“Card Sharks” Baby Names: Dilanjan and Risha

Risha, Card Sharks, 1979
Risha on Card Sharks (1979)

Does anyone remember the NBC game show Card Sharks?

The original version — which involved a pair of contestants guessing survey results (à la Family Feud) and then playing the card game High Low for prize money — ran from 1978 to 1981. During that period, two uniquely named contestants had a small influence on American baby names:

Dilanjan

A contestant named Dilanjan was on the show for five episodes in January of 1979. That year, the baby name Dilanjan debuted on the SSA’s baby name list with 13 baby boys. It was never on the list again, though, making it a one-hit wonder.

  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: 13 baby boys named Dilanjan [debut]
  • 1978: unlisted

The name is apparently Sinhalese (the Sinhalese people make up 75% of the population of Sri Lanka) but so far I can’t figure out the meaning.

Risha

A contestant named Risha [pronounced REE-sha] was on the show for six episodes in July of 1979. The baby name Risha had already been on the SSA’s list for several decades by then, but in 1979 usage of the name more than tripled:

  • 1981: 17 baby girls named Risha
  • 1980: 24 baby girls named Risha
  • 1979: 56 baby girls named Risha
  • 1978: 17 baby girls named Risha
  • 1977: 17 baby girls named Risha

I have a feeling that repeat contestants on other long-gone game shows have also affected the charts…but it’s hard to do research on this sort of thing, as there isn’t some master-list of game show contestant names I can refer to (I wish!).

For all the game show junkies out there: What memorable contestant names have you spotted over the years?


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