The TV-Inspired Debut of Janssen

The baby name Janssen debuted in the US baby name data in 1964.

The surname-name Janssen first appeared on the baby name charts in 1964:

  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: 5 baby boys named Janssen
  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: 8 baby boys named Janssen
  • 1964: 16 baby boys named Janssen [debut]
  • 1963: unlisted

It wasn’t a particularly impressive debut, but 16 baby boys was enough to make Janssen one of the the top debut names of the year.

What was the influence here?

Actor David Janssen, who played Dr. Richard Kimble in the memorable TV drama The Fugitive from 1963 to 1967. Dr. Kimble, falsely convicted of murdering his wife Helen, escaped from authorities on the way to death row and spent the rest of the series both evading recapture and searching for the real killer, the mysterious “one-armed man.”

Notably, 72% of the television sets in America tuned in to see the show’s final episode, in which Dr. Kimble finally finds the justice he’s been seeking.

(The name Kimble also saw slightly higher usage while the show was on the air.)

Do you like the name Janssen?

Sources: The Fugitive (TV series) – Wikipedia, Tuesday, August 29, 1967: The Day The Running Stopped for “The Fugitive’s” Richard Kimble

3 thoughts on “The TV-Inspired Debut of Janssen

  1. I know the name Janssen from a friend; it was his surname. His folks moved here to the US from Sweden when he was 8 (1983 I think) He was proud of his heritage.
    When I got back from Norway I was surprised he spoke Swedish. Makes sense but I never put 2 and 2 together lol So we often spoke Norwegian and Swedish for fun.
    When he met his soon to be wife she was not pleased at all about a Swedish last name. I just laughed at him, “Your wife, your life” But she wouldn’t wed him until he changed it from Janssen, to Janson (idk, doesn’t change much to me sounds the same). He did so for her.
    On another rather funny side note, she wouldn’t let him teach the kids to speak Swedish. I was chatting them up when we ran into each other years later, and spoke Norwegian to the eldest. He looked at me funny and said, “I don’t know what you’re saying.” I asked him if his dad had taught him Swedish. “Oh, mom doesn’t want that kind of stuff in the house.”
    My spouse gets a little weirded out when I call my family in Norway. He laughs it off as he thinks I’m talking about him. So maybe my friend’s wife is thinking along those lines.
    And that is my thoughts on it. Hansen and Branson are two similar names that just came to mind. Maybe Brandson as well.

  2. How sad that the kids don’t get the benefit of learning Swedish from their dad. There are so many positives with being bi-lingual and really no negatives (other than irrational mothers). Aside from all the cultural benefits, career-wise speaking two or more languages can be a huge bonus (Portuguese is evidently the most lucrative second language at the moment).
    And Janson doesn’t look all that much less Swedish to me, it just looks like an Ellis Island version.

  3. Huh. It was nice of him to concede to his wife’s wishes, but…I’m curious why she was so strongly against the Swedish surname and language.

    FWIW, my mother’s parents were from Italy, and they intentionally didn’t teach any of their kids Italian (this was in the 1950s). I’m not sure what the reasoning was. Maybe they thought bilingualism would be some sort of hindrance in school, or they didn’t want their kids subjected to racism.

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