We love bad boys when it comes to naming our babies
Parents are going to the Dark Side when naming their kids.
The fastest-growing baby name in America is Kylo, as in the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” villain played by “Girls” star Adam Driver. Kylo’s popularity went into hyperdrive over the past year, jumping 1,467 spaces since the film’s December 2015 release date.
“The rise of Kylo is really fascinating, but it’s a case where this is not a straight villain name but the name of an intriguing character played by a hot new actor, and also a new spin on a familiar name, Kyle, with a trendy ‘O’ ending,” Pamela Redmond, cofounder of the baby naming site Nameberry.com, told Moneyish. “If neither of these things had been true — if the character were just a mysterious figure in a black mask and his name was totally unfamiliar — you wouldn’t have seen this kind of interest in the name. You didn’t see babies named Darth or Vader, for instance.”
But the malevolent moniker is also part of a growing trend where parents are tapping villains and tragic figures as namesakes for their babies. Another name on the rise is Bellatrix, “Harry Potter’s” unhinged dark wizard played by Helena Bonham Carter, which jumped up 20% in popularity over the past week on Nameberry.
Laura Wattenberg, the baby name expert at BabyNameWizard.com, told Moneyish that moms have been christening their kids after the demonic children from “The Omen” (Damien), “The Exorcist” (Regan) and “Pet Sematary” (Gage) for decades.
“There’s a sort of elegant darkness in these names that the screenwriters chose that just appealed to parents,” Wattenberg said.
And names are getting even scarier. “Now you’re seeing Biblical names and words that had negative connotations, like Jezebel, Delilah, Judas and Leviathan, and even Lucifer on the strength of the television show ‘Lucifer,’ are on the rise. Parents are just as willing to do the devil as well as the saint today,” she said.
Redmond at Nameberry noted that violent-sounding baby names inspired by weapons and warriors are also climbing, with 1,500 boys being named Gunner last year, and Kali – the Hindu goddess of power and destruction – being at number 262 on the girls’ name list.
“You can’t discount the badass element, where parents choose the name because it’s attached to a scary aggressive character,” said Redmond. “Or maybe because real life is violent and frightening, and we want to arm our children to cope with that.”
But parents may want to take a pregnant pause before giving their kid an evil or aggressive label for the rest of their lives, since research shows that names can influence how much you make and how likely you are to get hired.
A 2011 New York University study (subtitled “Why people like Mr. Smith more than Mr. Colquhoun”) found that people with names that were easier to pronounce and to spell often had better jobs. And a Marquette University study reported people with more common names are more likely to be hired than those with rare names – so the current crop of Emmas, Noahs and Liams are in luck.
There’s also racial biases and socioeconomic prejudices at play, as a 2004 study found that white-sounding job candidates named Emily Walsh and Greg Baker got nearly 50% more callbacks than Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones.
You also don’t want to make a kid’s name too long. Online job matching site TheLadders found that shorter names earned more money, with names five letters or less like Tom, Rob, Dale, Doug, Wayne, Lynn, Cathy and Dana among the richest. The data revealed each “extra” letter cost $3,600 apiece in annual salary.
© 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved