New father George Clooney may not be ready to put his children on display for the world just yet – they are only 12 weeks old – but he is doing publicity for his new movie, Suburbicon, so he’s compelled to at least offer up a description of them.
The 56-year-old Oscar winner and husband to international human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, already gave his adoring public pause when his children’s names – Alexander and Ella – were announced. Because they were normal. An admiring person might even call them traditional, a less admiring person might call them bland.
At this moment in culture, when it’s almost mandatory that the offspring of famous people have unusual or unique names, the Clooneys are bucking the trend.
“We just didn’t want to have really dumb names” is how he explained it in an interview this week.
“We figured these kids are going to be looked at a lot and watched and [have their] every move sort of judged, and we wanted them to at least have a break with the names,” he told entertainment outlet E.T.
“So we looked for some sort of normal names. We didn’t have any great inspiration. It wasn’t Alexander the Great and Ella Fitzgerald.”
Ella, whom Clooney says looks like her mother, sits prettily at No.12 on the top baby names for girls in Australia. Coincidentally, Alexander sits at the No.12 spot for boys. It’s roughly the same for US name lists. Clooney denies naming his kids after anyone, but it’s interesting that his aunt, Rosemary Clooney, was a famous jazz singer, and that Alexander means “defender of men.”
It’s perhaps unsurprising that George Clooney, the son of a news anchor, (Nick Clooney) and Amal, the daughter of a public relations executive and editor, (her mother, Bariaa Miknass) might have greater insight into how mass media coverage of celebrities works.
Perhaps Amal – who shed her maiden name, Alamuddin – when she married Clooney in 2014 understands better than most the possible drawbacks of having an uncommon name. Perhaps Amal knows the value of a strong, common name when a jury is handing down a decision about that person’s guilt.
Although their lavish wedding was covered extensively by Vogue, very little is known about the barrister who once represented Julian Assange. This is obviously by design. After all, a high-profile lawyer, who takes on the likes of ISIL, has to be protective of her privacy. And an unusual name, like Audio Science, (the son of actress Shannon Sossamon and illustrator Dallas Clayton) might draw unnecessary attention.
But that’s not the reason Clooney led with. His first response was that he and his wife did not want dumb names. Clooney is four years off 60 so it’s reasonable to think age has something to do with it. But his best friend, famed entrepreneur Rande Gerber, is only a year younger than Clooney and the children he shares with Cindy Crawford – Presley and Kaia – both have unusual names.
Or at least they did. These days, sporting the surname of a famous singer, (in this case Elvis), is de rigueur. Model Helena Christensen’s son is called Mingus, singer Liam Gallagher’s son is called Lennon, actress Zoe Saldana has a son named Bowie. And those are just famous examples. Most of these kids are in their teens now, which means that the names have trickled down into ordinary classrooms. Raise your hand if you’ve met a Hendrix? If you need to kill two birds with one stone, you might try Plant, (after Led Zeppelin frontman Robert, and, you know, the green things).
Similarly, girl’s names that sound like they belong to Teletubbies, are likely to be found on most roll calls. Lala, which means “cheerful” in Hawaiian, Lolo, (popularised by US athlete Lolo Jones) Pixie, who is the Instagram famous daughter of PR executive Roxy Jacenko, Trixie Belle, who is the daughter of radio host Fifi Box, Dream, the daughter of Rob Kardashian and his estranged wife, Blac Chyna. Indeed, among the top 50 girl’s names of 2016, 21 of them end in A. Put simply, Australians like their girl’s names to sound like they’re being sung by back-up singers. We can probably expect that Sha–la-la-la and Do-da-do-da to pop up on baby name lists next year.
(Full disclosure: my own daughter has a “unique” name ending in an A).
It used to be an easy joke to poke fun of uncommon names. The same people who warn against their alleged silliness usually disapprove of jeans with holes in them, asking if the wearer knows that they ripped their pants.
But the problem with today’s uncommon names is that, well, they’re not all that uncommon anymore. When Victoria and David Beckham called their sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz respectively, people scoffed. Now those names are in day care centres all over Sydney. The cringe factor no longer arises from the uniqueness of the name, but rather, the fact that it was copied from a middling celebrity couple.
Which gives rise to perhaps the greatest risk of all, the danger of being branded a bogan.