About A Name: Harper

August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Harper Lee Medal

George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to To Kill A Mockingbird author Nelle "Harper" Lee in 2007 for her civil rights activism.

On July 10th, British pop singer turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham and her English football hero husband, David, welcomed their fourth child, a daughter, in Los Angeles.

The next day they announced her name – Harper Seven. While Harper is currently a steadily climbing and fashionable first name for both girls and boys and would not have received much flak on it’s own, the couple were lambasted for the selection of Seven as a middle name. So much so, that it’s inspired my next blog post – Number Names. The couple chose Seven for David’s jersey number with Manchester United and the English national squad, a number he says brought him “so much luck” while he wore it. The Beckhams also like that it symbolises spiritual perfection, the Seven Wonders Of The World, seven colours of the rainbow, and in many cultures around the world it’s regarded as a lucky number.

But this post is about the name Harper, for your consideration. Though you probably didn’t need much to consider it, as it’s a name that gets shortlisted often by those who love either more traditional, or more modern and funky names. And why not – it satisfies both ends of the spectrum.

As David pointed out in a video posted to his Facebook page addressing the new addition, “Harper was a name that we’ve loved for a long time for a couple of reasons. One reason is Harper’s an old English name which we loved and one of the other reasons was Victoria’s favourite book is To Kill A Mockingbird, and the author was Harper Lee. It’s a very strong, passionate book.” The name conjures up traditional sensibilities while also finding inspiration from an American literary hero, whose novel became a cornerstone of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s, read by millions of students in schools around the world every year. What’s not to love about a name with that much artistic and cultural power behind it? Lee knew how powerful it could be, too – Harper was her middle name, a family surname, but she felt she would appeal to a male and female audience with a more unisex sounding name. Lee’s first name was Nelle.

The Beckhams are hardly the first celebs to use Harper. American TV host Kristin Adams had daughter Harper in November, and Neil Patrick Harris named his daughter Harper Grace, twin to Gideon Scott, born last October. Natalie Bassingthwaight, an Australian pop singer, had daughter Harper Rain Sinclair in August 2010, just after American actress Tiffani Thiessen had daughter Harper Renn in July. Dave Grohl and wife Jordyn had daughter Harper Willow in April 2009. It was a hot name in summer 2008, when Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks welcomed daughter Harper Rosie in July, David Spade had daughter Harper in August, Eddie Vedder and wife Jill welcomed their second daughter, Harper Moon Margaret in September, and Lisa Marie Presley had daughter Harper Vivienne Ann, twin to Finley Aaron Love, in October. Ali Wentworth and George Stephanopoulous had daughter Harper Andrea in 2005.

Celebs love the name Harper so much they’ve used it as a middle name, too. British pop singer and TV presenter Myleene Klass had daughter Hero Harper on March 25th, actress Sarah Clarke had daughter Olwyn Harper in 2006, and American soap actress Jennifer Bransford had daughter Alexandra Harper in October 2003.

Don’t forget the boys! Canadian actress Laura Allen had son Harper Edward in September 2008, and New Zealand singer-songwriter Tim Finn of Crowded House fame had son Harper in 1998. Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck welcomed son Cameron Harper in 1989, and Paul Simon had son Harper James in 1972 – his then-wife Peggy’s maiden name was Harper.

Because the name has become so popular, it’s not strange to see parents beginning to opt for some more interesting middle name choices to help the name stand out. And because the name originated as a surname, and because phonetically it’s a nice sounding name without being too cutesy on one hand, or to sharp on the other, perhaps it’s not hard to see why it’s so popular.

Harper was born as an occupational surname, derived from the pre-7th Century Old English word (“hearp”) for a harp player. Stephen Harper is the current Prime Minister of Canada, but few Canadians cite the relatively bland in personality, right-wing politician as a naming inspiration. Musician Ben Harper is a Grammy award-winning songwriter and guitarist with a large following among twentysomethings.

As a first name, Harper is more popular for women than it is for men, sitting at #119 in the US, but it’s jumped almost 900 places within the top 1000 since first entering in just 2004. Initially it was used for men, floating around the top 1000 until dropping off in 1906, reappearing almost a century later. The name is currently popular in all English speaking countries.

David Beckham was forced to deny that Harper Seven’s name came from the fashion tome Harper’s Bazaar, a favourite of fashionista Victoria, founded in 1867 by publishing house Harper & Brothers, with founding editor Mary Louise Booth. The Beckhams were also forced to deny that her name was inspired by a character on the preteen show Wizards of Waverly Place, watched by Harper’s big brothers, Brooklyn Joseph, 11, Romeo James, 8, and Cruz David, 6.

My advice? There are less and less reasons every day for people to dislike this name for your child. It’s classy and strong, musical, it doesn’t need a nickname as much as there are few people willing to go by “Harp.” It’s popular but a great name! Still, if you’re worried about your son or daughter going to school with another kid named Harper of the opposite sex, the odds are higher with this name than a lot of others out there! And if your last name is occupational as well, it might not sound quite right together with the double ‘er’ sounds. Harper Baker?

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