The Introduction of Ingemar

ingemar johansson, boxer
Ingemar “Ingo” Johansson

Swedish immigration to the United States was heaviest during the last decades of the 19th century, and records show that dozens of U.S. baby boys were given the Swedish name Ingemar during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But because the number of Ingemars born per year was low, and also because the SSA’s data from that period is incomplete, the name Ingemar didn’t surface in the data until decades later:

  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: 6 baby boys named Ingemar
  • 1960: 7 baby boys named Ingemar
  • 1959: 8 baby boys named Ingemar [debut]
  • 1958: unlisted

Why?

Because of Swedish boxer Ingemar “Ingo” Johansson, who unexpectedly defeated Floyd Patterson in June of 1959 to become the world heavyweight boxing champion.

The win was followed by TV and film appearances, but Ingo’s boxing success was short-lived. He lost the title back to Patterson in 1960, and wasn’t able to regain it in their third matchup in 1961. (These were the only two losses of Johansson’s professional career.)

The name Ingemar can be traced back to two Germanic elements, the first referring to either the ancient god Ing (a.k.a. Yngvi) or to the Ingaevones (an ancient tribal group), the second meaning “famous.”

Ingemar’s then-fiancée Birgit Lundgren was also in the spotlight around this time. She was a contestant on a June 1959 episode of What’s My Line? (her line: newspaper correspondent) and appeared with Ingemar on the June 1959 cover of Life. Accordingly, the name Birgit saw peak usage in 1960:

  • 1962: 10 baby girls named Birgit
  • 1961: 19 baby girls named Birgit
  • 1960: 25 baby girls named Birgit [peak]
  • 1959: 12 baby girls named Birgit
  • 1958: unlisted [fewer than 5 occurrences]

Coincidentally, the name Brigitte saw peak usage the same year, thanks to French actress Brigitte Bardot, who’d become famous stateside upon the 1957 U.S. release of And God Created Woman. So “Birgit” may have gotten an boost from “Brigitte” as well.

What do you think of the names Ingemar and Birgit? Would you use either one?

Sources: Ingemar Johansson – Wikipedia, Ingemar – Nordic Names Wiki


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