In 1948, Barbara Ann Scott captured the hearts of a nation, and an Olympic gold medal, with her figure skating performance in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Every 70- year-old woman with the name Barbara Ann, including this author’s mother, is evidence of her legacy. I do not know what my mother’s name would have been had another woman taken the gold, but there is an entire group of women, all around the same age, all with the same name, all with a figure skater in common.
As the Olympics wind down, one wonders who among the athletes will inspire people to name babies after them. They have to be someone with a name that’s easy to replicate, while also being someone who captures the interest of a nation. It has to be someone who everyone can watch relatively easily – figure skating, for example, is live in prime time – and someone who people are constantly talking about.
What I’m saying is that we can probably expect lots of daughters named Tessa Virtue in the next few months.
This isn’t a slight against her partner in ice dance, Scott Moir, without whom she would not have won an ice dance medal – given that it’s a team sport and they compete together. While Moir is also a talented competitor and ice dancer, and equal in stature in their sport, he’s not really equal in name. Scott is relatively common and Moir doesn’t make a great middle name. He’s got a gold medal and figure skating skills, and some people will be inspired to name their kids Scott. But in a coffee shop in 40 years, it’s not going to be a table of Scotts discovering that their name all derives from the same person. Like Barbara Ann before them, the Scott is important but might be forgotten when it comes to naming any impending children.
Tessa Virtue, on the other hand, has a couple aspects that make her the most likely to inspire a rash of baby names. One, you can use her entire name. Tessa is a good first name, but Virtue is also a pretty good middle name. It’s the kind of thing that lots of moms would like to saddle their kids with, as a kind of inspiration for them to be virtuous. Tessa Virtue can work as a first and middle name. Much like Barbara Ann, it works to fill out the entire birth certificate.
Two, the partnership between Virtue and Moir is one of the big Olympic stories this year. There are other gold medalists, Canada did well in Korea provided you decide to ignore women’s curling. But Virtue and Moir have a gold medal, an impending retirement, constant coverage, and a sport that appeals to people who aren’t necessarily into sports. Samuel Girard won 1,000m short track gold and has a great full name, but for some reason he isn’t getting the same amount of crossover appeal as the ice dancers, even if short track is an incredibly entertaining sport.
People get pop-culture-based names all the time. Even I have one. Parents are inspired by all manner of sources when they pick out a child’s name. This year, I boldly predict that Canadian parents are going to be inspired by the triumph of a couple of ice dancers, but only one of them is really going to inspire the name of many children. Watch for Tessa Virtue in a maternity ward near you.