Celebrity Names Blog

Bloomsday Names

Bloomsday Names
Ulysses Original Cover

Happy Bloomsday! June 16, 1904 is the date on which Leopold Bloom wandered around Dublin in what Modern Library has hailed as the very best of all novels, Ulysses. Since the book's publication in 1922, how have the names of James Joyce's characters fared? Which celebrities have chosen Ulysses names? Which Ulysses names would we offer for contemporary babies born on Bloomsday?

Leopold: Was the book single-handedly responsible for killing this name in the US? During the period of 1914-1921, when the novel was first serialized in the US, Leopold (which had been on and off the charts as long as they'd been kept) dropped in popularity from #674 to #825. In 1921, US courts ruled the book obscene. In 1926, Leopold made its last ever appearance on the popularity charts. The obscenity ruling was reversed in 1933 and the book became a classic, but too late to save this name. (Leopoldo, however, appeared mysteriously in the late 1970s, only to disappear again.) Is it time to bring this one back? We like the nickname Leo.

Molly: Leopold Bloom's wife Molly Bloom famously gets the last word in this novel, and her name has fared better too. Consistently popular in the four decades leading up to the original publication of Ulysses, the name rose in popularity through the twenties and hasn't let up. Molly broke the Top 200 mark in 1973 and the top 100 mark in 1987. In 2009, Molly came in at #92. The name made a good impression on Amanda Peet, who chose it last month for her daughter, Molly June.

Stephen: Like Leopold, the name of Ulysses' artist-figure (and surrogate Bloom son) slipped a bit after the initial publication of Ulysses, falling out of the top 100 in the 1920s. As the fortunes of Ulysses changed through the 1930s, so to did the fortunes of Stephen, which zoomed up the charts to a high of #19 in 1949 and 1950. In 2009, Stephen ranked #201. We think this one might be hampered by the dated nickname, Steve.

What other names does Ulysses offer the contemporary name seeker? Gerty probably doesn't fit the zeitgeist, and Bella needs no help from us. But here are a few worth mentioning:

Mina: Ulysses, Dracula, and the poet Mina Loy? This sweet name (#862 in 2009) has literary cache to spare, and fits right in with popular names like Mia, Mira, and Mila

Mulligan: This rolls-off-the tongue surname might appeal to parents captivated by the music of Sullivan, a name that made the charts in 2002 (for the first year since 1900!) and has since shot up 350 spaces.

Rudy: The name of Molly and Leopold Bloom's son (and Bill Cosby's TV daughter), Rudy is best known these days as the adorable son of hottie Jude Law

What are your favorite Bloomsday names?



Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

June 16, 2010 7:43 PM
By joye (not verified)

What about the name "Ulysses" itself?

"Mulligan" has a possibly unfortunate connotation in sports, especially golf. To "take a mulligan" means "to do something (like a shot) over (because you messed up so horribly the first time)".

"Mulligan" has the gangster-chic nickname "Mugsy".

I like Leopold. I think I'll put it on my boy's name list (which also features August, Felix, and Simon, to give an idea of my naming tastes).

June 17, 2010 4:45 PM
By Lane

Of course, Ulysses is a great name. And yeah, Mulligan might not be quite as great as Sullivan on second thought.

June 17, 2010 10:13 PM
By mersey (not verified)

I think King Leopold II of Belgium and his massive mishandling of the Congo Free State did more to kill off the name internationally than a book. The region hasn't recovered to this day (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3516965.stm, among other sources).

June 17, 2010 10:21 PM
By mersey (not verified)

Also check out Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Crime of The Congo" (1908). Pre-WWI, this was a widely publicized international furor, tarnishing Leopold's name and that of Belgium.

Sorry to be so vehement, but this makes far more sense than speculation that a character in a banned book few Americans had the chance to read until 1933 spurred rejection of its protagonist's name ten years earlier. Historical context suggests otherwise.

June 21, 2010 10:17 PM
By Mulligan (not verified)

Mulligan is my last name. I have one of those very common first names so I was called Mulligan almost exclusively from the age of about the age of 12 on. I loved it then. Still love it now. It's a great name.

June 22, 2010 8:25 PM
By with an E (not verified)

Leopold and Loeb didn't help.

June 22, 2010 10:35 PM
By Julie (not verified)

I don't think James Joyce single-handedly "killed" Leopold, rather the name had many strokes against it...
1. King Leopold's unpopularity.
2. Anti-German sentiment after WWI.
3. The end of several European monarchies after WWI. (Leopold was a common royal name.)
4. But probably most damning the 1924 conviction of murderer Nathan Leopold, who along with Richard Loeb, committed the "crime of the century." (Well, the 1st crime of the century.)

It's just too pat to blame it all on Joyce.

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