What Popularized the Baby Name Deneen?

mystery name deneen

Deneen is the million-dollar baby name mystery. It saw a massive spike in usage in 1964, and I had no idea why for years. Only recently have I stumbled upon a plausible explanation.

But first let’s check out the numbers. Here’s how many U.S. baby girls were named Deneen (or a variant) from 1963 to 1966, sorted by 1964 levels of usage:

Name 1963 1964 1965 1966
Deneen 22 1,604 421 223
Denine 17 133 101 71
Daneen 29 132 85 70
Dineen 10 68 43 35
Denene 7 66 38 31
Denean 7 58 61 40
Danine 7 29 23 31
Danene 12 24 18 11
Deneane 24* 11 9
Deneene 24* 13 14
Danean 14* 14 6
Deeneen 12**
Doneen 7 11 9
Dennine 10* 7 7
Deneena 7**
Deniene 7*
Dennen 7**
Donene 7
Deaneen 5**
Deneem 5**
Dinene 7**
TOTALS 118 2,247 842 557

*Debut, **One-hit wonder

According to the state-by-state data, Deneen usage tended to be highest in the most populous states. This isn’t much of a clue, but it does tell us that the influence was national (e.g., movie, music) and not regional (e.g., college sports, local politician).

For a long time my only guess on Deneen was the same guess Hilary Parker made in her poisoned baby names post: musical duo August & Deneen. But their hit single “We Go Together” came out in 1968 — long after the 1964 baby name spike. So August & Deneen clearly isn’t the answer.

About a month ago I tried another Deneen search. This time around I found a recent thread on Deneen at the Baby Name Wizard forum. According to intel gathered by forum members, Deneen could have been popularized by a ’60s commercial for Ivory dishwashing liquid.

At first I wasn’t so sure. The only vintage Ivory commercials I could find online were for Ivory Snow laundry detergent and, while many of these did feature names (e.g., Allison, Betsy, Bonnie, Debbie, Esther, Joy, Kerry, Kimberly, Michelle, Terry) the names were never on-screen. You don’t get a spelling-specific name spike if the influence is audio-only.

Then I noticed, lower down in the thread, that someone included a link to a single Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial from 1962. The spot featured a mother-daughter pair, “Mrs. Bernard Pugar and Dana,” and their names were indeed shown on-screen for several seconds. Now this looked promising.

I’ve since tracked down a similar Ivory commercial featuring “Mrs. Blake Clark” and her daughter Nicky, though Nicky’s name was never shown on-screen. No luck finding a Deneen version yet.

So I’ll just sit tight and hope that, one day, someone uploads the commercial in question and puts this whole Deneen baby name mystery to rest. :)

In the meanwhile, some questions:

  • If you were watching TV in the ’60s, do you happen recall an Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial featuring the name Deneen? (Long shot, I know.)
  • What do you think of the name Deneen? Which spelling do you like best?

P.S. Djuna popped up on the baby name charts in 1964 as well. I’m declaring 1964 the year of the mysteriously trendy D-names.


21 thoughts on “What Popularized the Baby Name Deneen?

  1. Super-flattering to be mentioned, as you are my name-mystery-solving idol! (Your work with Cassarah/etc was really inspired.)

    I too am greatly hoping that someone unearths THE Deneen video. What is it with the Ivory Snow commercials being archived with such completist zeal when the Ivory Liquid commercials get nothing?

  2. @Elizabeth – For some parents it certainly could be.

    @lucubratrix – Thanks! :)

    “What is it with the Ivory Snow commercials being archived with such completist zeal when the Ivory Liquid commercials get nothing?”

    Seriously!

    Ivory Snow has some mad fans out there, it seems…

  3. We have some more supporting data from the thread, including a regular poster reporting that a D’Neen she knows is indeed named after a girl in an Ivory commercial. I think it’s officially confirmed!

  4. Even though our Dutch dishwashing liquid brands are Dreft and Dubro – not much chance of girls named something that masculine-sounding – I love reading these name-mystery-solving posts ((c) lucubratrix)

  5. My name is Denean. I was born in 1964. My mom was looking for a name to go with hers and my sisters. Deanie and Deanna.
    My name was from one of her bank customers who’s sir name was DeNean. Several years back a Co worker that was from Northern USA was telling me her mom’s friend named her daughter Denean after a dish soap. Seeing this I assume she was talking about the commercial and not the actual name of the dish soap.

  6. My middle name is Denean. I was indeed named after the daughter Denean in some dish washing liquid commercial from the 60’s. I was born in 1964. My Mom said something to the fact of the Mom introduced her daughter as Denean Cincotta. So, I just started looking today because a coworker found the story amusing.

  7. @Karen Denean – Thanks for that surname!

    I feel like we’re getting closer and closer…but I wish someone would just upload the commercial already.

  8. I contacted P&G about Ivory a few days ago. This morning I got the response:

    Thank you for contacting Ivory, Nancy.

    I’m very sorry to disappoint you. Unfortunately, we do not have information on any ads from 1964. I’m sorry we could not be of more help.

    Thank you,

    Lee Ann
    Ivory Team

  9. My name is Deneen, and I just met another lady with the same spelling. I met someone last summer that told me this same story because his wife had the same name, and we were about the same age. I was born in ’66 and I had no idea where my mom got the name but it was certainly uncommon to hear over the years.

  10. I was born in 1964. My father was the one who named me. He always said it was from an Ivory commercial, though he believes it was the laundry detergent. I’ve met a few other people with my name, all different spellings but all 3 were born in 1964.
    I would love to see this commercial!

  11. My name is also Deneen and i was born in May 1965. I asked my mom when i was around 14 where she got my name and she replyed “from a soap commercial”. She could not remember the soap brand or much about it just that when she heard the name she liked it because it was different. I would also love to see the commercial.

  12. Hello, my name is Deneen and my mother said she first heard the name from an Ivory Soap commercial. I recently met a woman who was born in 1964 as well with my name (and same spelling). She indicated that her mother heard the name on the commercial as well.
    I would love to see it!

  13. Hi,
    I am the Deneen in the Ivory Liquid commercial you are all talking about. I would like to see it again too.
    It was my mother who made up my name. She said that when she was in high school, she had a crush on this boy who’s last name was Deneen. I guess she must have made up her mind to remember it until I was born in 1944
    It was Compton Advertising in New York that contacted an agent in Boston, MA looking for mother and daughter look-a-likes. This agent had been my mother’s agent when she was in show business and sometimes booked me when the opportunity arose (I am a singer). He immediately contacted us and we went in to audition at the Midway Hotel in Boston. They liked us and the rest is history.
    I don’t know if Compton Advertising still exists, but they might be of some help to you.
    Oh, by the way, my mother’s name was Elves.

  14. Thanks Denine. The way you spell your name is the way everybody wants to spell mine whenever they ask me how to spell it. For some reason, they get hung up with the “een” that comes after the Den. They keep wanting to spell it like yours. I’m wondering if you ever have that problem. A lot if times I’ll just tell them my name is Ron (my husbands name).
    Oh, I almost forgot. I am also the Deneen of August & Deneen mentioned above. My husband is Ron August (stage name) and I was Deneen Carroll. Finally we just shortened it to August & Deneen. It was easier to remember. I am in the process now of putting together our website. I’m not a techy, so it’s taking a while, but we recorded another song for ABC Paramount that was actually supposed to be the “A” side to We Go Together. It’s a long story and it will be on the website. That song was called “I’d Rather Be Home With You”. It was really beautiful, so I have put the “site” together so that people can hear it.

  15. The problem with my spelling is people see Denise. I was called that in my youth more times then I care to remember! I never bother to leave my name (for reservations etc) because it gets butchered every time! Many people have asked if they can call me Dee, my response is always, not if you want me to answer. ????
    I will have to Google you now Deneen, and check out your website once it’s up!
    And I really hope to one day actually see the commercial that started this all!

  16. Whoa, this is kind of amazing. I never expected the original Deneen to get in touch! So cool. Thanks for stopping by and telling us your story, Deneen!

    (And please let me know when your site is up — I’ll go back and add the URL to your comments.)

  17. Will do. I’m waiting on all the licenses we need to put our own songs on our own website. It’s a crazy business, but we will prevail!

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