The Premiere of Piper

piper laurieDid you know that tens of thousands of baby girls have been named Piper within the last few years?

These young Pipers have 84-year-old actress Piper Laurie to thank for putting their name on the map in the first place.

Piper Laurie’s breakout role was in the 1950 film Louisa (which also starred future president Ronald Reagan). One year later, the name Piper popped up for the very first time in the SSA data:

  • 1956: 38 baby girls named Piper
  • 1955: 31 baby girls named Piper
  • 1954: 36 baby girls named Piper
  • 1953: 40 baby girls named Piper
  • 1952: 35 baby girls named Piper
  • 1951: 11 baby girls named Piper [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

Piper Laurie wasn’t born “Piper Laurie,” though. She was born Rosetta Jacobs. Here’s how she got her stage name:

Ted told me one evening that he had thought of a good professional name for me and handed me a scrap of yellow paper with “piper laurie” written on it. He’d not capitalized it, so it looked strange. I didn’t care for it because it didn’t seem to be a name. He couldn’t explain how he’d thought of it; he said it just came to him! I had used a variety of professional names by then. In those days it was understood that Rosetta Jacobs was not a name that could be used professionally. Everyone advised us so. Not because of its ethnicity, I never thought of it as such, but because it didn’t sound like Lana or Cary and was hard to remember.

(Ted Radin was Laurie’s first agent. “Lana” and “Cary” refer to Lana Turner and Cary Grant.)

The name “Piper” was given to several dozen babies per year from the ’50s through the ’80s. Usage started to increase in the mid-1990s, but the TV show Charmed (1998-2006) is what really gave it a boost. The name broke into the top 1000 in 1999, reached the top 500 two years later, and has been in the top 100 since 2012.

How high do you think Piper will climb?

Do you think the recent Pixar short Piper (starring an adorable baby sandpiper) will have a discernible influence on usage in 2016?

Source: Laurie, Piper. Learning to Live Out Loud: A Memoir. New York: Crown Archetype, 2011.


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