Is Maxwell the next Elliott?

April 8, 2012 § 2 Comments

Jessica Simpson may have let the speculation carry for weeks before she officially announced her first pregnancy last Halloween, but from that moment on, the singer and reality TV star has held nothing back discussing pregnancy or her baby-to-be. In her recent nude cover shoot for Elle, she told the magazine that the name she and fiance Eric Johnson had selected for their daughter, to be born later this month, was “non-traditional,” but not “out there.” She also ensured the name was set in stone, admitting that she was already having the baby’s name “embroidered on things.” (Done deal, then!)

So in that the name seems like a foregone conclusion, a source reportedly leaked their choice: Maxwell Johnson, to be called Maxi. Maxwell is Eric’s middle name and his grandmother’s maiden name, and Jessica’s been wearing an “M” necklace lately, so this rumour could prove true. But it’s not exactly a new trend, and I’m not the kind of blogger who balks anymore at the sight of a typically male name on a little girl – what got me was that actress Lindsay Sloane, once of Sabrina The Teenage Witch fame, beat Simpson to it in January when she welcomed daughter Maxwell Lue. Two girls named Maxwell in less than four months?

Maxi is fairly feminine (though it’s the name of reggae star Maxi Priest, a male who had a chart hit with rapper Shaggy, “That Girl,” and Argentinean footballer Maxi Lopez), and was the name of one of Barbie’s closest friends in the ’80s line-up of the dolls – Maxie was my personal favourite, in all her crimped-hair glory! Maxi also brings to mind a “maxi pad,” but I see this baby being colloquially referred to as just ‘Max’ quite often. After all, Simpson is often referred to simply as ‘Jess.’

Maxi is also available as a nickname for Maxine, which is typically bestowed on females of parents who like the name Max, though it’s dated – 311 frontman Nick Hexum delivered his own daughter, Maxine Vita, in an emergency homebirth last May, and they call her Max. While Maxine is of Latin origin and means “greatest,” much like its male form, Maximilian, Maxwell is actually derived from Maximilian’s Scandinavian form – Magnus. The name got to the Nordic countries before it reached Scottish shores, where it became Macca/Mack. Paired with Old English wael, Maxwell started life as a place name surname meaning “Mack’s stream.”

In the celebrity realm, Max and all its long forms have long been as popular as the name itself; Maxwell hasn’t dropped from the US Top 1000 in more than 100 years – for boys, of course. It nearly fell out in 1950, but shot like a bullet into the top 200 by 1990, peaking a decade later but remaining steady for the last 20 years. Celebs like Dustin Hoffman (Maxwell Geoffrey, 1984), Kerry Katona (Maxwell Mark, 2008), Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond (Maxwell Bradley, 1998), Trista Rehn Sutter of The Bachelorette (Maxwell Alston, 2007), Lance Armstrong (Maxwell Edward, 2009), and my personal favourite, Australian rugby star Mat Rogers and model wife Chloe Maxwell, who welcomed son Maxwell Danger in 2006, have used the name on their sons – and most of these boys goes by Max. American R&B singer Maxwell is another male inspiration for the name. It doesn’t chart for girls, but that could change if Jessica Simpson’s little girl does indeed get this name.

In light of this double dose of Maxwell for girls, it got me thinking about Elliott. Traditionally male, Elliott has been used so steadily on girls in this decade that I’ve seen some online commentary that gives credence to the idea that Elliott is becoming an accepted, not questionable or even unique, name for girls. Actress Marla Sokloff welcomed a daughter named Elliotte Anne in early February, and general consensus within the blogosphere was “What a perfect name; I love it!” Ten years ago, when TV host Ali Wentworth and journalist George Stephanopoulos welcomed daughter Elliott Anastasia, the poor girl’s name was swiftly and viciously maligned. Then Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, adopted a little girl named Ava Eliot in 2005, and the tides of opinion began to sway. Elliott, no matter how you spell it, leads itself perfectly to the common, but not too common, unabashedly cute and girly nickname Ellie. Like Maxwell, Elliott doesn’t chart for girls, but that will probably change.

Hebrew and Greek for “the Lord is my God,” or derived from the Scottish surname with multiple possible origins, Elliott has never been as popular for boys as Maxwell or Max, but has been more consistent through the last century. It’s hovered steadily around the top 500, though it’s recently picked up some steam with other old-fashioned names and now sits at 301. Both names have also charted inside the Top 100 in Canada over the past decade, but not within the last few years.

Do you think Maxwell has what it takes to become an accepted unisex name, much like Elliott is becoming? Do you think either is on their way to charting for girls?

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§ 2 Responses to Is Maxwell the next Elliott?

  • I’ll admit, I used to rather like the idea of using Max for a girl – but I really didn’t like the idea of deriving Max from Maxine. There’s nothing wrong with the name Maxine, but it just didn’t appeal to me. That said, I never considered Maxwell as another option!

  • Maxi seems pretty unisex already, but Maxwell on a girl … or rather two girls … has quite a masculine sound to it. However, as you say, in ten years everyone could be doing it. It does seem very American though. Elliot is still firmly in the boy camp here, and I suspect Maxwell will stay there too!

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