The Name Game

It’s no surprise that the Central Coast’s first baby of 2007 would be a Joshua.

The name is strong, masculine and easy to shorten into a nickname. Plus, its Biblical meaning — "God saves" — couldn’t be more straightforward.

"What I really wanted to name him was Joseph Montana, but my wife wouldn’t have it," joked Joshua’s dad, Robert Tompkins of Templeton. "I’m a big 49ers fan."

In the era of Apple, Suri and Shiloh, celebrities often set the tone for baby names. Here in San Luis Obispo County, however, parents say they’re choosing names for their simplicity and classic appeal. Some recent local choices, like Oliver and Hannah, haven’t seen widespread popularity since the days of hoop skirts and horse-drawn carriages.

Joshua, for instance, once conjured up images of English painters and whaling ship captains. The

Social Security Administration lists Joshua as the third most popular boy’s name in the nation in 2005. It’s been in the top 10 since 1979.

"All of the new music and all of the new fashion is throwback stuff, so people want throwback names," said Arroyo Grande resident Lane Biermann. "They’re just tired of all the weird names." His daughter, Claire Adelle, was born Jan. 3.

Old is gold

Experts say old-fashioned names have been making a comeback for the past few years.

"With the turn of the century everything was so new and futuristic and ‘out there,’ " said Jennifer Moss, founder and CEO of "People are

going back to older names as a kind of comfort thing."

One trend Moss has spotted is the renewed interest in Celtic names.

Users of picked Aiden as 2006’s most popular male name. The similar-sounding Jaden, also spelled Jayden and Jaiden, is shared by the sons of pop star

Britney Spears and "The Pursuit of Happyness" actor Will Smith.

Paso Robles residents Jacob and Dawn Beckett chose another variation, Braydon, for their 6-month-old son. Before naming the boy, the only Braydon they knew of was a professional surfer.

"It’s such an easy, natural name. It seems to roll off the tongue," said Jacob Beckett, a sales representative at Peachy Canyon

Winery in Paso Robles. "I think in the next couple years it’s going to become really popular."

He’s got reason to think so.

After his birth, Braydon Johnathan Russell Beckett and his mom occupied a bed vacated by another baby Braydon, staff at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton told the family.

For girls, sweet, short names like Alexis and Ava are on the rise.

Emily Ann couldn’t be a better fit for the young daughter of Alfredo Gonzalez and Cassie Marie

Chadwick, born in October, the Templeton couple said.

"It’s a cute little name, and she’s cute and little," Chadwick said.

Added Gonzalez, "It’s something simple that you don’t hear too

often, and it’s pretty."

Tammie O’Hagan didn’t realize how popular the name Emma was until after she gave it to her

4-month-old daughter. The Arroyo Grande woman used prayer to help pick "Emma" and loves the name’s spiritual connotations of absolute faith and healing.

"I thought, "OK, great, so everybody in her class is going to be named Emma," O’Hagan said. But, she added, "I just love that name."

Creativity rules

So what do you do when the name you cherish is being adopted en masse? Invent your own, says Moss.

Matt Canady, an ornamental ironworker in Paso Robles, and his wife Bethani Joy decided to create a new name for their young son: Kyzen Ramon.

Ky, or kai, means "ocean" in Hawaiian, Bethani Canady explained, appropriate for the grandson of a fisherman. And "zen" refers to the Buddhist discipline of calm reflection, an extra syllable that just sounded cool, she said.

"So it’s like being on the ocean enjoying the moment," said Canady, who encountered plenty of odd names while working at the Atascadero Children’s Center. "It just seemed like we needed to set our own tone."

Atascadero residents Tony and Amy Mendes bypassed girls’ names like Kyrah, Kamryn and Corallina for something strikingly old-fashioned: Tabitha Grace.

And one of San Luis Obispo’s newest residents, Atticus Marley Drake, takes his handle from the lawyer in classic "To Kill A Mockingbird."

"We’d really like our son to have good morals like that character," said his mother, Rebecca Drake.

Atticus’ middle name, Marley, has a musical connection to reggae all-star Bob Marley — much like dad, who takes his middle name from folk singer Woody Guthrie.

Will Drake himself has what

Laura Wattenberg’s "The Baby Name Wizard" calls a homey "Porch Sitter" first name. It’s Willard.

Think about it

While a push toward creative and classic names may be good news for those who’ve grown tired of Madison and Mackenzie, Moss advises parents to use caution.

Parents should consider whether the name can grow with the child — Timmy might be fine for a

6-year-old, but what about a

16-year-old? — and whether it’s an invitation to teasing and bullying.

Odd spellings and peculiar names based on brand names and nouns can also make it hard on kids.

"It’s difficult for a child because they use it as their identity," Moss said, mentioning the psychological effects. "Sometimes they’ll act out if they have a wilder name. Kids named after parents feel that they have to fill their parents’ shoes."

Charles Chalekson, a plastic surgeon based in Templeton, added that certain names can seem dated — whether they were popular in the 1980s, like Caitlin, or the 1920s, like Ethel. His son’s name, Rocco Patrick, sounds like everybody’s favorite uncle, he said.

"It sounds like someone who’s very charismatic and everyone has good memories of," Chalekson said. "It’s formal and casual all at the same time."

Even if parents regret their name choice later, Lane Biermann says there’s still hope.

"People made fun of (my first name) in junior high but by the time I got to high school they thought it was awesome," the carpenter said.

Top names for SLO COUNTY kids

From 2006 birth announcements printed in The Tribune from Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in SLO, Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton and Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria.


Hailey (also spelled Haylee, Hayley, Haylie); Chloe (also spelled Kloe); Emma; Kamryn; Riley (also spelled Rylie); Ashlyn; Brooklyn; Emily; Kylee; Kyra; Mackenzie; Samantha; Sofia; Taylor


Aiden (also spelled Aidan, Ayden); Cody; Alan; Benjamin; Braden (also spelled Braydon); Cameron (also spelled Kameron); Gavin; Isaiah (also spelled Isiah, Izayah); Jared (also spelled Jarod); Logan; Mason; Oliver; Tyler; Vincent

What’s in a name? founder Jennifer Moss offers these tips about naming your newborn:

Stuck on a name? Look at your family history, your friends, your heritage. Check out classical literature, nature and celebrities.

Avoid names that are already being used in your family — cousins, pets, etc.

Consider rhythm and musicality. How do the first, middle and last names sound together?

What does the name mean? What message does it send? (For instance, the name Rocky reminds us of a certain big-screen boxer.)

How popular is the name? Will your daughter’s class have 20 other Emmas?

Is the name easy to spell and pronounce?

Prepare for the future: Do the child’s initials spell out something embarrassing? Could your child be teased or harassed because of his or her name?

Don’t use brand names like Porsche and Xerox.

Don’t name your child after an alcoholic drink or any noun that could have negative connotations.