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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.