12.30.08

How the Palin Family Chooses Those Names

Say what you will about the nation’s first GILF, but as a baby namer she’s a real maverick.

Sarah Palin may not be running America, but she still controls the baby names in her family.

Who can doubt granny Sarah is the mastermind behind Tripp Easton Mitchell, the name of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston’s newborn child?

He may as well be Sarah and Todd’s own third son? (Geddit? Third? Tripp?)

Tripp’s name follows the tradition the Palins started when they named their first son Track. Now a 19-year-old soldier, Track was named for, well, that circular pathway people run around. It’s a word name, it’s a place name, it begins with T just like Todd’s. And it’s a truly original name with genuine personal meaning.

The Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator spits out choices like Wrench, Camp, and Trout.

Those are qualities a lot of modern parents say they’re going for in a baby name but rarely achieve, mostly because people want other people not only to like, but admire, the name they choose. Sarah Palin doesn’t have that problem. Say what you will about the nation’s first GILF, but as a baby namer she’s a real maverick.

Younger son Trig Paxson Van’s name follows the pattern set with Track: Trig is Norse for “true” and Paxson is a snowmobiling area in Alaska.

And now grandbaby Tripp Easton Mitchell’s name fits the same mold, with Tripp a one-syllable, it’s-not-really-a-name name starting with T, presumably as a tribute to Todd. The infant even has Todd’s middle name, Mitchell, as one of his middle names; out-of-the-box middle naming is another Palin baby name trademark. And Easton references a place like so many of the other Palin names.

Baby-mama Bristol’s own name, along with her sister Willow’s, is a place name. Daughter Piper’s name was chosen partly because of the airplane and partly because, as Todd has said, “it’s cool.” Piper’s middle name is Indy, as in Jones, 500, and movie.

Much fun has been made of the Palin baby names: The Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator spits out choices like Wrench, Camp, and Trout. But though the world isn’t likely to rush to name their sons Track or Trig or Tripp, the truth is, the Palins are world-class name deciders on the order of Angelina and Brad, who’ve set similar family traditions with their sons’ x-ending names and their secret nods to significant people and places.

I was eager to see whether Bristol would follow in her parents’ creative-naming footsteps or pick the kind of mass-marketed name favored by other teenage moms: Kayden, say, or Ashton. Tripp is, well, kind of trippy, and certainly unfortunate in view of his paternal grandma’s recent drug arrest. But it’s a more creative choice than those made by other famous young moms: Jamie Lynn Spears’ Maddie Briann, for example, or Charlotte Church’s Ruby Megan.

Its only real problem may be that it seems less like the independent choice of the baby’s young parents and more like the continuation of an established family dynasty.

Pamela Redmond Satran is the coauthor with Linda Rosenkrantz of nine bestselling baby name guides, including Beyond Jennifer & Jason and Cool Names for Babies, and a developer of the new baby-naming site Nameberry. A former fashion editor for Glamour, she is also a columnist for that magazine, writes for The New York Times, and is the author of five novels. Her children are named Rory, Joe, and Owen.