How popular is the baby name Deborah in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Deborah.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Deborah


Posts that Mention the Name Deborah

Baby Names from “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” Pageant

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World Pageant, 1984

In January of 1984, a one-of-a-kind beauty pageant called “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was broadcast live on television from Oahu, Hawaii.

What made it unique? The fact that viewers at home could participate in picking the winner!

Back in 1984, this was a novel idea — so novel that, even though creator Dick Clark had come up with the concept back in the late ’60s, he wasn’t able to garner any interest in it until decades later.

The show was hosted by Jayne Kennedy and David Hasselhoff. In fact, the Hoff was featured in the TV commercial for the pageant:

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World tv commercial, David Hasselhoff

Twenty-one young women from around the globe were chosen as contestants. Here are their names and the regions they represented (in order of introduction):

  • United States: Susanne Ashley Trimble
  • India: Safira Afzaal
  • Great Britain: Debi Brett
  • Japan: Yoko Ami
  • Swaziland: Zanella Tutu
  • Denmark: Lene Nyholm Jensen
  • Spain: Maria Jose Bustos
  • Italy: Antonia Dell’Atte
  • Brazil: Carmen Carolina Baldelli
  • Germany: Birgit Wiemann
  • Saipan: Zelma Tomokane
  • Puerto Rico: Deborah Carthy Deu
  • The Philippines: Yoraidyl (YOR-ah-dil) Diaz Stone
  • Canada: Elizabeth Stimson
  • Mexico: Jaqueline De La Vega Pineda
  • Singapore: Julie Nickson
  • Morocco: Nadia Bahy
  • France: Patricia Talazac
  • Hong Kong: Tracy Chan
  • Australia: Melanie Ivanhoe
  • Israel: Yarden Levinson

I want to draw your attention to two of these contestants, Safira Afzaal and Yarden Levinson, because the rare names Safira and Yarden both debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1984 specifically:

Safira usageYarden usage
1986unlistedunlisted
1985unlistedunlisted
198418 baby girls6 baby girls
1983unlistedunlisted
1982unlistedunlisted

(Safira may be based on the Islamic name Safeerah, meaning “messenger”; Yarden, the Hebrew name of the Jordan River, is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “descend” or “flow down.”)

Here’s how these two contestants looked during the introductions…

Safira:

Safira Afzal, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

Yarden:

Yarden Levinson, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

Over the course of the two-hour program, the field of contestants was reduced three times: from 21 to 10 (by a panel of judges), from 10 to 3 (again by the judges), and finally from 3 to 1 (by popular vote).

Both Safira and Yarden survived the first cut. The second portion of the show featured the ten remaining women modeling in swimsuits, modeling in evening gowns, and, rather unusually, doing aerobic exercise. (How ’80s is that?)

Here’s Safira doing aerobics:

Safira Afzal, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

And here’s Yarden:

Yarden Levinson, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

Before the three finalists were announced, David Hasselhoff explained that each of the three would be assigned a specific “1-900” phone number.

To cast a vote for your favorite girl, you simply dial her phone number. It’s that easy. Your vote will automatically be registered in the phone company’s computer in Kansas City, Missouri, and there’ll be a telephone charge of 50 cents. The total number of calls received at the end of the ten-minute period by the phone company’s computer in Kansas City will be transmitted to us, five thousand miles away, in Hawaii, and we will know our winner.

The three finalists? Debi, Jaqueline, and Yarden. (Not Safira, sadly.)

Here’s Yarden, right after being named a finalist:

Yarden Levinson, finalist in The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

During the next ten minutes, viewers saw (among other things) clips of the finalists talking about themselves. Yarden mentioned that, in Israel, every girl goes into the military and “learns how to fight,” and that she “served in a rescue unit in the Air Force.” She also said:

I come to the competition and they look at me and they say, ‘You’re Israeli? You’re blonde, I mean, how can that be?’

Alas, Yarden finished in third place with just 17.48% of the vote.

The winner was Debi Brett, the Brit, with 53.46% of the vote. (She received over $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a 30-day round-the-world trip, a full-length mink coat, a grand piano, a diamond ring, a Dodge 600 convertible, and a Ricoh 35mm camera.)

So, neither Safira nor Yarden won the pageant. But their names live on the U.S. baby name data, which is arguably far cooler. :)

I’m not sure what became of Yarden after the pageant, but I can tell you a bit about Safira (whose last name is actually spelled Afzal). She was born in Pakistan, raised in England, and went on to earn a law degree and become a barrister.

(Other post-pageant careers: Debi became photographer; Antonia became a model/TV personality; Deborah won Miss Universe 1985 and became an actress/TV personality; “Jaqueline” (actually spelled Jacqueline) became a model/TV personality; and “Julie” (Julia) became an actress — in fact, she played the female lead in the second Rambo movie.)

So what are your thoughts on the names Safira and Yarden? Which one would you be more likely to use for a baby girl?

I'd go with...

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Sources:

Babies Named for Sailing Ships (L)

The people below were born aboard — and named after! — ships with L-names…

  • La Hogue:
    • George La Hogue Douglas, born in 1860
    • Emily Goddard La Hogue Willingale, born in 1869
    • Thomas La Hogue Law, born in 1872
    • Jane La Hogue Smith, born in 1874
    • Lizzie La Hogue Grestidge, born in 1874
    • Violet La Hogue Duffield, born in 1874
    • Olive Lizzie La Houge Stayte, born in 1883
    • Thomas James La Hogue Goodman, born in 1883
  • Lady Jocelyn:
    • Ada Lady Jocelyn Goodger, born in 1872
    • Elizabeth Jocelyn Caswell, born in 1874
    • Alfred Jocelyn Ashford Vaughan, born in 1874
    • George Jocelyn Ward, born in 1875
    • George Jenkins Jocelyn Lennox, born in 1875
    • Mary Ann Jenkins Jocelyn Wilcocks, born in 1875
    • Ann Jenkins Jocelyn Plutom, born in 1875
    • James Jane Jocelyn Boughton, born in 1876
    • R. R. Jocelyn Pascol, born in 1876
    • John William Jocelyn Hickman, born in 1876
    • Thomas Jocelyn Williams, born in 1876
    • Maria Jocelyn Louring, born in 1876
    • Emily Jane Jocelyn Inge, born in 1877
    • Octavius Jocelyn Carr, born in 1880
    • Jocelyn Boorman Trigg, born in 1880
    • Agnes Jocelyn Smith, born in 1880
    • Alice Jocelyn Edwards, born in 1881
    • Jocelyn Jenkins Swarbrick, born in 1881
    • Beatrice Jocelyn Isaac, born in 1883
    • Mary Jocelyn Wrigley, born in 1883
    • Beatrice Jocelyn Isaac, born in 1883
  • Lady Melville:
    • Margaret Evelyn Melville Wiltshire, born in 1870
  • Lady Wodehouse:
    • Thomas Wodehouse Hayden, born in 1880
  • Lake Winnipeg:
    • Ellen Winnipeg Raymond, born in 1879
  • Leicester:
    • Leicester Jane Smith, born in 1876
    • Annie Rebecca Leicester Drewery, born in 1877
  • Leitrim:
    • Lizzie Leitrim Jones, born in 1885
  • Liguria:
    • Sidney Liguria Halcombe, born in 1882
    • Adelaide Liguria Gledhill, born in 1890
  • Lincolnshire:
    • Agnes Victoria Lincolnshire Longbottom, born in 1873
    • Ellen Maud Lincolnshire Murdock, born in 1874
  • Lismore:
    • Sydney Lismore Smith, born in 1888
  • Loch Eck:
    • Agnes Loch Eck Thomson, born in 1882
  • Lochee:
    • Lizzie Lochee Stead, born in 1883
    • Alice Lochee Strafford, born in 1883
    • James Lochee Barker, born in 1883
  • Lord Clive:
    • Samuel Clive Greenwood, born in 1887
    • Rakel Clive Anderson, born in 1888
    • Clive Nesbitt, born in 1889
  • Lord Gough:
    • Deborah Lordine Gough Gardarwkn, born in 1882
    • Lord Gough Fritz Jagodizinski, born in 1886
    • James Gough Gay, born in 1887
    • Jemima Gough Mullins, born in 1887
  • Lord Raglan:
    • Oliver Raglan Montague Campbell, born in 1886
  • Lord Rannoch:
    • William Rannoch McDonald Johnston, born in 1886
  • Lucibelle:
    • Lucibelle Taylor, born in 1865

Do you think any of the ship names above work particularly well as human names?

Source: FamilySearch.org

Name Quotes #92: Jock, Emmeline, Unity

About the inclusion of the name Emmeline in the Fleetwood Mac song “Seven Wonders” [vid], from the book Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams and Rumours (2014) by Zoë Howe:

After hearing [songwriter Sandy] Stewart sing the song first, Stevie misunderstood some of the words, hence the line ‘All the way down to Emmeline’, which has mystified fans for years. The original line was ‘All the way down you held the line’, but the use of a name like ‘Emmeline’ is typical for Stevie, so accustomed are we to hearing her throw in women’s names — ‘Sara’, ‘Lily’ — and thus we look for the clues she scatters in her songs.

[The line sounds more like “on the way down to Emmeline” to me, but it’s hard to tell. It’s also hard to tell if the song, which saw peak popularity in mid-1987, gave a boost to the baby name Emmeline that year — what do you think?]

Speaking of Fleetwood Mac…a quote from an interview with Christine McVie, née Perfect, in The Guardian:

Hi, Christine. What was it like growing up with the surname Perfect?

It was difficult. Teachers would say: “I hope you live up to your name, Christine.” So, yes, it was tough. I used to joke that I was perfect until I married John.

From an article about names in Iceland:

After the settlers had arrived [in Iceland] new names started popping up. Those were often simply made up from those pre-existing, with slight alterations such as Álfheiður (meaning bright like an elf) or Ásdís (a divine fairy).

[…]

Then there were other inspirational factors such as the landscape. The name Snælaug (snow-pool) didn’t appear until about 1155. Her mother’s name was Geirlaug so it is obvious where the extension came from and the pre-fix. Well, that’s also quite overt. There is no shortage of snow or hot pools in Iceland. And, actually, they go together perfectly!

Speaking of names in Iceland…an excerpt from a 2019 article about Icelandic names no longer being gendered:

Icelandic given names will no longer be differentiated as being “male” or “female” in the national naming registry, RÚV reports. This means that anyone will be able to take any name in the registry, irrespective of gender, and marks a major change in Icelandic naming conventions.

About the various marmalade cats named “Jock” at Winston Churchill’s country estate (Chartwell), from a 2008 article about Churchill’s feline menagerie:

For Sir Winston’s 88th birthday in November 1962, Sir John Colville gave him a ginger cat with a white chest and paws. Named “Jock,” the cat became a favorite, often found on Churchill’s knee. Churchill took Jock to his London home at Hyde Park Gate when he traveled there from Chartwell.

[…]

“After Sir Winston’s death Jock lived on at Chartwell, where he had the run of the house,” a National Trust spokesman said after the cat died at the age of 13 in January 1975. “He would spread out in front of the fire, just as he did when Sir Winston was alive. The public loved him.”

In accord with the family’s wish, a new marmalade cat, Jock II, replaced the original, and the National Trust has ensured that the tradition continues. The incumbent today is Jock IV.

[Actually, as of July 2020, it’s Jock VII.]

From a review of the book The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters (2007) by Ben Macintyre:

The collected letters (superbly edited by Diana’s daughter-in-law, Charlotte Mosley) are pure gold. In place of the caricatures – Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur – they provide the warp and weft of daily life as only letters can.

What turned Sway into a baby name?

sway, gone in 60 seconds, movie, character
Angelina Jolie as Sara “Sway” Wayland

The word Sway popped up for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 2001:

  • 2003: 14 baby girls and 5 baby boys named Sway
  • 2002: 12 baby girls named Sway
  • 2001: 8 baby girls named Sway [debut]
  • 2000: unlisted
  • 1999: unlisted

For a long time I assumed the main influence was MTV personality Sway Calloway. But, while I still think Sway had an influence on male usage, I’ve since discovered a much better explanation for the 2001 debut as a female name.

One of the main characters in the 2000 car heist film Gone in 60 Seconds was mechanic-slash-bartender Sara “Sway” Wayland (played by Angelina Jolie). She was the love interest of protagonist Randall “Memphis” Raines (played by Nicolas Cage), who was tasked with stealing 50 specific, expensive cars inside of 72 hours.

The film didn’t get great reviews, but I do remember appreciating the fact that each of the 50 cars was assigned a feminine code-name:

Mary, Barbara, Lindsey, Laura, Alma, Madeline, Patricia, Carol, Daniela, Stefanie, Erin, Pamela, Olga, Anne, Kate, Vanessa, Denise, Diane, Lisa, Nadine, Angelina, Rose, Susan, Tracey, Rachel, Bernadene, Deborah, Stacey, Josephine, Hillary, Kimberley, Renee, Dorothy, Donna, Samantha, Ellen, Gabriela, Shannon, Jessica, Sharon, Tina, Marsha, Natalie, Virginia, Tanya, Grace, Ashley, Cathy, Lynn, Eleanor

So, how do you feel about the name Sway? If you were having a baby girl, would you be more likely to name her something modern, like Sway, or something traditional, like Sara or Susan?

Sources: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia, Talk:Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia

Name Quotes #83: Bek, Frankie, Monarch

From article in which musician Beck talks about his first name:

He was born on July 8, 1970, as Bek David Campbell. He and his brother later took their mother’s maiden name, Hansen, and Beck added the “c” to his first name, with the hope that it might help people pronounce it properly. “I still got Brock, Breck, Beak,” he said. “I remember leaving a meeting with some record executives, and one said, ‘Very nice to meet you, Bic.'”

From Orlando Bloom’s Instagram post about fixing the Morse Code spelling of his son’s name (Flynn) in his forearm tattoo:

••-••-••-•—•-• finally dot it right! How do you make a mistake like that?

From an article about the naming of lesbian and bisexual characters:

The nice thing about having an internal database of LGBTQ+ women and non-binary television characters is that you can get really, truly obsessive about various patterns in the data. Like, for example, what queer characters are often named.

[According to the article, some of the top names for queer female TV characters are Nicole/Nikki/Nico, Franky/Frankie, Alex, and Susan. “Some minor abundances: Debs, Deborahs and Debbies. Quite a few more-than-expected Ginas, Naomis and, most oddly, Ruby.” “We are, however, suspiciously low on Marys.”]

Speaking of Frankie…from an article about the popularity of the name Frankie in Australia:

Obviously, there’s a lot of love for Frankie right now. But the interesting thing is that Australian parents love Frankie a lot more than anyone else. Frankie has been among the top 50 girls’ names in Australia for the past couple of years, while not even making the top 100 in either the UK or the US.

From a video in which Emma Thompson talks about “posh” English slang [vid]:

“Pip pip” is “bye-bye.” […] Like, for instance, when I was born, yonks ago, on the BBC, on the world service, there would be the pip, pip, pip. So that’s the “pips.” And you say pip, pip. And I was known as “pip Emma” because I was born as the pips were sounding.

[The pips were used to mark the start of each hour. “Pip Emma” is also the way to say “p.m.” in RFC WWI signalese. I’m not sure if Emma Thompson was likewise born in the afternoon/evening, though.]

From an article about the bear on the California state flag:

[William Randolph] Hearst put the bear on display [in 1889] in Golden Gate Park and named him Monarch. At more than 1,200 pounds, Monarch was the largest bear ever held captive.

[…]

Taking a cue from the Sonoma revolt in 1846 [after which a flag featuring a bear was created to represent the captured region], the state again decided to make the California Grizzly the flag’s focal point. Only this time they wanted a bear that actually looked like a bear.

Illustrators used the recently deceased Monarch as the model for the bear on our state flag.

[Newspaper magnate Hearst took the name “Monarch” from the tagline of the San Francisco Examiner, the “Monarch of the Dailies.”]