Wolf Files: Baby Name Games

ByABC News

— -- Is your child Unique? Many children are, and it says so on their birth certificate. In the last five years, more than 1,000 little girls in the United States have been named Unique — and they're presumably expected to live up to their parents' expectations.

Baby naming is America's newest creative outlet. When actress Gwyneth Paltrow gave birth Friday to her first child, she and husband Chris Martin proclaimed that the girl would be named Apple Blythe Alison Martin, raising the question: Was the child named after her mom's favorite fruit or her father's laptop computer?

If little Apple Martin does get teased on the playground, let's just hope she one day meets a boy who's Sincere — and that is mathematically possible. Last year, 256 boys were actually named "Sincere," according to Social Security Administration records.

The world hasn't gone completely crazy. The most popular baby names last year were Jacob, Michael and Joshua for boys and Emily, Emma and Madison for girls. However, some of the newest Americans clearly reflect their parents' interests.

For instance, in designer brand-crazy America, you don't have to drive a Lexus to have a Lexus. There were 270 girls named "Lexus" last year, according to the SSA. Another 265 boys were named "Armani."

Alternate spellings are also on the upswing, including Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backward), Canon (like the camera) and Skyy (like the vodka).

"I think you can put some contemporary names into historical context," says Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska and author of Unusual & Most Popular Baby Names.

In the past, for instance, "babies have been named Ruby or Opal to reflect the parents' aspirations," he says.

Last year, for the first time in American history, the top 50 names accounted for less than 50 percent of boys born each year, and for less than 40 percent of girls.

"It's almost as if parents feel like they've failed their children if the child walks into a classroom and there's another kid with the same name," says Evans. Over the past few years, Evans has found 17 boys named Ventura (as in Jesse), six boys named Timberland (as in the boot), and 27 called Blue (as in Little Boy).

Some of the female names were equally bizarre. There were 23 little girls named Sparkle, and 16 named Reality.

If more parents start naming their kids "Apple," it wouldn't be the most outlandish example of pop culture influencing mom and pop. Only two years ago, Jamie Oliver, better known as TV's "The Naked Chef," named his daughter "Poppy Honey." Poppy has now entered the 100 most popular names in Britain.

Now let's look at some baby-naming milestones: Modern Gladiators: Rome fell 15 centuries ago, and yet the Latin name "Maximus" has been making a big comeback, thanks to Russell Crowe's Oscar-winning turn in Gladiator. Last year alone, 699 little boys were named Maximus, making it more popular than contemporary names like Rodney.

We can expect a Maximus army to unleash hell upon their parents and baby sitters, or picking on younger kids named Troy and Achilles, in honor of Brad Pitt's new movie.

Warrior Princesses, Worrier Moms:

Girls can be superheroes, too. In 1996 and 1997, when Lucy Lawless was TV's reigning action star, 567 girls were named after Xena, making it the 200th most popular name for girls during those years.

Xena's six-year run ended in 2001. The name disappeared from birth certificates, just as it disappeared from the TV guide. Still, there are a bunch of second- and third-grade warrior princesses out there, with mothers who have some explaining to do.

"It definitely fits her personality," Jody Humphrey told the News Journal in Mansfield, Ohio, in January, speaking of her 7-year-old daughter.

"She is full of energy and spunk — just [like] her television namesake." Good Sports: If you're really looking for parents who make sport of their children, consider that at least two children were named Espn, after the ESPN cable sports network.

In 2002, Jason Curiel of Texas told the Dallas Morning News that he thought his wife was kidding when she made the suggestion. But the Corpus Christi couple loves sports.

"I thought she was pulling my chain and was going to suggest other names," he said. "But then he came and she was still for it. Even though the nurses would give me dirty looks and turn to my wife and say, 'His name, please?' "

A Glitch in the Matrix: In 2000, a year after the first Matrix movie took theaters by storm, there were 113 boys named "Neo" and another five named "Morpheus," apparently in honor of the characters portrayed by Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne.

In the years after the movie, Trinity — the name of the female lead character, played by Carrie-Anne Moss — became one of the fastest-growing names for girls, tripling between 1999 and 2000 to 4,553. Even though the Matrix sequels met with disappointment, another 5062 Trinitys entered this unreality we call Earth. It's now the 57th most popular name for girls. Ten years ago, it was No. 951. Keanu's Hawaiian Punch: Reeves' popularity abroad actually caused a naming controversy in Austria, where parents aren't allowed to invent names. Parents who want to give their child a truly unusual name must prove that it once belonged to another person.

When one Austrian couple wanted to name their son after the actor, officials objected, thinking Keanu was just a stage name. But, after doing some research, they discovered the name relates to the actor's Hawaiian ancestry.

Fortunately, we Americans are free to name our children whatever we want. We don't have to answer to our government, but we will have to answer one day to our adult children. If the Apple doesn't fall very far from the tree, Paltrow will certainly be happy.

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Buck Wolf is entertainment producerat ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files ispublished Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice whena new column is published, join the e-maillist.