On the day Go Set a Watchman is released, a baby-name website questions how long "Atticus" will stay No. 1

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
July 14, 2015 02:50 PM
Everett

Talk about timing.

Nameberry.com co-founder Pamela Redmond Satran was sorting her 2015 search data on most-popular baby names when she got an email Monday from PEOPLE asking about the popularity of the name Atticus: Did she expect its star would dim now that the beloved character of Atticus Finch in Harper Lee‘s classic To Kill a Mockingbird – whom Satran calls “an inspirational namesake” – is revealed to be racist in Lee’s long-lost manuscript Go Set a Watchman?

“When I got your note, I was just looking at our statistics and starting to write the story that Atticus is our new No. 1 name for a boy in terms of searches,” Satran tells PEOPLE.

“I hadn’t read anything about the new book and just realized Atticus is supposedly now a racist!”

In its annual half-year survey of search data, Nameberry found Atticus, a Roman name, in the most-viewed spot for the first time, trumping Asher, Nameberry’s longtime No. 1 name.

“Atticus has never been as popular as it is right now,” Satran said. Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt named her baby boy Atticus James just last month. And actors Casey Affleck and Mary Louise-Parker are among others who have given their children the name Atticus.

Satran writes on her website Tuesday that the name first gained notice in the United States with the 1960 publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, but it wasn’t until 25 years later that the name Atticus even registered on the Social Security roster of U.S. baby names, when it was given to a mere nine boys in 1986.

Atticus did not crack the top 1,000 in the U.S. until 2004, but it soared to the No. 3 spot last year, when “846 baby boys and nine poor baby girls were named Atticus here,” Satran says.

Though Satran asserts online, “The big question is whether Atticus can retain his popularity as a baby name in the light of the racist, ranting Atticus Finch portrayed in Go Set a Watchman,” she admits to PEOPLE that she’s not too worried for the trendy moniker.

“I wonder how many parents had actually read the book or are really that aware of who the character is beyond that he’s really cute as Gregory Peck and has this crusading image,” she says.

“I’m going to guess there will be a lot of parents who say, ‘Who cares who Atticus Finch is and what he’s doing in a fictional world? I think Atticus is a cool name and I’m going to use it.’ “

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