As names like Arya and Khaleesi continue their march up the popularity charts, the baby name triumph of Game of Thrones has made headlines. Is that franchise the new naming champion?
Harry Potter has reigned as king of fandom baby names for years. The last time I checked in, the Hogwarts crew remained a whisker ahead of GoT, with the likes of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and the Marvel Universe trailing behind. Harry Potter, though, has run its course, while the body count continues to mount in Westeros. The time seems ripe for a changing of the guard.
Not so fast. As this chart shows, Luna Lovegood and friends have largely kept pace with Arya Stark and her murderous band. And on a practical note, with Potter names you know in advance whether the character you’re naming after survives the series with body, soul and sanity intact.
I think this does a disservice to Game of Thrones because there are so many more characters which are all showing up in the charts, and many of them are name inventions which are thus more completely attributable to the show. Harry Potter for the most part revived existing names (with exceptions, like Ollivander).
It depends on what you consider “existing names.” Yes, the astronomical names of the Black family tree all came from somewhere, but Draco, Sirius, Bellatrix etc. were pretty much unheard of as American baby names. And while Luna was ahead of Arya before either character, it wasn’t by much.
I think subtracting our the prelaunch year rates of the name seems fair as an approximation to deal with that issue!
The other issue I can see is that GOT is more of a tv phenomenon whereas while the HP movies were popular I think more people read the books first (in part due to the time separation being nearer, the movies didn’t catch up and move ahead of the books… but also GOT is longer and less accessible). This is reflected by much more fragmented spellings for a phenomenon that reflects the screen more. There are Gentree and Jentry and so on – and they should be tallied up!
I was just thinking about the fact that there’s a great way to measure book va tv inspiration for GOT because some characters were renamed for the tv show (visually dissimilar names that sounded too alike). So Yara, one of the fastest rising names, reflects purely the tv fandom, while book fans would use Osha.
FWIW I don’t think think the Gentry variants have anything to do with Game of Thrones. Gentry (with a t) is an established country music surname like Bentley, and used equally for boys and girls. It rose particularly in 2017 & 2018 after the untimely death of Troy Gentry. Gendry (with a D) is the GoT name, which doesn’t appear in the stats at all.
Whoops, you’re totally right about that! Clearly I’m guilty of more TV-show fanning than book fanning!
But I think this is true for the actual GoT names too: they seem like there’s a lot of spelling squishiness both because they are launched by a more prominently auditory phenomenon AND because in many cases they’re already recent inventions. That means not only that you have a cast of thousands that is inspiring namers, but also that there are a lot of variants out there for those names. Whereas with HP the names are both more traditional and the fandom is more tied to the written word, so you have the name inspirations more focused on a smaller subset of names.
That certainly makes sense. (My perspective is probably skewed because I’m one of the rare few who only read the GoT books and haven’t seen the series!)
Another factor is that Martin deliberately created multiple linguistic traditions for his many different regions and nations, some of which deviate from familiar spelling patterns. So, e.g., the Stark names read as closer to English and parents usually stick with the original spellings, while the Targaryen names lead parents to streamline.
GoT also simply has an extraordinary number of named characters! In the book series, there are literally thousands.
Lucubratrix, I have to be THAT book reader that corrects: Show Yara is Book *A*sha. Osha is the Wildling that helps Bran, and the showrunners didn’t want an Osha and an Asha. So Asha became Yara Greyjoy. 😉 (There were 199 Ashas in 2018, along with similar sounding names like Ashanti, Sasha, and Dasha.)
Because of multiple sources for a name, we can’t know if the 54 Ariannes of 2018 have anything to with A Song of Ice and Fire, where this Martell princess exists. However, Aegon jumping from nowhere to six baby boys in 2018 suggests the show’s stronger influence (and how much people love Jon).
Luna and Arya are also both fashionable for reasons unrelated to either series—they both fit into the “liquid” and “raindrop” trends. Another factor at play, then, is that Arya has an alternate spelling (Aria) which is more popular than *either* Arya or Luna, while Luna is pretty much just Luna (I haven’t checked, but I’d hazard a guess that there aren’t many Loonas running around). I’d say that Aria is siphoning off a lot of the parents who just like the name and aren’t naming for the series, whereas those who just like Luna are impossible to weed out.
One tricky thing is that the more on-point a name is style-wise, the more likely it is to have multiple sources. E.g. Yara could be Yara Greyjoy from GoT or Yara Shahidi from Blackish, and Harry could be the wizard or the prince.
TY for noting Yara Shahidi, as she is a personality (and a beauty) that can definitely inspire namesakes.