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Monday, October 24, 2011

Has the Baby Name Dexter Been Ruined By the Show?

Jenny writes:
Could you maybe sometime do a poll about the name Dexter? Is it completely ruined by that show? It would be pretty awful for your kid's name to make people think of a serial killer. I'm curious as to how main stream is that show. Has everyone heard of it? Do you think even in 10 years, it will still matter?

It's SUCH a great name. Love the X and the classic feel and the nickname Dex.

Oh, good question! The name Dexter has come up a few times on name lists here, and it seems like most times it's accompanied by "but---the show" reasons why it can't be used. Let's see how prevalent that opinion actually is, with a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.] I think we can get an idea of how much it's seeped into the culture by finding out how many people who HAVEN'T seen the show have nevertheless heard of the character Dexter.

Whether it'll still have that association in a decade is a trickier thing to determine with the poll, but it'll be fun for the comments section. If someone mentions the names Lorelei/Lorelai or Rory, a lot of us think of Gilmore Girls; but if someone mentions the names Luke or Emily or Logan, it doesn't necessarily come to mind. It's the difference between unusual names and ones that are so common their associations have been thoroughly diluted. It's also the difference between names that come to our attention because of a show, versus names that were already familiar and in regular use. Dexter may fail in this category: it wasn't common before the show, so few of us have ever known any Dexter except the one on the show, which makes the association strong.


Poll results (529 votes total):

Have watched show; name ruined by it - 69 votes (13%)
Have watched show; name NOT ruined by it - 131 votes (25%)
Have NOT watched show; name ruined by it - 120 votes (23%)
Have NOT watched show; name NOT ruined by it - 209 votes (40%)

21 comments:

Slim said...

I think Dexter (the show) has seeped into American cultural consciousness more than Gilmore Girls did. I haven't seen either, but I know what Dexter is about, and it does, unfortunately, ruin the name. The fact that it's a title character doesn't help, but I don't know that that's the main problem; don't people who have never seen Mad Men still have an inkling that the name Donald Draper is going to set off a reaction? (Genuine question, because I watch Mad Men and can't fairly assess how much it's a part of cultural consciousness.)

plantingoaks said...

My associations with 'Dexter' are more towards the cartoon from the late 90s (which I didn't watch) than the recent drama (which I have).

I suppose in either case it's a generational thing, and the child's peers won't be affected by it. Whether your peers, and the child's future teachers / boss would have that association is more to the point.

For my part, I would make an association, but it wouldn't bother me.

Brittany said...

I watch and love the show and said the name would be ruined, because to me it is such a strong association that is undiluted. I imagine a little child named Dexter or Dex and I immediately call up dark Dexter. However, I think the association could be diluted/overcome by knowing a child with the name. I just don't think I'd feel comfortable having my child be the test case for that theory... and for what it's worth, I find Dexter to be a fascinating, complex, and fairly sympathetic character. But so dark.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I watch the show (and LOVE it) and would make the association with the name... but I don't think it would bother me if I heard a child had the name Dexter.

I might, however, want to ask the parents if THEY watched the show and how that figured into naming the child... which would likely be annoying to the parents.

StephLove said...

I do know one Dexter, about ten years old, but I would still think of the show first, which is sad because it's a great name. My second association would be one of MLK's sons. I don't know what he went on to do with his life, but some of the positive association of MLK rub off.

Leslie said...

I have never watched the show, but I have heard of it, and it is my first thought when I hear the name Dexter. That said, the association doesn't ruin the name for me; I think I could get past it pretty quickly if I met an actual Dexter. I feel sort of awkward about the name, in the sense that I would love to see some else use it, because it is SUCH a great name... but I'm not sure I would be entirely comfortable using it on my own child. Hopefully the association will fade over time.

Lisa said...

I watch the show, and it has made me like the name Dexter. Before, I would have had a somewhat negative "Poindexter" association with the name, but now I like it. I also don't consider him to be an evil character; like Brittany said, he's complex and fairly sympathetic. And while I like to ask people what inspired their name choices, I've never been one to say, "Oh, like the TV show/celebrity/book?" because I'd find such a question annoying myself.

Rebecksterw said...

that's so funny that this came up today! If we were having a boy we were going to name him Declan and his nickname would have been Dexter. DH and I love the show and he LOVES the name Dexter but I didn't want that one on the birth certificate. Also....we are seriously considering Lorelei/Rory because I AM such a huge Gilmore Girls fan...is that wrong?

Jenny Grace said...

I associate the name Dexter with the cartoon (Dexter's Lab). Have not seen the show, AM familiar with the serial killer character, is NOT my first thought when I think of the name.

Sarah A said...

DH and I love the show and actually own all the seasons on DVD. That said, I absolutely LOVE the name Dexter and I don't think the association with the show should stop someone from using the name. Dexter is a wonderful name and Dex is a great nickname!

We would never be able to use the name Dexter because everyone we know watches the show. It would appear to be a geeky fan move on our part ;) But in 10 years...

Elizabeth said...

I don't watch the show, but I thought it had ruined the name Dexter until I actually met a toddler named Dexter last year. It took about 0.2 nanoseconds for my judgmental self to change gears from "um, ick?" to "OMG, awesome!" And as others have pointed out, the association with the show will fade over time.

Anonymous said...

I was pondering this very same question last night!! I adore the name Dexter and love Dex even more. I had to look up the show to know what it is about, and it has not changed my opinion at all. I took a poll at work. Two out of five related the name to the show. At this point the show is mainstream enough to make the association, but the strength of the name, nn, and ability to use full/nn with a child and adult make me feel it is totally appropriate.

ZestyJenny said...

Oh, YAY!

I am so happy that it doesn't seem to be ruined! I think perhaps I shall erase that asterisk next to Dexter on my future hypothetical baby name list. :)

Elle said...

How funny!!! My husband and I were just discussing this last night! We both love the name, and the show. I say we shouldn't use the name (for our hypothetical child), because we are fans of the show. Thus, it might seem like we're naming our kid after a serial killer, even though it's really just a great name. His argument was that we should consider the name because we ARE fans of the show. Clearly, we came to no conclusion. I'm excited to see what others have to say!

Anonymous said...

Before I got into the show (which was within the last six months or so), I associated the name with the cartoon Dexter's Lab. I thought it seemed nerdy, and didn't like it. Now, since watching (and loving!) Dexter, I have come to really like it! I think it's the nickname Dex that's really made it endearing to me. So, yes, I probably would go, "Oh, like the show!" in my mind, but it's not a gross association... probably because Michael C. Hall is super dreamy, hahaha.

Frazzled Mom said...

What I find fascinating about Dexter has little to do with the show, but rather how quickly the public can go from dismissing a name to loving a name. Dexter is an example of a name just like Felix, that I discovered about 4-5 years ago and thought had trend appeal, but the public didn't seem to agree at the time.

I thought about the popularity of boy's names with x's in them, like Max and Alex, and though, Dexter and Felix would soon become hot new names. I suggested both names on the behindthename.com discussion board back in 2007 or 2008. The reaction to Dexter had little to do with the show, but most people thought the name was "geeky" and found it unappealing. Incidentally, the reaction to Felix was that the association with the cat is too strong and thus the name was also unappealing.

Today the general reactions to both names seems to be positive (except for some hesitation with Dexter due to the show), and yeah, I admit that gives me a little satisfaction because I saw some potential in Dexter back when most people were dismissing it.

If not for the show, I think Dexter would be soaring up the Social Security popular name chart. And for parents who want that elusive name that both fits in yet stands out, the show may be a blessing, because the show will cause just enough parents to abandon Dexter, keeping it from becoming to popular, yet Dexter fits the trends (x-trend, old-fashioned trend).

Because Dexter fits so many trends, I think a parent who really likes Dexter could still get away with it. The initial reaction might be, "Oh, like from the show" but very quickly, I think any boy of this generation named Dexter will fit in nicely with his friends, Max, Alex, Felix and Declan.

Frazzled Mom said...

I'm sort of reminded of the name, Mindy, 30-40 years ago. Had Mork and Mindy not been around, I think Mindy would have become more prevalent among 30-45 year-olds. Mindy sounds like some names the peaked among the 50+ crowd, but are not unheard of on 30-40 something’s, such as Cindy and Cheri.

Mindy would also make a good sister to other common names on 30-40 something’s, names such as Tracy, Stacy, Kelly, Shelly, Kerry and possibly Melissa, Michelle and Melanie. Yet Mindy never met her potential. I suspect Mork and Mindy is the culprit.

But I went to high school with a Mindy and therefore can offer my impression of a real-life Mindy. While I didn't really like the name, Mork and Mindy had nothing to do with my dislike; I simply thought the name was too cutesy. While I was familiar with Mork and Mindy, so many years had passed since the show ran (except reruns), that I didn't personally connect the name to the show, not until now at least.

I just wanted to add another support for using Dexter now. Even if Dexter is aired in reruns for years, I doubt newer generations will automatically make the connection. That's all.

namemuststay said...

I totally blogged about this last week! I'm a bit biased, love the show, but I don't think the name is entirely ruined by the show. Name data actually showed the name came UP after the show debuted. It DOES make everyone wonder why you'd name your kid after a serial killer, though... :)

British American said...

Never watched the show. Is it on cable? (We don't have cable.) I know it's on Netflix (which we do have) but I've never watched it. I do know that it's about a guy who kills serial killers, so it's not the best association...

*but* I also know a 2 year old Dexter. His parents call him Dex, I think. So that makes me think that the name is still usable and not ruined. I think the show is old enough that they named him whilst knowing about the show. Though I know they don't have TV at their house, so maybe that 'helped'.

So I think you should use the name if you love it.

Joanne said...

I'd use it. My neighbor has a Lorelei and I never think of the GGirls. Honestly, I don't think it will matter in five years, much less ten.

Sophie said...

I don't think of the show when I hear the name, mostly because I have an uncle named Dexter.