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Do My Kids Sound Like Muppets?

We have a daughter named Zoe. We are expecting a boy and love the name Oscar. Is this combination just begging for snarky comments about a third child named Big Bird? - Not Muppet Mom

Isn't it remarkable how different naming the second child is? With your first baby, the world of names was open to you from A to Z. You could grab your copy of The Baby Name Wizard from the shelf, open to any page, and dream. You could choose a family name or a brand-new invention, a long name or a short name, a Greek name (as you did) or something utterly English. You could go for a popular name or…well, you get the idea.

And now, naming your second child, it hits you: you have limitations! You want your children’s names to "go" with each other. One name is just a name, but a sibling pair is a style. That second child’s name determines whether Aurora reads more as "Disney Princess" (via a sister named Belle) or "Roman goddess" (a sister named Juno).

You’re right that first-child names can rule out certain second-child choices. Only the heedless would name Chip’s brother Dale, Rhett’s sister Scarlett or Eve’s brother Adam. So you're wise to be careful about two Sesame Street friends. I don’t think, though, that Zoe and Oscar cross the line into a sibling-names comedy routine.

The Sesame Street character Zoe doesn't dominate your daughter's name. Zoe has been a top-100 name for American girls for the past decade, and had a long and storied history before that muppet came on the scene. Oscar is a bit trickier—little boys with that name do grow tired of hearing themselves described as “the Grouch." Yet Oscar, too, has become somewhat fashionable, which has done a lot to distance the name from its trashcan-dwelling vibe. Plus The Grouch competes with other strong Oscar associations (on the plus side, the Academy Awards; on the minus side, the Oscar Mayer Wiener).

Most importantly, “Oscar and Zoe” aren't a matchy-matchy pair in the way that Adam and Eve (or Ernie and Bert) are. With a daughter named Zoe, I’d definitely advise against a sibling named Elmo, since those two are muppet bosom-buddies. Zoe and Oscar, though, sound mostly like a well-matched pair of familiar yet off-beat names. And if the kids in their preschool do make the Sesame Street connection, what's the real harm? Just teach your kids to smile at it: even tv producers see how cool their names are!


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February 14, 2011 10:13 AM
By Deborah (not verified)

I love your answer. Although I, myself, am not a huge fan of either name, I would not have made the muppet connection because of Zoe being so wildly popular over the last 10 years. Oscar is also a name that has been used in other capacities (the Will Smith voiced fish in Shark Tale) and is breaking out of the Muppet box. I am a huge believer in, "if you love the name, us it!" If these are two names you love, go for it!!

February 14, 2011 10:16 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

So true about the limitations for the second child! We named our first (a boy) Jack. My husband has always loved the name Jillian but that didn't happen for our daughter. I just couldn't get over having a Jack and Jill even though I also really love the name Jillian. We considered this limitation when our son was born but we didn't want to not use Jack because there was no way to know if we'd ever have a daughter.

February 14, 2011 11:39 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Personally I would associate with Sesame Street. It is one of the few shows my kids watch because we only have local channels so the only kids programming we get is PBS. So I would see it that way right off the bat.

Oh and to the last poster: My cousin married a girl named Jillian and her brother is named Jack.

February 14, 2011 12:15 PM
By Hellibel (not verified)

I personally think it's kind of sweet. I like both names, and you obviously do, too. I think it only has a fun association, and not a negative one... Also, people without small kids wouldn't even know Zoe is a muppet, but who doesn't love Oscar the Grouch??

Go for it... They're great names!

February 14, 2011 12:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

For me it screams "Sesame Street", and while I may not say a thing to you about the third being named Big Bird or Elmo or Grover, I'd be thinking it.

February 14, 2011 1:12 PM
By Kayt (not verified)

I think Name Lady is spot on here. Zoe and Elmo are too much together, Zoe and Oscar are fine. We didn't think our first child through either. We named out son James, and then, after he was born, realised we love the name Jane for a daughter. However, James and Jane, or Jamey and Janie are waaaay too close for my taste. Weirdly enough, while my husband insists that James and Jonas are too close for brothers, he has no problem with James and Jane. *eyeroll*

February 14, 2011 6:59 PM
By Elisabeth (not verified)

I am usually big on encouraging people to go with the names they love and ignore naysayers, but I'm sitting on the fence with this one. I agree with the Name Lady that the Zoe/Elmo combination is an absolute no. For me, the Zoe/Oscar combination says Sesame Street in big neon lights, but I suspect this is because I am the mother of small children. I'm sure my childless friends have no idea that Zoe is a Sesame Street character, because she didn't exist when we were kids. However, Oscar the Grouch did, and still does, and I think that's where I'm having a problem with this. I'd be willing to bet that for nearly all of us, when we hear Oscar, our brains silently follow it up with Grouch. (Or Meyer Wiener, which is worse. In fact I have the Oscar Meyer Wiener jingle in my head at this moment). For me it's in the same category as Kermit, which has been more or less permanently removed from use on an actual person, thanks to the frog character. But perhaps other people don't feel the same way about Oscar, so I'm not saying a definite no. More like a proceed with caution, because the kid may (but not necessarily will) grow up hating his name.

Also, there are other names that sound OK to my ear despite the character association -- for example, I don't think Minnie is out of the question for a little girl, even though the name got pretty much dominated by Minnie Mouse. I'm not sure why Minnie seems OK, but Oscar doesn't.

It probably doesn't help that my aunt used to have a small dog named Oscar who, when company came over, would never fail to spend their entire visit sitting in the middle of the room licking his crotch. :-)

February 15, 2011 3:30 AM
By hillary (not verified)

Aw, my daughter just was watching Sesame Street today and I didn't even make the Oscar/Zoe connection. I think it's a very nice pairing.

February 15, 2011 12:49 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I am still sad that naming my son Charles has ruled out using Diana for a future daughter.

February 15, 2011 1:26 PM
By shadelit (not verified)

I have young children and I still wouldn't have immediately thought "Sesame Street" at this name pairing, although it probably would have occurred to me at some point. Perhaps it depends on where you live, in my area the name Oscar is blooming again. 20 years ago I thought of it solely in terms of The Grouch (and The Odd Couple) but since then I've taken classes with a couple adult Oscars and my kids have gone on playdates with little Oscars. The name never went out of style in the Latin community and has since been rediscovered by both hipsters and the well-heeled with retro sensibilities, which is kind of what happened with Zoe a while back too. I think Zoe and Oscar are a rather stylish set, viewed from that perspective.

February 15, 2011 1:29 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I love it!!! Oscar is a great name. Definitely go with it. the name lady is spot on!

February 15, 2011 1:39 PM
By Allison Margaret (not verified)

I don't have kids, but am familiar with Sesame Street from watching it myself about 20 years ago and with kids I babysat more recently. Oscar is "the Grouch" to me, although I know the name is becoming more popular. I know Zoe is a Muppet, but it's not my primary association. I think of several little girls I know named Zoe. I'd think Muppets no matter what with Oscar, but Oscar having a sister named Zoe doesn't make me think of Muppets any more than Oscar alone.

February 15, 2011 2:00 PM
By Pamela S (not verified)

My brother used to tease a friend of his about naming his boys both after cheese. Colby and Jack. They had not done it on purpose, but my brother called the boys "the cheeseheads". He told them, "Now you need a little girl named Brie." No one else ever made the connection, or at least commented on it. Rather than worrying about it, they embraced it, and named their next child, a girl, Brie.
And still, no one else seems to make the connection.

February 15, 2011 2:09 PM
By Debbie (not verified)

I watched Sesame Street as a kid, but Zoe wasn't on the show then. I've even watched Elmo's World a few times with my son but the connection didn't jump out to me. I think you're safe with people my age (20's-30's) unless they or their kids are Sesame Street junkies :)

February 15, 2011 2:32 PM
By mk (not verified)

There's a muppet named Zoe?

I know several girls named Zoe, and two little boys named Oscar. neither name, alone or together, makes me think of Sesame Street. I think you're fine.

Even if people do make the connection, so what? There are worse things to have your name be connected to than a muppet. Even though you didn't, people name their kids after favorite characters often enough that I don't think the connection would even seem odd.

February 15, 2011 2:35 PM
By Elisabeth (not verified)

I take back what I said. If the name Oscar is indeed seeing a resurgence, then it's probably fine to go ahead with it. If there are lots of little Oscars, the Grouch/wiener association should diminish with time.

February 15, 2011 3:34 PM
By Alex (not verified)

Being somewhat older, the only thing the name Zoe reminds me of is the first line of Byron's "Zoe Mou Agapo", which sort-of translates as "I love you, O my life!" Not bad association at all if you're going to name a child. As to Oscar, wasn't he one of the members of "The Odd Couple"? Different times, and different associations. . .

February 15, 2011 3:38 PM
By grlkckbxr (not verified)

Go for it. Put it in perspective. The only time it will come up is when you introduce both kids to parents with small kids and Sesame Street on the brain - and then not all of them. (I have small kids and it did not phase me. Also, kids in the Sesame Street demographic are watching less and less tv - even kids programs. I volunteer at a school where we use a little Oscar the Grouch for a reading tool and half the kids don't recognize him!) So, yeah, it might occur more often when they are small themselves, but that is just a few short years of their lives. And who cares? It's not a bad association or awkward to explain. Then they will be associating with older kids, not playing as much in tandem, and eventually moving out of the house and joining the workforce.

February 15, 2011 3:45 PM
By Heather A (not verified)

Yes, there are lots of little Oscars! My 10 month old nephew, for one, and 2 at my son's elementary school. They all seem to be in the 7 and under set. I guess if I had to label the parents I would say they were upper-middle class, "hipster-ish." Ten years ago they may have chosen a name like Oliver. My son does not associate the name exclusively with Sesame Street. (When I was his age that was the only Oscar I knew of.) He knows children named both Zoe and Oscar, and thinks those Muppets just happen to have the same names as some of his friends.
I don't see any problem with a Zoe/Oscar sibling pair. They're both great names!

February 15, 2011 5:43 PM
By katec (not verified)

I can just imagine them watching Sesame Street together and both being excited at the appearance of "their" character!

One thing that kids with uncommon names miss out on is that instant identification with others who share their name (being a Kate/Katherine, I had tons of that and loved it). I'm also making a modest collection of books that feature my daughters' (somewhat common) names in the title.

I absolutely don't think it's a problem.

February 15, 2011 5:57 PM
By The Foxymoron (not verified)

I was addicted to Sesame Street as a kid, but even I didn't think of the characters until you pointed it out. I wouldn't worry. Oscar and Zoe and fantastic names.

February 15, 2011 8:16 PM
By Abigail (not verified)

I like it! I didn't immediately make he connection and even if other people do, it's not an obvious one...

My parents almost named my twin brother and I Isaac and Rebecca - and we're pretty Jewish, so most of the people my parents associate with would get the connection right away. So, they switched my middle name to Rebecca.

February 15, 2011 9:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I love Oscar and I totally think you should go for it. My daughter's not a huge Sesame Street watcher, but I wouldn't have thought of the connection. I also love the name Grover, but I think that one might be too connected to the show (darn, haha).

February 15, 2011 9:34 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My first Oscar association is The Office, not Sesame Street. And to our generation (I'm 29) Zoe is not a muppet.

I think it's fine.

February 15, 2011 11:40 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think it is fine. I wouldn't think of Sesame Street. Even if people do I think that it doesn't matter. When I think of the name Oscar, I think of someone I worked with and he is the nicest, politest person you could ever I think if you love the name go for it.

February 15, 2011 11:47 PM
By Sabrina (not verified)

Don't do it. Sure older people won't make the connection, but they are not your children's peers. If your children are close in age, they could very likely hear about 'Sesame Street' the rest of their lives. I wanted to name my son Diego, but unfortunately Dora's cousin got to it first.

My sister is named Samantha & I'm Sabrina. We grew up always being asked if our parents named us after 'Bewitched'. Someone just asked us about it 2 days ago. It really gets old!

February 16, 2011 12:35 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It's fine. It's not like you are naming them Big Bird and Snuffleupagus.

The people who may notice most are kids. And I imagine having the same name as a muppet would seem cool to a three year old.

We do not need to avoid names because they appear together on TV.

February 16, 2011 9:03 PM
By Karma (not verified)

The biggest association Oscar has with me is a beautiful Samoyed my Mum had when I was little. Although The Grouch has always been a top fave of all TV characters of mine. And there are far worse people (real or imagined) that people share their name with.
I don't associate "Zoe" with Sesame Street at all. -shrugs- I did have a friend in years 11 & 12 with the name, so it's not got any negative connotations for me either.
In conclusion: Oscar + Zoe = awesome. I say go for it. :)

February 17, 2011 10:24 AM
By Heather (not verified)

My first child is named Ariella, and for 18 years I have been asked over and over "Oh, like The Little Mermaid?" when I tell people her name. I didn't expect that when I chose the name, since the mermaid is Ariel, not Ariella. And since the name Ariel has become much more common over the years, you would think people would stop automatically thinking of the Disney movie when they hear it, but think again.

As a result, I have had to take Sebastian out of the running for a sibling (as he was a crab in The Little Mermaid)and I even had to give up the name Aurora, which I was considering for my last child. When I mentioned it to a friend and she exclaimed "How cute! Like Sleeping Beauty!" I realized that people might think I was trying to name my daughters after Disney princesses!

So, here's my take on your dilemma - there will definitely be people who make the muppet connection, and many will be rude enough to make comments about it. Also, even more people will say "Oh, like the Grouch?" when you introduce little Oscar. If that won't bother you, then go for it. But if it will, then use Oscar for the middle name and pick a non-muppet first name. Lord knows I am sick and tired of telling people that my daughter is not named after a cartoon character! Thank God (for her sake) that she didn't get my red hair!

February 17, 2011 9:27 PM
By Bee (not verified)

I'm 20 and I definitely would not make the Sesame Street connection, despite growing up with the show. With the wild popularity of the name Zoe, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

February 17, 2011 9:41 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We have a toddler named Oscar and have loved it. We've noticed that even though he watches a lot of Sesame Street the Grouch character has really become a lower-profile character, compared to when we were younger. It may not be much of an issue. And there are Zoes everywhere, with many other associations. Go for it!

February 21, 2011 2:16 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

My name is Zoe and I've had maybe two people comment about the muppet. But then again, Zoe the muppet only came about just as I was getting to old for Sesame Street.

I love the name Oscar but I'd advise against it. I've already decided I'd never use it because of the muppet connotation and siblings definitely seem like too much.

But I think it comes down to whether the parents would really be bothered by people thinking they named their kids after muppets.

February 22, 2011 8:45 PM
By Rei (not verified)

Zoe and Oscar sound great together. I'm 23 so I didn't make the Sesame Street connection at first. And yes some will probably connect them through Sesame Street, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a great kid's show (I loved it as a kid)where they learn and grow. If it has to be connected to something, at least it's something positive. :)

February 23, 2011 4:22 AM
By Lisa (not verified)

I like Zoe and Oscar, but I also make the Sesame Street connection. I have a nephew called Oscar and I have seen him in a green t-shirt with Oscar the grouch's face on it. You can get those with Zoe too, right? Just do it and embrace it.

I know someone with 4 boys, each boy has the same name as a Days of Our Lives character from when they were born. I know she's a great Days fan but I haven't been game to ask if that was how they were named LOL

February 23, 2011 4:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think of muppets with both names

February 24, 2011 1:38 AM
By Liv (not verified)

I think oscar does but i dont think zoe does.

February 25, 2011 9:11 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think that if you really love the name, you should go for it, but BE PREPARED! We named our firstborn Pierce and that alone invoked thousands of 007 references. The truth is, its a family name, but it does get old explaining. And another family name is "Bond." We'd love to use it for our third, boy or girl. But can you imagine? I'm tired of the references already!

March 3, 2011 9:59 PM
By anon (not verified)

I love that you used the example of "Aurora." That is my daughter's name, a la the Roman goddess. We are thinking of names for a second girl and are trying to avoid just that situation!

March 18, 2011 7:22 AM
By Julie (not verified)

The name Oscar WILL be a source of ridicule. Why do this to a child?

March 21, 2011 8:29 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a son named Oscar (age 4 -- been in daycare and preschool most of his life) and rarely, rarely hear any grouch or wiener references, although I do more occasionally get the "I know a dog named Oscar" comments.

But speaking from experience, I wouldn't worry about this too much. To the last commenter who said it WILL be a source of ridicule -- I'm sorry you are wrong. It just isn't. I know my kid is young, but we know a couple of older Oscars and they don't get ridiculed for their name.

To be honest, this almost seems funny to me because I had forgotten how I, too, painstakingly agonized about these potential associations before we named my son, and now that he has that name, it just seems like HIS. The worries haven't panned out at all. I'm sure we'll hear at least something at some point, but what kid's name doesn't draw out something at some point? Perhaps a super boring name? Or a name that sounds like everybody else's name? Even boring names draw out feelings of "my name is boring." Or "why does everyone's name sound just like mine?"

There are so many strong associations with the name Oscar that I think they cancel one another out. Also, it's a familiar name, but used rarely in the last several generations, which I think makes it come across like it's old and new at the same time. I get complimented on my son's name all the time -- "wow, what a fun name!"

Also, we've found that the strong references kind of act like a bit of a buffer, there are enough people paranoid of Oscar the Grouch or Oscar Mayer that they stay away from a fun name -- so, while Oscar has quietly become more popular, it isn't soaring into popularity and still has a bit of a fun edge.

We've loved, loved, loved the name and love it even more as our kid gets older. I'm glad we ignored naysayers and went with the name we loved. You totally can do the same.

May 31, 2011 8:26 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

How about Oliver? Its similar to Oscar but gives the duo a sophisticated sound to it. Zoe and Oliver.

And because you pointed out the Sesame Street thing I totally see it. But if you hadn't said anything I don't think I would notice. So if you go with Oscar, just don't mention it! :)

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