname - I always appreciate a good out-of-the-ordinary monicker. It’s frankly hard to imagine what life must be like as a Michael or a Paul or a Dan. In my world, when someone calls out “Linus,” they are talking to me.

One of the most distracting movies I ever saw was Sydney Pollack’s 1995 comedy Sabrina, with Harrison Ford as a guy named Linus Larrabee. (Humphrey Bogart played me him in the 1954 Billy Wilder original, which I have not seen; I fear when I do the universe might cease to exist, although I am probably wrong about this.) Every time anyone called Linus by name, I perked up and looked around. Paging Dr. Pavlov, paging Dr. Pavlov.

Today our blog friend Guinness, who sweetly made personalized e-cards for his holiday blogroll (ours has a beer label!), runs a link to a story in The Orlando Sentinel about peculiar names for children. I love this stuff. (Note that the Sentinel, like so many other newspaper sites, will try to download the Avenue A Inc. adware/spyware application. But if you don’t already block this stuff, you’ve already got it in your machine.)

The article covers a small it’s-so-wrong eddy in the naming trend, in which parents name their children after companies and products. Thus this, in reporting commercial names extracted from about 4 million births from the year 2000:

There were 55 Chevys, 12 Camrys, 7 Courvoisiers (named for the cognac), 17 Dodges, five Darvons and six Ronricos.

That’s just the boys.

The girls’ names included 298 Armanis, 164 Nauticas, 36 Cateras (a Cadillac) and six Cartiers.

I love it. “Can little Darvon come over and play with our Michael next week? We love it when he visits, he’s always so, well, so quiet.

The name study was done by Cleveland Evans, a Nebraska psychology professor whom you will note is not named Michael or Paul or Dan. He reports a classic bit of before-the-horse revisionist logic behind the trend, explaining that parents sometimes choose product names that in turn sound a bit like traditional names: “Camry sounds like a feminine version of Cameron, while Lexus sounds like a variation of Alexis. Chevelle, he notes, sounds a lot like Danielle or Michelle,” says the article.

It’s amusing since most of those product names were probably chosen in the first place precisely because they sound like traditional first names. It’s a classic tenet of branding to lift names from the personal and familiar. The Mercedes, for example, was named after Mr. Daimler’s daughter.

  • Scariest name reported in the article, apart from little Darvon: apparently five count ‘em five girls in 2000 were named “Disney.”
  • Scariest name ever encountered in real life: Icantena Turner.

Today’s trivia question: there was another Linus played by a leading-man dreamboat in a big-budget flick a couple of years ago; what’s the picture? No fair using the Internet Movie Database to answer, even if it is just about the most useful Internet site ever.

Note to parents: please do not name your children Xanax. Thank you. I mean, talk about the sins of the fathers.

About Linus

The man behind the curtain. But couldn't we get a nicer curtain?
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5 Responses to A Camry by Any Other Name

  1. Guinness says:

    I didn’t get the movie, but did check IMDB. I forgot all about that character.

    I’m going to name my first born boy, “Count Chocula”, and girl “Landolakes”

  2. PZ Myers says:

    Hey! HEY! My first name is Paul. Why’d you have to go and pick on me in your first paragraph?

    Oh, well. There’s a reason I usually go by my initials, and why all my kids have unusual first names.

  3. Linus says:

    I’ve always kind of wanted to name mine Max Parsifal and Rachel Arwen (the latter from long before the Jackson movies, back when we still read those book things).

    Max, of course, is short for Maximum.

    My sister was going to name her daughter Nimue, and it was such a terrifying concept that she went and had, by necessity, a son. Who is happily and bumptiously named Eli.

  4. And then there’s Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize Winner.

  5. Linus says:

    Actually, Linus Pauling won two Nobel prizes, and he’s the only person ever to win more than one unshared prize. He won for Chemistry in 1954, and for World Peace in 1962. I am in part named after him.

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