9 Aug 2023

Spike in baby names inspired by Barbie movie

From Nights, 10:18 pm on 9 August 2023
Margot Robbie as Barbie in Barbie

Is Barbie set to take over as a popular baby name? Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Hi Barbie! Hi Barbie! Hi Barbie!

Not only is she everything – and everywhere – right now – but Barbie might be popping up as a baby name in the next year or so if a massive spike in searches for Barbie on a baby name site is anything to go by.

Corinne Seals, senior lecturer of applied linguistics at Victoria University, told Nights that pop culture often has a direct impact on baby name trends.

“It's something that we've seen across the decades and across the centuries as well, and it's something that happens around the world. It's a pretty common human behaviour.”

The first Star Wars film made names like Luke and Leia popular when it came out in 1977, but these names have stuck around due to the franchise’s longevity, Seals says. Names of royal family ‘celebrities’ – William, Kate and their children George and Charlotte – have also found favour with commoners.

(From left) Prince William, Prince of Wales, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and Catherine, Princess of Wales attend the coronation of King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort at Westminster Abbey in central London on May 6, 2023. - The set-piece coronation is the first in Britain in 70 years, and only the second in history to be televised. Charles will be the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned at the central London church since King William I in 1066. Outside the UK, he is also king of 14 other Commonwealth countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Camilla, his second wife, will be crowned queen alongside him, and be known as Queen Camilla after the ceremony. (Photo by Yui Mok / POOL / AFP)

We might never be royals, but it's still possible to be named like one. Photo: Yui Mok / Pool / AFP

The success of 2022 Netflix series Wednesday, which focuses on Wednesday Addams from the original 1960s sitcom, The Addams Family, has also influenced new parents, with Harry Potter actor Rupert Grint among those naming his daughter Wednesday.

Some names endure even though the reasons for their popularity change. US actor Selena Gomez was named after famous Mexican Selena Quintanilla Perez, but now people are naming their babies Selena after her, Seals says.

“It kind of goes in waves.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 29: Selena Gomez celebrates the launch of Rare Beauty's Soft Pinch Tinted Lip Oil Collection on March 29, 2023 in New York City.   Cindy Ord/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Cindy Ord / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Actor Selena Gomez was named after a famous Mexican singer. Photo: CINDY ORD

“Every 20-30 years, there's a rise in people wanting original names, then they get swept over again back to more traditional [names], and then 20 or 30 years later, another rise in people wanting original names. It's something that tends to correspond to different moments in time when there's more creativity and less pressure around money and world affairs, when people are being more liberal with their ideas.”

Seals herself was named after a character in 1980s sitcom Soap.

“There were a few of us who I went to school with… who had this name.

“That’s pretty common that when you get a name that is quite unique and inspired by pop culture. You'll get a cohort of children who are born all around the same year or two, who are named this name, and then it goes away again.”

Creative spelling and made-up names are also nothing new, Seals says.

“I actually really like the story of Vanessa, which is quite a popular name, but actually was created in 1713 by author Jonathan Swift for a poem he was writing to his lover, Esther van Hamid. And so he created the name Van from her last name and Essa from her first name and created Vanessa. So that was completely made up and it's become really popular.”

“That’s again part of that creativity that we see surge every 20-30 years.

“I myself had one of these moments growing up where you go to the shop where they have names on all the different items, and you'll find your name but never spelled the way that your name is spelled.”

Just as well there are limited ways to spell K-E-N.