BBN NEWS: The Popularity of Neveah
By JENNIFER 8. LEE, The New York Times
May 18- Chances are you don't have any friends named Nevaeh. Chances are today's toddlers will.
In 1999, there were only eight newborn American girls named Nevaeh. Last year, it was the 70th-most-popular name for baby girls, ahead of Sara, Vanessa and Amanda.
The spectacular rise of Nevaeh (commonly pronounced nah-VAY-uh) has little precedent, name experts say. They watched it break into the top 1,000 of girls' names in 2001 at No. 266, the third-highest debut ever. Four years later it cracked the top 100 with 4,457 newborn Nevaehs, having made the fastest climb among all names in more than a century, the entire period for which the Social Security Administration has such records.
Nevaeh is not in the Bible or any religious text. It is not from a foreign language. It is not the name of a celebrity, real or fictional.
Nevaeh is Heaven spelled backward.
The name has hit a cultural nerve with its religious overtones, creative twist and fashionable final "ah" sound. It has risen most quickly among blacks but is also popular with evangelical Christians, who have helped propel other religious names like Grace (ranked 14th) up the charts, experts say. By contrast, the name Heaven is ranked 245th.
"Of the last couple of generations, Nevaeh is certainly the most remarkable phenomenon in baby names," said Cleveland Kent Evans, president of the American Name Society and a professor of psychology at Bellevue University in Nebraska.
The surge of Nevaeh can be traced to a single event: the appearance of a Christian rock star, Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D., on MTV in 2000 with his baby daughter, Nevaeh. "Heaven spelled backwards," he said.
Among the many inspired by Mr. Sandoval's appearance was Jade San Luis, who named his first daughter Nevaeh two years later. "It felt original," said Mr. San Luis, 26, of Cerritos, Calif. "Now, not anymore."
Today Mr. Sandoval is introduced to and photographed with baby Nevaehs all the time. His own Nevaeh, now 6, skateboards and, when introduced, pipes up that her name is Heaven spelled backward. Does she understand the meaning of heaven? Mr. Sandoval replied, "She knows that is where her grandmother is."