Wednesday, May 21, 2014

So Many Jennifers!

Jennifer: According to Wikipedia, it's a Cornish variant of Gwenhwyfar that possibly means "white fairy," "white phantom," "white ghost" or, simply, "white," which might explain why Miss Hudson aside, you rarely find black women named Jennifer.

Did you know that Genevieve and Guinevere are variations on Jennifer, as is Gaynor, which means that Gloria Gaynor and Janet Gaynor are/were Gloria Jennifer and Janet Jennifer, technically and respectively? So is Geneva, which means that the city in Switzerland can go by Jennifer, too. And when you consider that Gwen is a shortened form of Jennifer's origin, you start to realize that Jennifer in all of its forms just might be the most pervasive female name this side of Mary.

Indeed, did you know that Jennifer was the most popular given name among newborn girls in the U.S. between 1970 and 1984, possibly because it was the name of the character played by Ali McGraw in the 1970 film Love Story, which was not the first movie to feature an Oscar-nominated actress named Jennifer or one playing a Jennifer, and far from the last. (The Oscar-winning Jennifers include Jones, Connelly, Hudson and Lawrence.)

I once saw an episode of the MTV animated series Daria in which Daria Morgendorffer and her best friend Jane Lane* were trying to get into a party but weren't on the guest list. Jane calmly told the guy at the door that her name was Jennifer. He glanced at the list, and they were in! When Daria asked how she did that, Jane said something along the lines of "There's always someone named Jennifer."

She could have been talking about Hollywood, too. While I haven't hung out with a preponderance of Jennifers at any one time in real life (despite having eight Jennifers as Facebook friends, including one of my former roommates in Jersey City, N.J., and another who was one of my best friends at the University of Florida), or encountered a gaggle of them at any party I've ever been to, I haven't spent much time in Hollywood. If I lived there I might not be able to cross Sunset and Vine without bumping into yet another Jennifer.

So you want to be a Hollywood star? Try changing your name to Jennifer. It's possibly the most frequently recurring name among Oscar-winning actresses, and variations of Cate/Kate/Catherine/Katherine/Katharine and perhaps Julie/Julia/Julianne/Juliette aside, I can't think of a given name and its associates that have been bestowed upon more leading female talent. Because I live to list things, and I have nothing better to do at the moment (or perhaps because I'd just rather continue to put off doing everything I should be doing right now), I've come up with a list of famous Jennifers, including the aforementioned Oscar winners.

(*Though Jane -- more or less the feminine equivalent of John, and considering its overlapping variants with Jennifer, probably a distant relative -- is now more associated with B-and-below talent than in the days when Jane Fonda ruled, it's still pretty big in entertainment when you consider its myriad variants. They include Hana, Hanna, Ivana, Ivanka, Jana, Janet, Janice, Jayne, Jean, Jeanette, Jeanne, Jeannie, Jenni, Jennie, Jenny, Joan, Joanna, Joanne, Johanna, Jonie, Juana, Juanita, Nana, Shana, Shauna, Shawn, Shawna, Sheena, Sinéad, Siobhan and Vanna, among many others.)

Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Beals

Jennifer Connelly

Jennifer Coolidge

Jennifer Ehle

Jennifer Esposito

Jennifer Finnigan

Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Grey

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jason Leigh

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Morrison

Jennifer Nettles

Jennifer Warnes

Jennifer Love Hewitt

And let's not forget...

Jenna Dewan

Jenna Elfman

Jennie Garth

Jenifer Lewis

Jenny Lewis

Jenna Malone

Jenny McCarthy

Songs About Jennifers

"Jennifer Juniper" Donovan


"Guinevere" by Crosby, Stills and Nash


"867-5309/Jenny" by Tommy Tutone


"Jennifer" Eurythmics

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