Celebrity Names Blog

Did Sophie Dahl Launch A Thousand "Sophies"?

Did Sophie Dahl Launch A Thousand "Sophies"?
ANG/Fame Pictures

British cookbook author/model Sophie Dahl and her musician husband Jamie Callum are expecting a baby together. Delightful!

Jamie and Sophie are both cute British-y names, both rather common in the US. Jamie is #674, and Sophie is #65 (not to mention that Sophia is up to #4). But there's a twist. To wit: Sophie Dahl herself may be the reason all those Sophies are born today.

Sophie's grandfather was Roald Dahl, best known for his children's books, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. In 1982, Dahl published The BFG, a book about a young lady who befriends a giant ("BFG" stands for Big Friendly Giant). Dahl called his heroine Sophie, after his then-five-year old granddaughter, Sophie Dahl.

The book was a bestseller, partly because, as The New York Times puts it, Dahl gets that "children are essentially anarchist and revolutionary," and partly because of his likeable heroine, "spunky little Sophie."

Here's what happened next: Sophie, which hadn't been on the charts since 1955, suddenly began to climb:

  • 1983 - 0
  • 1984 - 944
  • 1985 - 807
  • 1986 - 799
  • 1987 - 760

The name is climbing yet.

Still more interestingis to put Sophie's Name Voyager Chart next to that of another unfashionable name that suddenly began burning up the charts after appearing in a bestselling story: Madison. (You know, the mermaid from Splash.)

Yep, just like Madison (currently ranked #7), Sophie became a giant hit only after it appeared in an early 80s bestseller. And the heroine in that bestselling book was named for Sophie Dahl. (Oh, alright. We confess. Sophie wasn't just around in 1982 because of The BFG. There was also a movie called Sophie's Choice that made rather a, er,  splash.)

What do you think? Did The BFG help spark the Sophie trend? Would you name your child after a character by Roald Dahl?



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

September 14, 2010 12:15 PM
By Jen (not verified)

Might be interesting to check how Sophie matches up with Matilda, another Dahl heroine with a used-to-be "old lady" name.

Dahl's mother was also named Sophie, and I fell in the love with the name when I read his autobiogrpahical book "Boy." Perhaps he gave Sophie a one-two boost by mentioning it there as well as The BFG.

Unfortunately, too many other people have felt the same way over the years: I don't have a little girl (yet), but she won't be Sophie when and if she arrives.

As for whether I'd name a child after a Dahl character? I might. But I am a huge fan -- wrote my thesis on him. :)

September 14, 2010 12:17 PM
By Jen (not verified)

Oops! One mistake -- as soon as I pressed "enter," I remembered that Dahl's mother spelled her name "Sofie." Still ... :)

September 14, 2010 4:06 PM
By Mom (not verified)

In my family in Germany, my grandmother and my Aunt were both named Sofie. I have always liked that name because it was a family name. I would not consider naming a child after a character in a book, unless the name had other significance to me or my family.

September 14, 2010 6:12 PM
By Sophie's mom (not verified)

I've never heard of Sophie Dahl or "The BFG", so that's had no bearing whatsoever in our choice to name our daughter Sophie. We simply loved the name and liked that "Sophie" was a less common form of the name than "Sophia". Regardless, now that we have our little Sophie, we think it's the sweetest girls name ever!

September 15, 2010 12:17 PM
By Essy (not verified)

The name is beautiful. Sophie's Choice is a heartwrenching movie I don't know if I'd name a daughter after Sophie from Sophie's Choice

but yeah, it's so soft and feminine. but it sounds like a NN to me, I know there's Sofia/Sophia but is Sophia short for anything?

September 15, 2010 2:14 PM
By Jacquie (not verified)

Jamie's last name is Cullum, not Callum.

September 15, 2010 4:43 PM
By Lane

Thanks @Jacquie.

September 15, 2010 8:57 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Sometimes it's not that you're naming after a particular character or person. It's just that you have positive associations with certain names from your experiences with them. Sophia in my mind will always be a golden girl but if you grew up reading about a spunky little Sophie it would stick in your head as a cute girl name.

September 21, 2010 7:53 PM
By Patricia (not verified)

In 1984 Sophie wasn't in the Top 100 in England/Wales; 10 years later, Sophie ranked #6, peaking at #3 in 2005. It could very well be that Roald Dahl's choice of the name Sophie for the heroine in one of his books propelled the name to popularity in the UK -- several years before the name caught on in the US. And since Sophie Dahl inspired her grandfather, it seems that she could indirectly be given credit for the popularization of her name in the UK. But in the US, where Sophie didn't crack the Top 100 until 2007, I doubt that the book and Sophie Dahl played a major role in the current popularity of the name Sophie in the U.S.

I love the name Sophie: that's what we've always called my granddaughter Sophia, born in 1995, when Sophia "Sophie" was an unusual choice. Our Sophie was given that name because of a little French Sophie I met while traveling in 1992; my daughter loved the name and used it for her daughter three years later.

September 21, 2010 8:03 PM
By Patricia (not verified)

Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal had 5 well-named children:
!. Olivia Twenty Dahl (died at age 7)
2. "Tessa" (Chantal Sophia) Dahl, mother of Sophie, Clover Martina Patrica, Luke James Roald and Ned
3. Ophelia Magdalena Dahl
4. Theo Matthew Dahl, father of Alexa Isabella
5. Lucy Neal Dahl, mother of Phoebe Patricia Rose and Chloe Michaela

September 21, 2010 9:50 PM
By Tanya (not verified)

So I was born in 1983, and had my daughter, Sophie, in 2004. I'd never read the BFG nor watched Sophie's choice. In fact, I didn't know any Sophie's at all which that, combined with the fact I loved the name and meaning was a driving force in the naming of our daughter. I was rather disappointed to find how high it was in the charts at the time/ and especially how high Sophia is (and the poor gal is always getting called Sophia) Oh, well ;) Still got to love the name. Pretty confident my youngest, Eliora, won't be finding many others with her name.

September 22, 2010 11:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Sophie can be short for Sophonisba or Sophronia.

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