For a long long time, on all the name boards and name discussions I witnessed/participated in, the Twilight names — by which I mean specifically Edward, Bella, Rosalie, Jasper, Emmett, and Esme — were totally taboo. (I’m not including Jacob, because it was already monster hit on its own merits; other names like Victoria, James, and Sam were already in enough use that the Twilight association is not the overriding one; and Carlisle hasn’t ever been in the top 1000.)
The actual stats show a somewhat different story — Edward was already on a downhill spiral before the first book was released in 2005, and continued so until a small bump right around when the first movie came out in 2010, and then declined again; Bella was already on an upward trajectory but started moving up faster with the release of the books and even more so with the movies.
Rosalie wasn’t even in the top 1000 until the year the buzz for the first movie began, and has made the most dramatic climb; Jasper has been in the 500s or so since at least 2000 but jumped up a bit in conjunction with the movies; Esme made the top 1000 for the first time the year the first movie came out but stayed in the 900s every year since then until 2014 when it moved to #816.
The books and movies definitely helped make most of the these name more accessible to the general population, but that same association tainted the names for parents whose naming sensibilities are, I think, more closely aligned with ours here than not. For myself and many of you, our children’s names are chosen with heavy consideration given to our faith as realized through its holy people and places, its teachings, and its history. For many of the other people I encountered who crossed Edward, Bella, Rosalie, Jasper, Emmett, and Esme off their lists because of Twilight, if their children’s names weren’t chosen with a Catholic sensibility, then it was with a literary or artistic or offbeat or funky sensibility very informed by education or even just plain contrariness. The fact that names like those of the characters were even on their lists to begin with attests to that.
For our purposes, I have found Twilight to be quite a bother. Edward, to me, is St. Edward the Confessor! An amazing saint, a wonderful model and patron for any boy. Rosalie is a Rose- name, one of the many beautiful ways to honor Mother Mary or St. Rosalia (which Rosalie is a variant of). Jasper is one of the Three Wise Men, as I’ve mentioned so many times before. Emmett, Esme, and Bella don’t feel as faith-y, but they could be — there’s a St. Emma (Emmett is a male diminutive of Emma); Esme means “beloved,” which could easily fit into a beautiful name combo having to do with the faith; Bella on its own means “beautiful,” which could be treated the same way as Esme, or it can be a nickname or form of Isabella on its own or as a form of Elizabeth, both of which have their own very saintly connections. I actually love all those names, they are very much my taste.
But for years, to tell anyone you might like the name Rosalie, for example, seemed to automatically mark you as a Twihard — it wouldn’t matter how many times you protested, “No! It’s for Mother Mary! It’s for St. Rosalia!” people would just think vampire.
Finally, finally!, it seems, from what I can tell, that the Twilight names are becoming more acceptable. The association seems to be fading. And then I read Stephenie Meyer Announces New Gender-Swapped ‘Twilight’ Book (posted last week):
“Stephenie Meyer went on Good Morning America on Tuesday to announce she’s releasing a new Twilight book in honor of the 10th anniversary of the original novel. It’s called Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, and it swaps the genders of almost every character in the book.
Bella is now a human named Beau and Edward is a vampire named Edythe. In a foreword to the story, the author explained that there are slight personality changes to the characters. Beau is “more OCD” and “not as angry,” but Meyer said the love story is the same. The book is already available in hardcover and e-book, starting Tuesday.”
Because Stephenie Meyer has really really good taste in names, so you know whatever she chooses is going to be delectable (at least to my taste). Which means there’s the possibility of a whole new bunch of otherwise awesome names that will have the Twilight taint. In From Bella, Edward and Jacob to Beau, Edythe and Julie: The Full List of Name Changes in New ‘Twilight’ Book, the full list is given (the article itself is pretty interesting from a namiac perspective):
Main characters, most susceptible to being heavily associated with Twilight
Bella (short for Isabella) to Beau (short for Beaufort)
Edward to Edythe
Jacob (or Jake) to Julie (or Jules)
Dr. Carlisle to Dr. Carine
Esme to Earnest
Alice to Archie
Emmett to Eleanor
Rosalie to Royal
Jasper to Jessamine
More minor characters, probably no real risk here
Billy to Bonnie
Jessica to Jeremy
Angela to Allen
Mike to McKayla
Tyler (b) to Taylor (g)
Lauren to Logan
Eric to Erica
Rachel and Rebecca to Adam and Aaron
Ben to Becca
Connor to Colleen
Lee to Leann
Samantha to Sean
Sam to Samantha (also known as Sam)
The bad guys — not main characters, but not minor either
James to Joss
Victoria to Victor
Laurent to Lauren
So I’m most disappointed by Beau (I have a soft spot for it), Edythe (though the spelling is so different from our St. Edith that I’m hoping, since it will only be a book and not a movie, it won’t even seem like the same name), Carine (which was our girl middle name for a while), Eleanor (but it’s so popular already it’ll probably be fine), and Jessamine (a personal fave). I love the Juli- names, but I don’t think Julie will affect the Julia/Julian(n)(e)(a)/Juliet(te) names as much, since it’s been on its way down for a long time, and is currently much less popular than all the other forms. And Victor has been on my list for a long time, and is more distinctive/less traditionally popular than Victoria, so I’m just hoping, as my husband pointed out, that there’s very little chance that this book will take off the way the others did, especially since (as noted) there won’t be any sequels or movies (and indeed the SSA stats showed the bumps in popularity were more associated with the movies than the books).
What do all think? Do you think there’s any risk of a Twilight Reimagined backlash against any of these names? Would it matter to you if there was? Did it matter to you before, with the original books and movies?