Spotting Zimbalist on the SSA’s baby name list was a lot like spotting Arbutus: I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it the first time I saw it.
The baby name Zimbalist has only ever made the list twice:
1972: 5 baby boys named Zimbalist
1961: 8 baby boys named Zimbalist [debut]
Where does it come from?
Actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who starred in the popular TV shows 77 Sunset Strip (1958-1964) and The F.B.I. (1965-1974).
The movie By Love Possessed (1961), which featured Zimbalist along with actress Lana Turner, may be what caused that initial 1961 debut. (By Love Possessed, btw, was the first movie shown regularly aboard airplanes. The carrier was TWA, and they began screening movies in-flight for first-class passengers in mid-1961.)
His first name, Efrem, saw increased usage as soon as 77 Sunset Strip started airing:
1962: 55 baby boys named Efrem
1961: 83 baby boys named Efrem
1960: 56 baby boys named Efrem
1959: 85 baby boys named Efrem
1958: 8 baby boys named Efrem
Efrem is a Russian version of the Hebrew name Ephraim, which means “fruitful,” while Zimbalist is a Jewish surname that originally referred to someone who played a tsimbl, a musical instrument in the dulcimer family.
Which do you like better as a first name, Efrem or Zimbalist?
P.S. Kookie was another 77 Sunset Strip-inspired debut.
The seven brothers in the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) are named alphabetically from the Old Testament: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for Frankincense) and Gideon.
A reader named Virginia is expecting a baby in September. For a boy, she’d selected the name Phineas. She liked “that it was unusual without being bizarre,” and that it started with ph. But now she’s not so sure about the name:
All was fine and dandy until I read an article about violence in the Bible. It vaguely mentioned Phineas as a name from the Bible used as a talisman by white supremacists. What!?!
That was a shock to me too. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Phineas Priesthood is “a violent credo of vengeance that has gained some popularity among white supremacists and other extremists in recent years.” I’d never heard of the Phineas Priesthood before–not even when Julia Roberts named her son Phinnaeus a few years ago.
Virginia doesn’t want to give up her favorite name, but she also “can’t live with such an association,” so she was hoping for some name suggestions. Other names she’s considering include Joel and Samuel (for boys) and Sigrid, Phoebe, Elisabeth, and Anne (for girls). All are family names.
First, a few thoughts:
I doubt many people are aware that white supremacists use Phineas as a code word. It’s an odious association, but maybe it’s also obscure enough that it’s not worth worrying about…?
I really like Sigrid and Phoebe–they’re both significant and unusual. Especially Sigrid. (Phoebe is being used more and more every year, so it might not be unusual for long.)
And now, name suggestions. Here are some unusual-but-not-bizarre boy names that I think Virginia might like:
And some girl names:
What other names would you suggest to Virginia? (And, what’s your take on the Phineas dilemma?)
Update: The baby has arrived! Click here to learn the baby’s name.