Sunday, March 17, 2013


Shailene Woodley

Last year I read 'The Hunger Games' trilogy, and like many others I fell in love with the books. At that time, I was perhaps a little behind the eight ball. I pretty much discovered them when promotions for the first movie started, and as the books are almost always better I wanted to make sure I read the books first so that watching the movie wouldn't give me any spoilers.

Then recently I read a post by Laura at Baby Name Wizard about why some book franchises such as 'Twilight' spark a naming trend, while others such as 'The Hunger Games' contain great names that don't seem to make the transition to birth certificates. It's a good article, but the best thing was that it introduced me to a new dystopian series to read - 'Divergent', by Veronica Roth. The central character of this series is named Beatrice, which she changes to Tris after a life altering change gives her the opportunity to adopt a new name and new persona. Laura notes that this "new" nickname of Tris could see Beatrice take off in leaps and bounds, particularly if the film adaptation is successful.

Yes, the movie adaptation is looking certain, with casting underway for the first movie even before the third (and as of yet untitled) book of the trilogy hits our shelves. And I agree that 'Divergent's strong yet vulnerable lead character Tris will help increase the popularity of Beatrices - and probably the name Tris, too. But just as Isabella was already on the rise when the first 'Twilight' movie was released, Beatrice has already been rising in the US, going from position #1107 in 2005 to #707 in 2011, meaning the author Veronica Roth may just be smart at tapping into a current trend, rather than causing one.

I'm instead thinking that the surprise name hit of this franchise could be the name of the young actress that has been cast as Tris, Shailene Woodley. Shailene has been busy for a young actress, with her most notable roles to date being in the TV series 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager' and as George Clooney's elder daughter in the Oscar winning movie 'The Descendants'. The latter role in particular has gained Shailene much positive attention as a young actress with a bright future.

Shailene (I think pronounced Shay-leen) is one of those names that is hard to find detailed background  information about. It's interesting to note that her parents names are Loni and Lori, and her brother is named Tanner, so her name is quite unique even within her own family. According to one fansite, Shailene's name was chosen when her mother saw a numberplate with 'SHAI' on it and liked it so much that her parents played around with different endings to lengthen the name. I'm not sure how true that is, but considering the lack of history on this name, it sounds like a reasonable possibility.

The name Shailene first charted in 1991, when it was given to 5 girls. This happens to be the year that Shailene Woodley was born,  so I guess that makes her one of those 5 babies! Since then it has appeared on the charts sporadically, "peaking" in 2009 when it was given to 14 girls. This shows there is interest in this name, but perhaps people are hesitant to use it due to the lack of information about its' origin and meaning.

Alternate spelling Shaylene comes from the Gaelic Shea, meaning 'admirable' or 'from the fairy fort', so these could be possible meanings. Other theories are that it comes from the Hebrew Shai (traditionally pronounced Shy) meaning 'gift', and Lene. The second half of Lene has several origins and meanings, with the most likable combinations with Shai being:

  • Shai (Hebrew, 'gift') + Lene (Greek, 'light') = 'gift of light'
  • Shai (Hebrew, 'gift') + Lene (Norse, 'illustrious, distinguished') = 'illustrious gift'
  • Shai (Hebrew, 'gift') + Lene (Hebrew, 'of Magdala') = 'gift from Magdala'

Shailene has a fairly attractive sound, a fresher alternative to the somewhat dated Charlene. I'm interested to see how the actress will influence the popularity of this name, both with the 'Divergent' movies and the future work she does. I don't think it quite has the familiar/friendly/classic feel of past movie mega hits Jennifer, Madison or Isabella, but I could see it finding a place in the top 100.

Or maybe the stealth hit-name-waiting-to-happen will be one of the other characters or actors in the movie. Sometimes you can't quite tell what will capture people's attention and inspire their imagination.....

Shailene Woodley to star as Tris (Beatrice) Prior 
in the movie adaptation of Veronica Roth's 'Divergent'

1 comment:

  1. this book is absolutely amazing. its a little confusing at first but then you will understand the more you go on you have to give it time. Its a very good book, and i would recommend it to everyone! :)