In October of 1981, NBC began airing a sitcom called Love, Sidney. It was the first show on American TV with a gay lead character (although Sidney’s homosexuality was largely downplayed).
Actors Tony Randall, Swoosie Kurtz and 8-year-old Kaleena Kiff played the three main characters Sidney, Laurie and Patti. Despite the ground-breaking nature of Randall’s character, it was Kiff who made the biggest impression on TV viewers (if you go by the baby name charts, at least).
The baby name Kaleena went from being given to fewer than 5 baby girls in 1980 to being given to dozens, then hundreds, of baby girls over the next few years:
1986: 79 baby girls named Kaleena
1985: 82 baby girls named Kaleena
1984: 101 baby girls named Kaleena
1983: 341 baby girls named Kaleena
1982: 270 baby girls named Kaleena
1981: 41 baby girls named Kaleena [debut]
1980: unlisted (fewer than 5 baby girls)
The name Kalina also got a boost in the early ’80s.
Kaleena was fifth-highest debut of 1981, after Fallon, Toccara, Nastassia and Falon. Sixth through tenth were Yalitza, Natassia, Yuliana, Shiona, and a 5-way tie between Dynasty, Jadyn, Laiza, Shambrica and Tijwana.
What are your thoughts on the name Kaleena?
P.S. A name-related tweet from Kaleena Kiff herself: “Everyone on our set is called Fergus, Angus, or Fraser. I must be shooting in Glasgow. #LegendofBarney” That hashtag refers to the upcoming movie The Legend of Barney Thomson, which is set in Scotland and features a character by the name of Cemolina (played by Emma Thompson).
I’ve already posted a year-by-year list of the top baby name debuts, but I thought it might be fun to look at top debut names decade-by-decade as well.
So let’s start with the ’80s.
Here are all the “100+” debut names of the 1980s. Each went from being given to fewer than 5 babies a year to suddenly being given to more than 100 babies in one particular year. (I’m ignoring the glitch names of ’89.)
Though vast majority of the baby names on the Social Security Administration’s yearly baby name lists are repeats, every list does contain a handful of brand-new names.
Below are the highest-charting debut names for every single year on record, after the first.
Why bother with an analysis like this? Because debut names often have cool stories behind them, and high-hitting debuts are especially likely to have intriguing pop culture explanations. So this is more than a list of names — it’s also a list of stories.
Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!