Girl-crazy teenager Dobie Gillis was a character created by writer Max Shulman in the 1940s. He was first brought to life in the movie The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953, but the most memorable portrayal of Dobie was by Dwayne Hickman in the four-season TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which premiered in September of 1959.
Dobie Gillis is notable for being “the first prime-time series to consistently privilege teenage characters, activities, and spaces over those associated with family shows.”
It was also known for the unusual character names. Dobie (pronounced doh-bee, rhymes with Toby) had friends with names like:
Maynard (a beatnik played by Bob Denver, who later portrayed Gilligan)
Zelda (a brainiac played by Sheila James Kuehl, sister of Jeri Lou)
Thalia Menninger (a rich girl played by Tuesday Weld)
These “uncommon first names [were] evidently meant to seem vaguely silly in their failure to conform with ’50s norms.”
The show ended up influencing the usage of several baby names. First of all, it was behind the debut of the name Dobie in 1960:
1964: 9 baby boys named Dobie
1962: 6 baby boys named Dobie
1961: 8 baby boys named Dobie
1960: 9 baby boys named Dobie [debut]
The name Thalia also saw a spike in usage in 1960, which makes sense because all but two of the episodes featuring Thalia Menninger were first-season (1959-1960) episodes. Dobie pronounced Thalia’s name thale-ya.
1964: 46 baby girls named Thalia
1963: 42 baby girls named Thalia
1962: 42 baby girls named Thalia
1961: 46 baby girls named Thalia
1960: 90 baby girls named Thalia
1959: 30 baby girls named Thalia
1958: 24 baby girls named Thalia
Finally, the name Zelda saw elevated usage in the early ’60s:
1964: 133 baby girls named Zelda
1963: 171 baby girls named Zelda
1962: 178 baby girls named Zelda
1961: 168 baby girls named Zelda
1960: 136 baby girls named Zelda
1959: 142 baby girls named Zelda
1958: 131 baby girls named Zelda
Fun fact: Zelda — who pursued Dobie as ardently as Dobie pursued all other females — once convinced a girl named Phyllis to break it off with Dobie by warning her that her married name would be “Phyllis Gillis.”
Many of the secondary and single-episode characters had unusual names as well. Here are some examples:
Do you like any of the above Dobie Gillis names? How about the name “Dobie” itself?
Kearney, Mary C. “Teenagers and Television in the United States.” Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television, ed. by Horace Newcomb, 2nd ed., New York: Routledge, 2013, pp. 2276-2281.
Sterritt, David. Mad to be Saved: The Beats, the ’50s, and Film. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.
In Hertfordshire, the top ten baby boy names of 2010 were Jack, Oliver, Daniel, Thomas, Joshua, Alexander, Charlie, Harry, George and Joseph.
The top ten baby girl names were Isabelle, Daisy, Charlotte, Sophie, Sienna, Summer, Megan, Grace, Lucy and Olivia.
Unusual names like Hunni Princess, Blossom Bluebell and Ged Spartacus were also bestowed, but Roger Gagan, Chief Executive of the Watford and West Hertsfordshire Chamber of Commerce, does not approve of names like these:
I really think that in 20 years’ time, when these children are applying for jobs and going for interviews, that some of these names could really count against them.
Unfortunately some of these ludicrous names make people look like a bit of a joke. It could even make a difference to them getting a place at university.
We finished up our Hawaiian vacation with a stop on Maui, and — between the blowhole, the black sand and the banyan tree — I was able to scan (most of) the 201-page Maui phone book for unusual names. Here’s what I found:
Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii — this used to be the actual name of a 9-year-old girl from New Zealand.
She had been so embarrassed by it that she “had refused to tell her friends her name and went simply by “K”.”
Then Judge Rob Murfitt stepped in. While presiding over a custody hearing for the girl, he decided to make her a ward of the court in order to change her name. He wrote in his ruling:
The court is profoundly concerned about the very poor judgment which this child’s parents have shown in choosing this name. It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap, unnecessarily.
Thank you, Judge Murfitt. You did the right thing.
Other baby names Judge Murfitt has seen in the NZ Family Court system include:
Cinderella Beauty Blossom (blocked)
Fat Boy (blocked)
Fish and Chips (twins) (blocked)
Keenan Got Lucy (blocked)
Midnight Chardonnay (allowed)
Number 16 Bus Shelter (allowed)
O.crnia (changed to Oceania)
Sex Fruit (blocked)
Spiral Cicada (blocked)
Twisty Poi (blocked)
Yeah Detroit (blocked)
P.S. Yup, New Zealand is also where 4real‘s name was blocked. (Superman was later approved.)