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When Is a Baby Name a Political Statement?

Are Sasha and Malia political statement names? What about Melania? When does a name switch from trendy to controversial?

–Pregnant and Political

Political homages used to be a routine part of American baby naming. Today, though, parents across the political spectrum avoid politically tinged names. We didn't see a surge of babies named after Clinton, Bush or Obama, and we shouldn't expect a wave of baby Donalds, either. 

Political children, though, tend to be treated more like non-partisan celebrities. If their names fit the fashion parents are looking for—as Bristol Palin's and Malia and Sasha Obama's did—they can still inspire controversy-free trends. All three of those political daughters’ names spiked in 2008 or 2009, just as their parents became widely known (not to mention polarizingly popular). Click on each name to see a usage graph; and note that Sasha Obama’s given name, Natasha, did not show a similar popularity trend.

Spouse names are on shakier ground. As adults who are expected to establish their own public spheres, first ladies tend to attract more partisan ire. Melania Trump initially managed to stay out of that fray, but the more attention is focused on her, the more political, and thus riskier, her name will become. That’s in spite of the fact that it shares some qualities with the very popular group of “liquid names” for girls.


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March 6, 2018 7:58 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I don’t think think political kids’ names sounds overtly political. There were a lot of Chelsea(y)s and I think a Sasha and Malia are common enough... I wouldn’t use while in office because it will come up in the media and in people’s minds. I would avoid Malania, even she is avoiding it to sell her clothes right now.

I do wonder if people’s realize the politics though when they’d use names like Regan and Kennedy for girls (the mothers seem like the personalities that like it for sounds or style reasons). They’re used by parents that weren’t born then... which I’m sure helps with the lack of political imagery.

March 7, 2018 9:23 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The name I always wonder about is Carter. It seems to fit too many trends to be an homage to the president. And yet, it was in fact a president.

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