A new brand of names

Anitria Akins had always wanted a Lexus, and now she'll always have one. She named her 9-year-old daughter A'lexus after the popular car.

"There were so many 'Alexises' out there, and I wanted something different," says Akins, a U.S. Postal Service supervisor in Atlanta. "I thought about naming her just 'Lexus,' but I wanted something that started with an A."


Plenty of other people have been having the same idea. In 2000, there were 1,263 girls named Alexus whose parents registered them for Social Security numbers. There were also 553 girls named Lexus, Lexxus, Lexis or Lexxis.

They're part of a growing trend toward naming children after products -- brand-name babies.


There are kids named after cars: Corvette, Acura, Camry, Celica, Infiniti. Little designers: Armani, Dior and Halston. Alcohol brand names abound: Courvoisier and Hennessy could be coming soon to a preschool near you, joining Killian and Guinness and Ronrico.

"Picking unusual names is more popular than ever, because people are willing to choose from all sorts of sources, including brand names," says Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska who discovered the surprising number of brand-name babies in a massive database of names registered with the Social Security Administration in 2000.

Evans, a longtime member of the American Name Society, an academic group, got hold of the list, the only time the SSA has released a full list of all names given five times or more, and noticed how many product-inspired names there were.

Children now about 3 years old are named Delta, Avis, Disney, Ikea, Evian, Hyatt, Breck and Delmonte.

There's a little boy in Texas named ESPN. Connie Brown of Atlanta has a granddaughter in Washington, D.C., named Cambria, after a brand of wine. It's also a type of kitchen countertop, she notes.

"Increasingly, brand names are being used as a metaphor for something else," says Lucian James, a business branding expert in San Francisco. "You say 'Gucci' to anyone in the world, and they know what you mean.

"When you're looking to name a baby, you're looking for something that sounds familiar and aspirational," he continues. "Parents are projecting onto their children the things they want to have themselves."

The branding of baby names is part of an overall trend toward name creativity, says Evans.


"Unusual names are accelerating, and people are being more inventive," he says. There are several naming trends, some of which have been going on for years: people naming children after places, pop culture figures and fictional characters, and parents inventing entirely new names, or new spellings of traditional names.

It's impossible to determine exactly how many children are named after products. Harley is a traditional boy's name but could also be a father's tribute to Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Jameson is both an Irish whiskey and a traditional Irish name; Andrea and Charles Spillers of Roswell, Ga., named their 2-year-old son Jameson because it was an old family name. For 11-year-old Chloe McNease of Atlanta, it's the opposite: Chloe is both a traditional girl's name and a perfume, and she's named after the perfume.

"There were 40 girls named Eternity (in 2000), and you don't know for sure, but I think it's likely a lot of that was from the perfume rather than the word," says Evans. "Dakota is a very popular name -- it's a place name and it's also a pickup truck."

It's not a completely new trend, of course. Girls have been named Mercedes for decades, and pro basketball great Elgin Baylor reportedly was named after the wristwatch company by his father.

When Virginia Hinton, a professor emeritus at Kennesaw State University, was researching a book on the history of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Milledgeville, Ga., she came across a girl named Nylic who was born around 1900. Nylic's mother was an organist at the church, and her father was the local representative for the New York Life Insurance Co. -- abbreviated NYLIC.


But there is a potential pitfall in the brand-name-baby trend, points out branding expert James.

"One of the problems with aligning your child with a brand is that your child becomes associated with the fortunes of that brand," he says. "If it's involved in scandal or has issues, that's not a good thing.

"I'd hate to think that somebody named their kid Enron four years ago."