Independent baby name blog & directory, est. 2006.
How popular is the baby name Deneen in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Deneen and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Deneen.
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While researching the name Deneen, I happened upon a 1997 article from University of Minnesota campus newspaper The Minnesota Daily about hurdler Niles Running Deneen.
Ironically, but his middle name wasn’t inspired by sports:
“My mother had an art professor in college named Orville Running,” Deneen said. “She really admired him and was a very influential person in her experience in art. She wanted to pass that name on, and she gave it to me, not thinking I was going to be a runner or something.”
Do you think the middle name “Running” made it more likely that Niles would become a runner?
According to the state-by-state data, Deneen usage tended to be highest in the most populous states. This isn’t much of a clue, but it does tell us that the influence was national (e.g., movie, music) and not regional (e.g., college sports, local politician).
For a long time my only guess on Deneen was the same guess Hilary Parker made in her poisoned baby names post: musical duo August & Deneen. But their hit single “We Go Together” came out in 1968 — long after the 1964 baby name spike. So August & Deneen clearly isn’t the answer.
About a month ago I tried another Deneen search. This time around I found a recent thread on Deneen at the Baby Name Wizard forum. According to intel gathered by forum members, Deneen could have been popularized by a ’60s commercial for Ivory dishwashing liquid.
At first I wasn’t so sure. The only vintage Ivory commercials I could find online were for Ivory Snow laundry detergent and, while many of these did feature names (e.g., Allison, Betsy, Bonnie, Debbie, Esther, Joy, Kerry, Kimberly, Michelle, Terry) the names were never on-screen. You don’t get a spelling-specific name spike if the influence is audio-only.
Then I noticed, lower down in the thread, that someone included a link to a single Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial from 1962. The spot featured a mother-daughter pair, “Mrs. Bernard Pugar and Dana,” and their names were indeed shown on-screen for several seconds. Now this looked promising.
I’ve since tracked down a similar Ivory commercial featuring “Mrs. Blake Clark” and her daughter Nicky, though Nicky’s name was never shown on-screen. No luck finding a Deneen version yet.
So I’ll just sit tight and hope that, one day, someone uploads the commercial in question and puts this whole Deneen baby name mystery to rest. :)
In the meanwhile, some questions:
If you were watching TV in the ’60s, do you happen recall an Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial featuring the name Deneen? (Long shot, I know.)
What do you think of the name Deneen? Which spelling do you like best?
P.S. Djuna popped up on the baby name charts in 1964 as well. I’m declaring 1964 the year of the mysteriously trendy D-names.
The Social Security Administration’s annual baby name list only includes names given to 5 or more U.S. baby girls (or baby boys) per year.
Most rare names never make the list, but a select group have appeared a single time. I like to call these the one-hit wonder baby names.
One-hit wonders tend to pop up with a relatively low number of babies — 5 or 6 — but a handful are given to dozens of babies…only to disappear again the next year! Intriguing, no?
Below are the highest-charting one-hit wonder names for every year on record before 2013. (We won’t know which 2013 names are one-hit wonders until later lists come out.) The format is: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.”
The Prooffreader list of trendiest baby names was published earlier this month. David analyzed all the names together (his overall top 100 was 80% girl names, 20% boy names). Here are his top 5 for each gender (with placement on the original list in parentheses):
Hilary Parker’s recent post on the 14 most “poisoned” baby names reminded me that I haven’t yet written about the demise of the baby name Hillary. (Or Hilary. Or Chelsea.)
So let’s travel back to 1992 for a minute.
In mid-July, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was selected as the Democratic candidate for the presidency. His wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea were now in the national spotlight.
In early November, Bill managed to beat Republican incumbent George H. W. Bush to become the 42nd president of the United States. Hillary and Chelsea would now stay in the national spotlight.
And in late November, a few weeks after the election, the Miami Herald printed this:
Now that the Clinton women are set to move into the White House, both names are becoming more popular among new parents.
For the first time, Chelsea has cracked the top 10 list of the most popular girl names in Florida. Name expert Leonard R. N. Ashley, a Brooklyn College professor, said he expects Hillary to also catch on.
The popularity of Chelsea, on the rise long before the presidential pre-teen made her Democratic convention appearance, is likely to get a boost from the first family pedigree, Ashley said.
The “name expert” got it wrong, of course.
Hillary did not catch on. Nor did Chelsea. Both names had been on the rise, but usage dropped significantly after 1992.
Here are the spikes, both graphically and numerically:
The Baby Name Hillary
1994: 408 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 566th]
1993: 1,064 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 261st]
1992: 2,522 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 132nd]
1991: 1,789 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 166th]
1990: 1,523 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 192nd]
That’s a 58% drop from 1992 to 1993. Hillary fell so low that it got pushed out of the top 1,000 entirely for two years (2002 and 2003).
The Baby Name Hilary
1994: 145 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 1,208th]
1993: 343 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 651st]
1992: 1,171 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 233rd]
1991: 1,148 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 243rd]
1990: 1,216 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 232nd]
A 71% drop from 1992 to 1993. Hilary was out of the top 1,000 by 1994 and hasn’t been back since. (Hilary Parker says the name Hilary is “clearly the most poisoned.”)
The Baby Name Chelsea
1994: 7,713 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 38th]
1993: 11,288 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 25th]
1992: 16,176 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 15th]
1991: 13,508 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 18th]
1990: 12,782 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 24th]
The drop here isn’t as dramatic — just 30% — but Chelsea was out of the top 100 by 1999. It currently ranks 222nd.
Why did the name Hillary slip after Hillary Clinton became a fixture in the White House?
Because she violated gender norms — that’s my guess.
Hillary Clinton was a new kind of First Lady. She was a lawyer, a businesswoman, a scholar and an activist. She was the first First Lady with an earned (vs. honorary) post-graduate degree, and the first to have her own professional career.
But, instead of being praised for her intelligence and ambition, she was criticized for it.
Just two months after the inauguration, Anna Quindlen of the New York Times made note of the double standard:
Maybe some of our daughters took notice of how Hillary Clinton was seen as abrasive, power-hungry and unfeminine when to some of us she seemed merely smart, outspoken and hard-working. Maybe they saw the masquerade and recognized intuitively the age-old message about how much more attractive women are when they are domestic, soft, contented, the message aimed over the years at Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt and many, many others.
To expectant parents, it didn’t matter that Hillary Clinton was smart and successful. They began avoiding the name Hillary in 1993 because the First Lady — the most high-profile Hillary in the nation — was making her name seem “unfeminine.”