About A Name: Indiana

September 27, 2011 § 11 Comments

(c) Lucasfilm Ltd., 1989

Please forgive my absence – a week of personal upheavals made blogging about names seem secondary. Alas, I’m back, and this time I’m dipping into the geographical baby names trend with a polarizing stunner: Indiana.

With this name, you either love it, or you hate it (I love it). The Indiana Jones factor can seemingly go both ways – there are parents who love the idea of the fictional adventurer, afraid of nothing but snakes, as the namesake (or easiest connection) for their child, and there are others who just can’t stomach the storied Harrison Ford character being almost all people think about when they see or hear the name. Created by George Lucas, Indiana was a nickname for the character as well – real name Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr.

What’s interesting is that, although Indiana Jones is male, the name, with it’s feminine -ana ending and similarity to another geographical choice, India, is in use for girls as well (including the form Indianna), and is even eclipsing use for boys. Yes, Indiana is a US state, but like many geographical names, the place itself is hardly the top reason parents select it. For boys, I’d assume that Dr. Jones is the primary inspiration, while for girls it’s simply the sound of the word that attracts people. Plus, Indy (or Indie) is a growing nickname choice, whether because it’s also what Indiana Jones is called in the films, or ‘indie’ music (ironically growing more popular by the day), or even IndyCar – another bit of inspiration plucked right from middle America. (Many people named Indiana will admit they’ve actually been called ‘Jones’ as a nickname for much of their lives.) Also available? Dee and even Diana. (A stretch – Diana and Indiana are completely unrelated names; Diana is Latin for “divine” and plucked straight from Roman mythology.)

Famously selected by actor Casey Affleck and his wife, Summer Phoenix, in May 2004, they named their first son Indiana August – both names were a tribute to Summer’s older brother River, at one time the hottest young actor in Hollywood, before he died of a drug overdose after a night of partying at L.A.’s storied Viper Room nightclub in 1993. Indiana was in tribute to River’s role as Young Indy in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and his birthday was August 23rd. (The name of their second son, Atticus, was inspired by renewed appreciation for all things To Kill A Mockingbird – along with Harper, Scout, and even Boo).

This summer Ethan Hawke, one of Phoenix’s contemporaries (they starred together in the 1985 film Explorers) welcomed his second daughter with wife Ryan Shawhughes, and they named her Indiana. Though Hawke is famously private and has yet to speak of his brand new daughter, I wouldn’t doubt if this little girl is already being called “Indy” at home. It just seems to suit this couple – though as a sibset, neither seems a perfect fit for their first daughter Clementine Jane, born in 2008. (Hawke also has two kids, Maya Ray and Levon Roan, with ex-wife Uma Thurman.) In Australia, there is a young actress named Indiana Evans. She was born in 1990.

Indiana, the Hoosier State, was the 19th in the Union, an American English word created by early settlers to describe “the land of the Indians.” Native American people were called ‘indians’ by New World settlers because early explorers like Christopher Columbus took inspiration from Marco Polo’s travels to India and the Far East in the 13th Century. Ironically, American settlers wiped out much of the Native American population in the US, causing many to join forces with the British in the War of 1812 (the war where the US tried, and failed, to claim what is now Canada as their own.)

What’s also interesting about this name which seems of such modern influence, is that though it is yet to hit the Top 1000 in the US for boys or girls (while it likely won’t for boys, I think it’ll crack the list for girls soon enough), it already was a Top 1000 US name in the late 19th Century, at a time when the US state likely was the primary inspiration.

Further proof this name is catching on for girls? The 2009 song “Indiana” by Dallas-based pop punk band Forever the Sickest Kids is not about the state, but about a girl named, yep, Indiana.

Whether this name reaches the heights of Georgia, Montana, Carolina, Dakota, Virginia, or lingers with other novelty state names – Alabama, Arizona, Kansas – remains to be seen. Incidentally, parents in the state of Indiana still shower affection on Emma (top choice for girls in 2011), and the number one name for boys is currently Elijah.

My advice? Few with the name Indiana actually seem to be negatively affected by the Indiana Jones connection, least of all girls. (When you’re a female and your namesake is a fictional male explorer, there’s less to live up to than if you were male.) While I think the novelty factor is too high for boys, it’s a lovely selection for girls. Like I said, it’s polarizing. Many love it, and many will turn up their nose.

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§ 11 Responses to About A Name: Indiana

  • I saw an Indiana Luke recently (he’s on my blog), and said to my husband he must have been named after the dad’s favourite movie franchises, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. But HE thinks Indiana Luke was named after mum’s favourite Hollywood heart-throb!!! πŸ˜€ (But wouldn’t he be Indiana Han …?)

    Anyway, there are WAY too many Indianas here for me to get excited about this name. Just wait till there’s one on every block and we’ll see how much you love this name. πŸ˜‰

    • namemuststay says:

      That’s probably true – the name is definitely less common than it seems like it might be in Australia.

      And yeah, I agree with you, and also think it’s funny if they chose Luke for biblical reasons or because they “liked the name” and missed the George Lucas connection. Luke is SO popular, it’s possible!

      • It seems almost unbelievable they could miss it – but you’d be amazed what parents don’t pick up on until someone mentions it. I remember one woman had a real hatred of names starting with the same letter, like Henry Harold or Dominic Darcy. But she called her son James George, and never noticed they began with the same sound until it was too late!

  • I may have no particular dealing with the States, but the state is my first thought when I hear the name, which kind of puts me off the name somewhat The former England Cricket player, Ryan Sidebottom, has a daughter named Indiana Nell.

    • namemuststay says:

      I can see that – like, what inspires you in particular about the state of Indiana other than nothing at all? πŸ˜‰ You like being inspired by names like I do so I totally get it!

      I love that combo, though, Indiana Nell, even if it’s N heavy πŸ™‚

  • babynamelover says:

    I don’t like it all, although for some reason I am okay with it on a boy but not a girl.

  • marginamia says:

    It’s not bothering me. rings a bit True Romance-ish to me.

  • Jay Campbell says:

    Anna is a girl’s name, but Indiana is masculine? My daughter’s name is Indiana and she is the only one I have ever run into in person. Here in the U.S. it is not common at all.

    • Your daughter’s name is beautiful, Jay, but because of male action hero Indiana Jones, the name’s most prevalent pop culture reference is a man. So while I personally prefer it as a female name, there’s no need to grumble about the name’s masculine connotations – I never say it’s strictly masculine and absolutely agree with your view that -ana is generally feminine.

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