Once the SSA releases the 2019 baby name data, we’ll know just how high the name Eilish — an anglicized form of Eilís, the Irish Gaelic form of Elizabeth or Alice — climbed during Billie Eilish’s breakout year.
While we wait, though, we can go back in time to learn why the Irish name Eilish saw its strongest usage in the U.S. in the mid-1990s.
The year Eilish debuted in the data, 1977, it was given to a mere five babies. The year it reappeared, 1993, it was given to nearly two dozen babies. (The same year, we see the reappearance of Ailish and the debut of one-hit wonderIlish.) And when Eilish peaked in usage three years later, the number had climbed to nearly three dozen.
1997: 27 baby girls named Eilish
1996: 35 baby girls named Eilish [peak]
1995: 17 baby girls named Eilish
1994: 14 baby girls named Eilish
1993: 23 baby girls named Eilish
So what brought Eilish back?
Eilish Holton, a conjoined twin (along with her sister Katie) who was born in County Kildare, Ireland, in August of 1988. The pair were “joined from shoulder to hip, with four arms and two shared legs. Each had her own heart and spinal column but shared one pelvis, one large bowel, one bladder and one kidney.” Eilish was on the right-hand side, Katie on the left-hand side.
The girls came to the attention of Americans thanks to the British TV documentary Katie and Eilish (1992), which aired in the U.S. in May of 1993.
The Peabody Award-winning documentary followed the 3-year-old twins over the twelve months leading up to their 15-hour separation surgery, which took place in London in April of 1992. The film concluded after the operation had taken place and Katie had passed away (due to heart failure, just days after the separation) leaving Eilish as the sole surviving twin.
The documentary’s follow-up, Eilish: Life Without Katie (1995), which aired in the U.S. in July of 1996, is what pushed the name to peak usage three years later.
The second film followed 6-year-old Eilish, who was now getting around with the help of a prosthetic leg (dubbed “Katie,” poignantly). Unlike the first film, though, this one wasn’t well-received by reviewers; one described it as “maddeningly unchallenging, uninformative and undemanding.”
What are your thoughts on the baby name Eilish? Would you use it?
So far we’ve looked at baby names associated with the game shows What’s My Line?, Card Sharks, and Press Your Luck, so today let’s check out names given a boost by Tattletales, which originally aired from 1974 to 1978.
Tattletales featured three celebrity couples competing against each another for a full week, which is notable. The couples were split up, and either the men or the women were asked a question — often a provocative one — while their partners were offstage. The partners were then brought in via TV camera and asked the same question. Each couple’s objective was to come up with as many matching answers as possible.
As one source put it: “Famous celebrities revealing their intimate secrets on national television made Tattletales a success.” And with all those people watching, it’s not surprising that the show had an influence on baby names…
Dareth Dareth Rich and her husband, actor Anthony Newley, were on 10 episodes in 1975, starting in May. The name Dareth debuted in the baby data the same year.
Chevi Chevi Colton and her husband, actor Joe Silver, were on 5 episodes in November of 1975. The name Chevi debuted in the data the same year.
Scoey Actor Scoey (SKOH-ee) Mitchell and his wife Claire Thomas were on the show dozens of times, including 15 episodes in 1974, starting in June. Mitchell had been appearing elsewhere on TV since the late ’60s, but the name Scoey didn’t debut in the data until 1974. (One source noted that “Scoey” was short for “Roscoe.”)
Bernnadette Actress BernNadette Stanis and her then-husband Tom Fauntleroy were on 5 episodes in November of 1975 (the week before Chevi, in fact). Stanis had been playing the role of Thelma on Good Times since early 1974, but the name Bernnadette didn’t debut in the data until 1976.
I also think there are connections between the appearances of Altovise Davis (wife of singer Sammy Davis Jr.), Nalani Kele (wife of comedian Shecky Greene), Reiko Douglas (wife of comedy writer Jack Douglas), and Tiana Alexandra (wife of screenwriter Stirling Silliphant) and the respective rises in usage of Altovise, Nalani, Reiko, and Tiana in the mid-’70s.
Speaking of rises…
The show was rebooted in the early ’80s, and it looks like one of those ’80s contestants triggered that steep rise in usage of the name Jere in 1982:
1984: 18 baby girls named Jere
1983: 33 baby girls named Jere
1982: 66 baby girls named Jere [peak]
1981: 6 baby girls named Jere
1980: 8 baby girls named Jere
In February of 1982, actress Jerelyn “Jere” Fields appeared on Tattletales with actor/comedian Jimmie Walker (who’d played Thelma’s brother J.J. on Good Times). They weren’t romantically involved — just paired up for the show — but their appearance together sparked rumors that they were dating.
…So which game show should I tackle next? Suggestions welcome!
Source: Baber, David. Television Game Show Hosts. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008.
Carmelita Carmelita Geraghty was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1930s. She was born in Indiana in 1901. Carmelita was also a character name in multiple films, including Carmelita’s Revenge (1914) and The Magnificent Fraud (1939).
Carmencita Carmencita was the dancer who appeared in the short film Carmencita (1894). Carmencita was also a character name in multiple films, including Man from God’s Country (1924) and Adventurous Knights (1935).
Caryl Caryl Lincoln was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1960s. She was born in California in 1903. Caryl was also a character name in multiple films, including Caryl of the Mountains (1914) and Fighting Destiny (1919).
Dale Dale Fuller was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in California in 1885. Her birth name was Marie Dale Phillipps. Dale was also a character name in multiple films, including Top Hat (1935) and King of Alcatraz (1938).
Derelys Derelys Perdue was an actress who appeared in films in the 1920s. She was born in Missouri in 1902. Her birth name was Geraldine Perdue. Derelys was also a character played by actress Lilyan Tashman in the film Take Me Home (1928).
Usage of the baby name Derelys (which debuted in the data in 1924).
Deria Deria was a character played by actress Julia Dean in the film Experiment Perilous (1944).
Despina Despina was the 114-year-old woman featured in the short documentary The Weavers (1905), believed to be the first motion picture shot in the Balkans. (There’s no proof of Despina’s year of birth, but if she really was 114 years old, then she’s the earliest-born person ever filmed.)
Dolly Dolly Larkin was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in New York in 1889. Her birth name was Margaret Larkin. Dolly was also a character played by actress Cleo Madison in the short film The Ring of Destiny (1915).
Dolores Dolores del Rio was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1970s. She was born in Mexico in 1904. Dolores Moran was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1950s. She was born in California in 1926. Dolores was also a character played by actress Hedy Lamarr in the film Tortilla Flat (1942).
Dolorita Dolorita was a dancer who appeared in films in the 1890s and 1900s. Her first film, The Dolorita Passion Dance (1897), was the first motion picture to be banned in the United States. (It was banned in Atlantic City specifically.)
Domini Domini was a character played by various actresses (such as Helen Ware and Marlene Dietrich) in various movies called The Garden of Allah, all based on the 1904 novel of the same name by Robert Smythe Hichens.
Donia Donia Bussey was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1950s. She was born in Ohio in 1899. Donia was also a character played by actress Edith Storey in the short film The Chains of an Oath (1913).
Dorinda Dorinda Clifton was an actress who appeared in films in the 1940s and 1950s. She was born in California in 1928. Dorinda was also a character name in multiple films, including Rosemary, That’s for Remembrance (1914) and The Farmer’s Daughter (1940).
Dorothea Dorothea Kent was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. She was born in Missouri in 1916. Dorothea was also a character name in multiple films, including The Heart of a Child (1915) and Broken in the Wars (1919).