What a Heavenly Name

What child hasn’t played around with the spelling of his or her name — wondering, e.g., how it would sound if it were spelled backward? (I admit that I signed some school papers “Evets Renbud” when I was a kid.) Well, now it seems that at least 4,457 parents last year did the work for their children, giving them the name “Nevaeh,” which is “Heaven” spelled backwards. Jennifer 8. Lee has the story in today’s New York Times, showing an absolutely remarkable spike in popularity in a new name — from 8 instances in 1999 to 4,457 last year.

“Of the last couple of generations, Nevaeh is certainly the most remarkable phenomenon in baby names,” said Cleveland Kent Evans, president of the American Name Society and a professor of psychology at Bellevue University in Nebraska. … The surge of Nevaeh can be traced to a single event: the appearance of a Christian rock star, Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D., on MTV in 2000 with his baby daughter, Nevaeh. “Heaven spelled backwards,” he said.

The only squirrely point in Lee’s article is the assertion that “Nevaeh,” the 70th ranked name for U.S. baby girls, is now more popular than “Sara” — which is true, but a little misleading: the more common spelling of “Sarah” is still ranked No. 15.

Hat tip: Ben Golub.


hnarsana

Personally I find it quite funny that people would actually name their children with names without any real meaning.

Perhaps you should study names from India or an Asian country where every name has a deep meaning, and is typically chosen from a list of starting letters available, based on the time at which the baby was born and the position of the stars. I have noticed that sometimes the names truly reflect the personality of the person.

Who knows, you might end up with a hypothesis on a relationship between astrological naming conventions and personalities of people. :)

vivkhemka

I am always reminded of EVIAN and NAIVE when I read something like this!

kramsauer

I knew that whole "more popular than Sara" thing couldn't be true. Thanks for clearing it up. Sometimes first impressions are right!

theberle

I'm curious what the eight stands for in "Jennifer 8. Lee." Now that's an odd name.

jleblang

Lee's parents, who are from Taiwan, added the number eight (the Chinese character ?) to Lee's name while she was a teenager presumably with her consent). For many Chinese, the number eight symbolizes prosperity and good luck.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_8._Lee

Ben Golub

I think I read somewhere it was also added to distinguish her from the eight million other people named Jennifer Lee.

iotaguy

I always am fascinated by names, and living in Japan, even more so. As (nearly) everyone's name is made by a single character or a combination of characters, and each character has it's own meaning, there are lots of Japanese people with names that sound, in literal translation, like very hippy-ish names. Aiko = Love Child. Emi = Beautiful Picture. And then there are other interesting ones like Ken = Fist. (There are several possible characters for Ken, and the one for fist is rarely used in names, but you do see it.)

Robert Schwartz

You can trace Nevaeh in the Baby Name Wizards Name Voyager, which is a fabulous site.

I am not totally sure that Sara and Sarah are the same name. See Genesis 17:15. In Hebrew the names are sin resh yod and sin resh hey.

StCheryl

For what it's worth, Nomar Garciaparra was named "for" his father, Ramon.

zbicyclist

Nice to see Cleveland Kent Evans get some press; Cleve was a friend in grad school.

Anyone interested in names will find the
U.S. Social Security Administration's site fascinating: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/

asil88

After 8 years, my husband and I have been blessed with a baby. We are seriously considering naming her Aiko Nevaeh, which translated means Little Loved One from Heaven. We feel that is very appropriate. I actually got the name Nevaeh from seekbabynames.com which had the meaning of Heaven for the name Neveah.

Stephanie

It's crazy how many premature babies get the name Nevaeh. It's even crazier how many parents can't actually spell heaven backwards correctly and will frequently spell it Neveah--not right--just look at it again before you do it.

hnarsana

Personally I find it quite funny that people would actually name their children with names without any real meaning.

Perhaps you should study names from India or an Asian country where every name has a deep meaning, and is typically chosen from a list of starting letters available, based on the time at which the baby was born and the position of the stars. I have noticed that sometimes the names truly reflect the personality of the person.

Who knows, you might end up with a hypothesis on a relationship between astrological naming conventions and personalities of people. :)

vivkhemka

I am always reminded of EVIAN and NAIVE when I read something like this!

kramsauer

I knew that whole "more popular than Sara" thing couldn't be true. Thanks for clearing it up. Sometimes first impressions are right!

theberle

I'm curious what the eight stands for in "Jennifer 8. Lee." Now that's an odd name.

jleblang

Lee's parents, who are from Taiwan, added the number eight (the Chinese character å…«) to Lee's name while she was a teenager presumably with her consent). For many Chinese, the number eight symbolizes prosperity and good luck.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_8._Lee

Ben Golub

I think I read somewhere it was also added to distinguish her from the eight million other people named Jennifer Lee.

iotaguy

I always am fascinated by names, and living in Japan, even more so. As (nearly) everyone's name is made by a single character or a combination of characters, and each character has it's own meaning, there are lots of Japanese people with names that sound, in literal translation, like very hippy-ish names. Aiko = Love Child. Emi = Beautiful Picture. And then there are other interesting ones like Ken = Fist. (There are several possible characters for Ken, and the one for fist is rarely used in names, but you do see it.)

Robert Schwartz

You can trace Nevaeh in the Baby Name Wizards Name Voyager, which is a fabulous site.

I am not totally sure that Sara and Sarah are the same name. See Genesis 17:15. In Hebrew the names are sin resh yod and sin resh hey.