Celebrity Names Blog

New Baby Alert: Sophie Kinsella Welcomes Baby Rex

Sophie Kinsella, author of Confessions of a Shopaholic, gave birth to a baby boy, Rex, on May 6, 2010.  Rex is her fourth son with husband Henry Wickham; Rex will be joining Freddy, Hugo and Oscar.  Ms. Kinsella knows names -- book names, pen names and baby names.

Her book names most people are familiar with -- the enormous success of Confessions of a Shopaholic surely had to due in part with its catchy and memorable title.  Though, fun fact, this book was first published in the UK under the name The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic.  But when movie time rolled around, they went with the more well-known name.

Less people know that Ms. Kinsella herself has two names at play.  Sophie Kinsella was born Madeleine Townley.  As her website details, she published her first book, and several others, under the name Madeleline Wickham (Wickham came after marrying Henry).  Then anonymously she submitted her first Sophie Kinsella book to her publishers.  They took it up, not knowing the woman behind the name already worked with them.  Speculate away: why bother with the new name when already a published author?  Perhaps for the simple and ages old reason for a pen name -- to retain privacy.  But could there be another motivation at work?  Perhaps she altered her own name for the same reason Secret Dreamworld became Confessions -- to appeal to a larger audience beyond the UK.  Madeleine Wickham sounds decidedly English, whereas Sophie Kinsella is a bit more vague -- could be American, Italian with the Sophia shortened to Sophie.  There's room for origin ambiguity.

What about in naming her children?  In addition to Rex, Sophie/Madeleline has Freddy, Hugo and Oscar.  Our first thought was just how English these names sound.  But their roots are actually varied, as Namipedia reveals.  Freddy seems to be a stand-alone name in this case, but if we look to Frederick, this name derives from the High Old German for ruler of the peace.  Hugo comes from the Old French (which in turn also comes from the Old High German), from the word hugu, meaning heart, mind, spirit.  Oscar is believed to be a Norman baronial name, taken from the French place name meaning golden city.  Others say the author Fanny Burney made up the name for the main character in her 1778 book Evelina (as a fellow author, Kinsella might appreciate such an invention).  And finally, Rex.  In the 19th Rex started being used as a given name, from the Latin rex, king.

And yet, putting all these names together, and taking into account how they sound and feel these days, to us the Wickhams still make quite the English brood!

What do you make of Freddy, Hugo, Oscar and Rex?  Are you a fan of the pen name Sophie Kinsella over Madeleine Wickham?



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May 11, 2010 10:54 AM
By Sue (not verified)

"Sophie Kinsella was born Madeleine Wickham" But her husband's name is Henry Wickham, so I'm guessing Madeleine Wickham is the author's married name. Any idea what her maiden name was?

May 11, 2010 11:08 AM
By Dominique

Sue -- thanks for the catch. The post is now updated. Her maiden name: Townley.

May 13, 2010 9:51 AM
By Barbara C. (not verified)

Hugo, Oscar, and Rex sound very literary (Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Oedipus Rex). Freddie seems more of the odd man out of the four--all though very British--Freddie Mercury, Freddie Highmore.

May 18, 2010 1:18 PM
By TheNewSplendidLady (not verified)

Love those names all together! Rex is my son's middle name. My first name, Regina - means queen - is given to each first-born girl in every generation on my mother's side. Since we didn't have a girl, we went with Rex. Plus, it sounds cool.

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