November 22, 2005

Why didn't more parents name babies Elvis?

I mean, look at all the Dylans. Why didn't that happen with Elvis? I remember thinking, back in the 60s, that soon we'd be seeing lots of young people named Elvis. But it didn't happen. Why?

(Here's that Baby Name Wizard if you want to compare the naming trends over time.)

55 comments:

shake-and-bake said...

Very simple. Dylan sounds cool. Elvis, on anyone but the King, sounds dork. We had a quarterback here in SF named Elvis Grbac. It did not resonate.

Ron said...

And where are all the Ringoes? As many daffy celebrity names as I've seen, no one, not one, chose Ringo? Amazing!

CCMCornell said...

Is 'Dylan' for Bob Dylan?

I don't know about all y'all old people who, like, have kids and lived through the whole Elvis thing, but Elvis is a goofy icon to the rest of us and I know we'd never let any friend named "Elvis" live without some level of joking for the rest of our lives.

But, if 'Dylan' works, why not 'Presley'? That'd be a cool name.

The Mechanical Eye said...

There's also what those celebrities became later in life.

"Elvis" is larger than life - so large its bloated. Everyone's image is that fat figure in the white suit. It's a cartoon - endlessly parodied. That image overpowers the younger, virile Elvis with its fried-banana stench and lower-class America kitsch.

Bob Dylan has a veneer of artiness - the aura of an intellectual. He's not as embarrassing (critics would maintain otherwise) to as many people as Elvis.

But "Presley..." Now if I were a big Elvis fan, I'd consider that name. It's more subtle than ELVIS. Sounds vaguely upper-class.

shake-and-bake said...

Many who enjoy the music of Bob Dylan also enjoy the poetry of the person from whom he took his name; Dylan Thomas. It's a two-fer.

Troy said...

I don't know about the lack of "Elvi", but we're looking forward to the holidays with our 3 little ones: Iggy, Aretha, and Fitty.

Troy said...

And I forgot our dog "John".

Finn Kristiansen said...

Here is the reason. Elvis, like Jesus, remains a one of a kind name, with the original holder of the name highly worshipped.

On the other hand, there were many Dylan's throughout history, like Dylan Thomas, so it is not so unique to one person.

However, if Elvis had resonated with the hispanic culture, there would be many Elvi today, but because he didn't and doesn't (generaly speaking), there aren't.

Or, what Shake-and-bake said..."Dylan sounds cool". I do think Ccmcornell is on to something with the "Presley" though. That sounds sort of cool.

Ann Althouse said...

Shake: That also provides the denial. We didn't actually name him after Bob Dylan. But if you use Elvis, there's just no getting around it. I mean, unless you're going to claim to be big Elvis Costello fans.

Henry said...

Speaking of Elvis Costello, take a look at Declan! It's zooming up.

It's the new Dylan.

gj said...
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Mark the Pundit said...

I don't know about Elvis, but if you ever go down and visit Alabama you will defintely run into more than a few guys whose name is Bryant.

Meade said...

I think I'd have named my baby 'Roy Orbison' before naming her 'Elvis.' Not that I'd have named her 'Roy Orbison,' but an Elvis she most certainly is not.

As for 'Dylan,' nn...nah -- but she sure could have been a 'Zimmy' or 'Roberta.'

Performing Bear said...

Hey shake & bake: Would "Grbac" resonate without the "Elvis?"

Remember the story in the Onion about the new foreign aid program for Serbia (or was it Bosnia?) in which America was sending over vowels?

Hey ccmcornell: "Pres" is a great nickname, although in the case of the Man in the Porkpie Hat, it was short for "President."

Speaking of Porkpie Hat, how about the name Rahsaan? Don't see too many of those.

Performing Bear said...

Oh, I forgot this:

I once researched band name infringement cases because my band was being threatened with litigation by Kiss for doing a parody gig (where, by the way, we disclosed it was a parody tribute). I was the on band-stand lawyer and courtesy notary.

There's a great body of Elvis impersonator litigation, including the case of El Vez, the Mexican Elvis and the Colonel's failed attempt to protect the "Elvis Sneer."

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Cindy Crawford [uber-model] and her husband Rande Gerber named their son Presley.

shake-and-bake said...

Ann: Yes, I suppose the denial element is plausible. Especially if his brother's name is e.e.

SamuelAlito said...

Most of the parents I know who named their children Dylan were actually naming them after Dylan Thomas, not Bob Dylan.

But then again, I and my friends are mainly nerds.

The Right Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
(the A stands for Awesome)

Troy said...

Perhaps we'll see an upswing in "Tookies" in 9-- 10 months. After all -- he's the voice of a generation just like Dylan -- except for the 4 cold-blooded murders.

Eli Blake said...

There was an Elvis in the news in Albuquerque about fifteen years ago. Named Elvis Castillo, if I remember right.

He was a seventeen year who old got life in prison after murdering a fifteen year old girl for a set of wheel rims.

Then again, the name, 'Bertha' was popular with girls until WWI, when the Germans set up a big gun, nicknamed, 'big Bertha' that lobbed shells into Paris. After that, the name went to pot.

And I doubt if you will find anyone named, 'Adolf' either.

Troy said...

There was a running back for the Rams (in the late '70s I think) named Elvis Peacock -- a Black man named Elvis. Failry good back too, but not a Hall of famer.

Meade said...

I'll name my next babies 'Vasopressin' and 'Oxytocin' just to be on the safe side.

rcs said...

So why is "Dylan" more popular now than in the 60s and 70s? I don't think more people are buying Dylan's music, and I don't think more people are buying Thomas's poetry. Are there really people a generation younger than Dylan naming their kids after him? As shake-and-bake said, "Dylan" just sounds cool (kinda). Bobby Z thought so. And Elvis was rare (and presumably dorky), even for southerners of The King's generation.

So where's this Elvis/Jesus thing headed? Are lower-income, less-educated southern whites supposed to worship Elvis the way Latins worship Jesus? Nice twofer insult.

Mark Daniels said...

I doubt that the Dylan phenomenon has much to do with Bob Dylan, especially among new parents today, for whom he's generally passe.

As for why more people didn't name their kids Elvis, I think that while some people regarded Presley as hip, they largely didn't have that opinion of his name.

Mark Daniels

Troy said...

I thought Jesus was the freaky bowler in the Big Lebowski? You mean he was named after someone else?

Elvis H. Presley!

SippicanCottage said...
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Smay said...

RCS- I think the current popularity of the name "Dylan" comes from the character named Dylan on Beverly Hills, 90210.

Troy said...

Sippian, Rollo Tomasi is a good fake one too.

XWL said...

First, Jesus (HAYzus) is a pretty common name amongst Spanish speakers, especially Mexicans. (though nickname forms of Chuey or Jesse are usually used as replacements).

As far as Elvis, noone has said it so I'll say it, It's the white-trashy-ness of the name and the original's personae that limits the use of the name.

(and one more black Elvis would be Elvis Mitchell, formerly head film reviewer at the NYTimes, and still host of the Treatment on NPR)

Meade said...

"...though nickname forms of Chuey or Jesse are usually used as replacements..."

Speaking of 'Jesse,' Elvis had a twin named Jesse who died in infancy. According to the wizard, the name 'Jesse' made a fairly strong comeback in the 80's but neither 'Elvis' nor 'Jesse' were very popular in 1935.

Eli Blake said...

Meade:

neither 'Elvis' nor 'Jesse' were very popular in 1935.

Crime may have something to do with that, at least in the case of Jesse.

Probably Jesse wasn't popular because it hadn't been all that long since Jesse James (and in 1935, the view most people held of a western outlaw was far less romantic and more despised than it is today.)

There was a significant decrease in the use of the name, 'Charles' in the 1960-1970's, with Charles Starkweather, Charles Whitman and Charles Manson together attaching the image of a psycho killer to the name. Prior to that time, it was a top name for boys, but since then, it has made at best a slow comeback (I don't think that Prince Charles has helped a great deal either).

Bruce Hayden said...

Probably not an answer to this, but some of the psychology in naming children is in the Freakonomics book.

Also, while Jesus is very uncommon as a first name in the English speaking world, it is one of the most common first names for boys in the Roman Catholic Spanish speaking world (along with, of course, Maria, for girls).

Icepick said...
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Icepick said...

Finn Kristiansen wrote: Elvis, like Jesus, remains a one of a kind name, with the original holder of the name highly worshipped.

Later, Bruce Hayden wrote: ... Jesus is very uncommon as a first name in the English speaking world....

So is it official that Florida is no longer part of the English speaking world? Victoria, do you have a non-squism related take on this?

Troy said...

"Jesus" is really a common name among Latinos? Wow! I never knew! Dylan H. Thomas!

What next? I suppose you're going to tell me the moon is not made of green cheese? Pajamas Media is not a corporate sell out?
Elvis is a slavic name I believe.

Florida is still English-speaking. California is not.

vbspurs said...

So is it official that Florida is no longer part of the English speaking world?

Like someone mentioned, it's only a slice (albeit an important slice) of Florida that is billingual.

And the funny thing is, the Cuban-Americans are now starting to get touchy about being spoken to in Spanish.

The ones who were born and raised here use English as a kind of flag of disdain to their more recent Central American arrivals, in much the same way every immigrant group has looked down their nose to the ones who came behind them, in America.

Victoria, do you have a non-squism related take on this?

WVIC -- all Squism. All the Time.

Cheers,
Victoria

Tom T. said...

if you ever go down and visit Alabama you will defintely run into more than a few guys whose name is Bryant.

Weird. I always liked Bryant Gumbel, but I wouldn't name my kids after him.

While we're on this topic, why do Latino cultures name male children after Jesus, but other Christian cultures generally do not?

vbspurs said...

First, that word "Latinos" makes me gag.

I prefer Hispanic, although in this instance, wouldn't you know it, it's more correct nomenclature.

Jesus (pron. Zhe-zoos in Portuguese, BTW) is common-enough name in Brazil, Portugal and other Lusophone countries.

It's also common in Francophone countries, such as Marie de Jesus, etc.

Second, Elvis not common?

Well Ann, maybe not in your neck of the woods.

But in Central America, Elvisses are rife!

I cannot tell you the amount of Honduran, and Guatemalan "Elvis" males I have met in the past 8 years here.

Then there's Elvis Stoiko, the Canadian figure-skater of Croatian origin (isn't he?).

My porter is an Elvis (he's from Argentina).

Me, I see Elvis everywhere. Even in the building.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

While we're on this topic, why do Latino cultures name male children after Jesus, but other Christian cultures generally do not?

Partly wrong.

Hristo (Christ) is a very common Bulgarian name, to honour Jesus directly.

So is Riisto, in Finnish for the same reasons.

And as I mentioned, in France, de Jesus is common enough appellation, so "Latino" to mean Latin American, is the wrong word to use. In Italy, it is true Gesû is not a common name for a child, but it's not unheard of either.

When referencing Jesus as a name, then, you should say "Catholic", not Latino.

Having mentioned Hristo the Bulgarian name, I have to caveat this by saying it is all very regional.

In Serbia, e.g., using any part of our Lord's name is considered apostasy.

They too are mostly Eastern Orthodox, like Bulgarians.

I don't know the etymological curiosities of this naming practise, but I'll try to find out and post it later.

Cheers,
Victoria

XWL said...

I can't believe I haven't yet been chastised for anti-Mexican and anti-white-trash stereotyping.

And Victoria, Ann is still Queen of all things SquismTM related, but you are quickly earning the title of Princess of SquismTM.

(amongst your duties, talk to school children about the dangers of squirrels, visit the orphanages where SquismTM is bottled, and wear a tiara fashioned from the tails of long departed squirrels of various species)

Jeff said...

What's with all the Elvis-bashing? If the great unwashed like him he must suck! If only the working class had the good sense that their college-educated betters have, then they could name their offspring in honor of Bob Dylan's sophomoric taste in literature. Now that's classy!

vbspurs said...

And Victoria, Ann is still Queen of all things SquismTM related, but you are quickly earning the title of Princess of SquismTM.

I accept this honour on behalf of all the Althouse Squism minions.

(amongst your duties, talk to school children about the dangers of squirrels, visit the orphanages where SquismTM is bottled, and wear a tiara fashioned from the tails of long departed squirrels of various species)

It's tough at the top.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

What's with all the Elvis-bashing?

Yeah.

Okay I may not own a Velvet Elvis, but even this culture-vulture realises Elvis was DA MAN.

To my mind, he was the Second Best Performing-Artist of the Twentieth Century.

Frank Sinatra was number 1, obviously.

Cheers,
Victoria

amba said...

I heard of an American Indian boy, Lakota I think, named Elvis Grassrope.

XWL said...

Performing-artist is such a broad category and what constitutes greatness so debatable that it would be hard to be definitive without controversy.

I would discount both Sinatra and Elvis for not also writing and composing. To my mind to be one of the 'greatest' you need to embody all the qualities that make a great performer (from quality of voice all the way to cultural impact and overall artistic ability).

My personal top five would be Prince, George Clinton, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, and Ella Fitzgerald (she was the greatest singer/interpreter of all time, good enough to make me violate my rule about also being a writer/composer)

But Sinatra and Elvis are valid choices and their cultural impacts probably are greater than any of the artist I've listed.

(and see, not a single mention of SquismTM. . . . .until just then, I'll grow up some time before the middle of the century)

Tom T. said...

Victoria, interesting point about the Portuguese and the Bulgarians. One common thread among the the cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Bulgaria, where Jesus (or Christ) as a given name is seemingly most prevalent, is that they all experienced direct Muslim rule at one time. I wonder if that could be a cause? Perhaps it was a mark of Christian fidelity to name one's son directly after Jesus. Or alternatively, to the extent that the governing Muslim regimes maintained that Jesus was just another in a line of human prophets, perhaps naming a son after him did not seem that different from naming after any other human male in the Bible.

SWBarns said...

My daughters: Cher, Madonna and Wynonna all plan to name their babies Elvis.

The second choice is Aloysius after Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus, AKA Elvis Costello.

SWBarns said...
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Vicky said...

To those asking about "Jesus" as a name in certain cultures - one might ask the same of the common English names Christopher, Christian, Christine, Christina, and all of the various variations thereof.

Jeff said...

"Christ" is a title, not a name. It is Greek and means "anointed".

Naming one's child after God feels sacriligious to protestants, or even pagan, in the sense of crucifixes being too close to idol-worship.

It also seems vulgar, like wearing gold jewelry in the pool.

Steve said...

My own personal favorite - couple I know have a grandson named Fonzie.

miklos rosza said...

Dylan Klebold at Columbine. Eric Harris has tended to get more press.

Jack said...

I never knew the plural of Ringo was Ringoes. Can someone call Dan Quale for confirmation?

And surely the plural of Elvis is Elves not Elvi. Like thesis/theses? But then, I guess Elves sounds too Tolkienesque. (Or is it Tolkienish?)

XWL said...

If you are going to make a jibe against former Vice-President James Danforth Quayle, III regarding spelling, shouldn't you spell his name correctly?

(or you could laugh off the mistake and say you were going for a bit of sardonic irony)

and The Flying Elvi of Las Vegas fame go by Elvi so I think that is the accepted way of speaking about a group of folk all named or representing Elvis.

ElvisA said...

Thank you Victoria!! My name is Elvis, which it seems like I'm in a class all of my own based on what everyone is saying. It's been a tough at time and fun at times growing up with the name Elvis.