When I think of the name Billie Jean, I think of the Michael Jackson song. Next, I think of the tennis player.
But the name Billiejean first appeared in the U.S. baby name data way back in 1962, decades before the song, and years before the tennis player was at the height of her fame.
1962: 5 baby girls named Billie Jean
My guess on this one? Country singer Billie Jean Horton.
Today she’s best remembered for her relationships with various country singers: Faron Young, Hank Williams (married 1952-1953), Johnny Horton (married 1953-1960), and Johnny Cash.
But she was a recording artist in her own right, and her most successful single, “Ocean Of Tears,” peaked at #29 on the country chart in August of 1961. The next year, for one year only, Billiejean popped up in the data.
The name didn’t return until 1973, when tennis player Billie Jean King defeated male player Bobby Riggs in tennis’s most famous “Battle of the Sexes” match. This time it stuck around until the late ’70s.
It emerged a third time with the help of Michael Jackson, whose song “Billie Jean” was the #1 song in the nation for seven weeks straight in March and April of 1983.
What are your thoughts on the name Billie Jean? What’s your strongest association with the name?
According to National Records of Scotland (NRS), the most popular baby names in the country in 2019 were Olivia and Jack.
Here are Scotland’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2019:
Olivia, 394 baby girls
Jack, 449 baby boys
In girls’ top 10, Freya and Charlotte replace Jessica (now 11th) and Aria (now 15th).
In the boys’ top 10, Charlie and Alfie replace Alexander (now 11th) and Logan (now 13th). Charlie’s rise was significant; it shot up to 4th from 13th the year before.
The NRS press release mentioned that the popular British crime drama Peaky Blinders has given a boost to the baby names Cillian, Polly and Chester. (Polly and Chester are characters in the show; Cillian refers to star Cillian Murphy.) It also noted that Ezra has become more popular thanks to English singer/songwriter George Ezra.
Of the nearly 50,000 babies born in Scotland last year, more than 5,000 — over 10% — were given a one-of-a-kind first name. Here are some of the names bestowed just once in Scotland in 2019:
Tiffany Towers, a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Beverly Hills, said she understands why parents may be agreeable to allowing their children to choose or change their names so readily.
It can be either an attempt to empower their children or to avoid the pressure of assigning a name to their offspring, Dr. Towers said. Perhaps the parents don’t want to feel responsible for their child being bullied for having a weird or old-fashioned name. Or maybe they believe that their child’s future will be shaped by this initial identity of a name (a name that the child didn’t request), and they fear that their child will resent them or feel oppressed by their name.
By the turn of the century, the Bob-to-Rob transition had been essentially complete. No Major Leaguer has gone by Bob since journeyman reliever Bob Howry retired in 2010. There are dozens of Robs, Robbys and Bobbys currently in the Minors working their way up the ladder, but no Bobs to be found.
[E]xperts say consulting social media when naming your child — be it asking others about a name on Facebook, or using social media handles to inform a name — can be smart. “With the goal of not having your child get lost in the social shuffle and losing opportunities, it may be best to take a proactive social branding strategy or ‘self insurance’ from the very start of their life,” says Robb Hecht, an adjunct professor of marketing at Baruch College in New York City.
Others disagree: Lots of people have a social media handle that’s different from their name, so that shouldn’t be a factor in naming your child, says Kim Randall, the owner of KiMedia Strategies. Adds Kent Lewis, the president and founder of marketing firm Anvil: “A [social media] handle can be changed or modified over time, and typically isn’t as important as the content and visibility of the profile.”
How much free advertising has Starbucks got from the incorrect (and correct) spelling of their baristas? […] If we are to accept that people sharing images (especially with a brand name or @ mention) is the most valuable form of “free advertising” for Starbucks on social, the whole name spelling trend is working harder than the general conversation to generate it. […] If this is all a scheme by Starbucks to get free advertising on social media, it’s a very good one indeed.
“(It’s) kind of weird sometimes when people come right up to me and say ‘Alexa, what’s the best restaurant in …’ or ‘Alexa, how do I get to …’ and they’re joking of course, but initially you’re kind of taken aback a bit that people are using it in that way,” [Alexa] Gorenko said.
As for Gorenko, she said the newfound prominence of her name has actually helped her embrace it.
“It kind of brought the name out to me, because there aren’t very many people named Alexa and now you hear it all the time,” she said.
The couple is so concerned that they wrote to Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, and proposed a different name to the popular device. Lew Klein said they did hear back.
Amazon explained to them that the product was named after the famous Library of Alexandria that “stored the knowledge of the ancient world.” While the message said the suggestion would be passed along, Amazon has no plans on changing the name anytime soon.
(This reminds me of the time when people named Zoe in France got angry about the name of the Renault Zoe.)
This might be my favorite photo on the entire internet.
The shot, which depicts a playful little Texas boy pretending to ride a dead catfish on someone’s front porch, was taken by photographer Neal Douglass in April of 1941.
The Portal to Texas History calls it “Mrs. Bill Wright; Boy Riding Catfish.” So I’m guessing that “Mrs. Bill Wright” was the boy’s mother. But there’s no other identifying information, so I don’t know the boy’s name, nor do I have any way of tracking it down.
So let’s turn this into a name game!
First, let’s suppose our little catfish-rider was not named “Bill” (or “William,” or “Willie,” etc.) after his father. With that rule in place, here are the questions:
What do you think Mrs. Bill Wright named her son?
What would you have named him?
Just for reference, popular names for Texas newborns in the late ’30s included:
For extra credit, what do you think the boy named his catfish? And, what would you have named his catfish? ;)