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Names in the News
There are some celebrities whose baby names the media looks forward to learning with barely-disguised impatience. It might be a big star or a royal, in which case we all want to know what the baby is called, even if it’s quite boring. On the other hand, there are certain celebrities where we yearn to know the baby name they choose, because we can feel “a crazy celebrity baby name” coming up.

Recently it has been Lara Bingle and her husband Sam Worthington grabbing the baby name headlines, although the whole process began months ago, during what has been described as “the world’s longest pregnancy“. This was only increased by the Bingle-Worthingtons requesting privacy and not immediately announcing their baby name, which sent the rumour mill into overdrive.

I always think that if you’re going to be coy about announcing the baby’s name, it had better be something pretty epic, because I hate waiting for weeks, only to find out the baby is named Charlie. In this case, I was not disappointed because the baby’s name was reported as Rocket Zot.

Predictably, some sections of the media responded with outrage, denouncing the name. Was this a clever attempt to force Rocket’s cagey parents to confirm or deny the baby name? If so, it worked, because Lara Bingle immediately took to social media to defend their choice of name.

Public comments have generally been quite harsh, and on this blog, more than 84% of people have given it the thumbs down. But is Rocket Zot really such a bizarre name?

A rocket is any missile or vehicle propelled by a rocket engine. Although we may think of rockets as being quite space age, they have been existence since the Middle Ages, when they were used as weapons by the Chinese. Europeans found out about rocket technology when they were conquered by the Mongols, who themselves made the interesting discovery by conquering parts of China first.

It wasn’t until the twentieth century that anybody began serious research into using rockets for travelling through space. The Germans made the most progress in this area, and there was devastating proof of Germany’s proficiency in rocket use when they rained down V-2 rockets upon Allied countries in World War II, killing and wounding thousands in the process.

The United States was to benefit the most from Germany’s rocketry, because after the war they scooped up the majority of the German rocket scientists. The first American space rockets evolved directly from the V2, which just shows how important it is to conquer the right people during a war, and nick all their best technological innovations.

The word rocket comes from the Italian rochetta, meaning “little fuse”, a small firecracker developed by an Italian inventor in the 14th century. It is notable that for many years, the history of rockets and that of fireworks was virtually one and the same, as they both relied on gunpowder.

If all of this sounds a bit too violent, rocket is also a leafy green vegetable commonly added to salads, and a favourite since Roman times (maybe partly because it was believed to be an aphrodisiac). In this case, the name has nothing to do with rockets or fireworks, but is derived from Eruca, the Latin name for the plant, which means “caterpillar”.

London rocket is a wildflower whose common name was given because it grew in such profusion after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Another plant is called sweet rocket or dame’s rocket, abundantly blossomed with pretty fragrant mauve flowers. The attractive but toxic aconite, or wolfsbane, is sometimes called blue rocket, and the Chinese used its poison in warfare, just as they did explosive rockets.

Rocket has been used as a name since the 19th century, when it was much more common in North America. The United States national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, with its mention of the “rockets’ red glare”, may have made the name seem particularly patriotic (the rockets in the song were from the British attacking Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812). Independence Day fireworks also help to make rockets seem patriotically American. Rocket has been given to both sexes, but more commonly to boys.

In 2013, 16 boys were given the name Rocket in the US, while in the UK, less than 3 babies in any year have been named Rocket since 1996. In South Australia last year, there was just one baby boy named Rocket.

Although Rocket is rare, it has become quite prominent as a celebrity baby name. Douglas Adams named his daughter Polly Jane Rocket in 1994, a fitting tribute for the author of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series. Director Robert Rodriguez has a son named Rocket Valentino born in 1995 (Rocket’s siblings include Rogue, Rebel, and Racer). Tom DeLonge from Blink-182 had a son named Jonas Rocket in 2006, and Pharrell Williams welcomed a son named Rocket Ayer in 2008, honouring the Rocket songs of Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Herbie Hancock, as well as Roy Ayers. Last year Beau Bokan from Blessthefall welcomed a baby girl named Rocket Wild. It’s not unknown as an Australian celebrity name, because fashion designer Yasmin Sewell had a son named Knox Rocket in 2011.

The name Rocket has been criticised for trying too hard to be a “cool” celebrity baby name, a name which no decent baby name book has listed. (I’m happy to be amongst the indecent baby name blogs to include Rocket). And yet is it really that outrageous? It’s very much like modern classic Rocco, and when Jett is a popular boy’s name, Rocket isn’t such a stretch. Weapon-related names such as Archer and Hunter are also on trend.

Depending on your point of view, Rocket might be too cool for the schoolyard, or fine for the famous but out for ordinary folk, or you might think this is an energetic, rocking firecracker of a name that fits in with current trends while still being a rare choice. Rock or Rocky are the obvious nicknames.

If Rocket got a good going-over, Zot went down even less well, with the headline, Lara Bingle Doesn’t Give a Zot For Baby Name Traditions (since changed). Urban dictionaries were consulted, to discover that zot meant “kill, destroy”, or “spitball”. Of course you can also consult dictionaries to find that Bob is a woman’s haircut, John refers to a prostitute’s client, and Amelia means to be born without a limb, but the dictionary meanings are not usually applied to these personal names.

Lara Bingle was angered and upset by the journalist’s comments on Zot, since it was given in honour of her father Graham, who passed away from cancer a few years ago. Zot was apparently the nickname he went by.

Zot is actually a “real” name – it’s a short form of Izot, the Russian form of Greek Zotikos, meaning “full of life” (a masculine spin on Zoe). I think that makes it an exciting addition to Rocket, which is already quite a lively-sounding name.

Zot is also a comic book hero name, in this case, a contraction of the character’s real name of Zachary T. Paleozogt. A cheery blond teenager from a utopian world, Zot zips around on rocket boots with a laser gun to sort out the problems of our own rather more flawed planet.

It has been conjectured that the name Rocket is a nod to Sam Worthington’s father, Ronald Worthington, so that Rocket Zot may actually honour both fathers. The Herald Sun suggests that Ronny Graham, nicknamed “Rocket”, would have been a better honouring name. Given the choice, I think I prefer the more distinctive, affectionate, and personalised Rocket Zot.

The name Rocket received an approval rating of 16%. 44% of people thought that Rocket was a terrible name, while 6% loved it.

Zot received a slightly higher approval rating of 20%. 61% of people thought that Zot was a terrible name, while 5% loved it.

53% of people preferred Ronny Graham as a name to honour Ronald Worthington and Graeme “Zot” Bingle, while 47% thought Rocket Zot had more zip.

(Photo shows Fourth of July fireworks to accompany the US national anthem)