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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Gene

Number of Babies Named Gene

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Gene

Name Quotes for the Weekend #39

Quote from Uzo Aduba's mother on the name Uzoamaka

From “The Eyes Have It,” an interview with Orange Is the New Black actress Uzoamaka “Uzo” Aduba, who was asked whether she ever considered changing her name:

When I started as an actor? No, and I’ll tell you why. I had already gone through that. My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

(There’s a Tchaikovsky in Brazil.)

From an article about a woman named Cinderella in the Irish Independent:

“I’d been living as Eva my whole life until I found out my name was Evangeline Cinderella. Of course this was the most amazing news as a seven year old girl and unfortunately I told everybody. I’ve paid for it ever since. People have always remembered,” she said.

From the essay “The name shame of Axl, Anakin, Arya…” by Gene Weingarten (via Name News):

To consult this list [the SSA’s Change in Popularity list] is to dip your toe into the fetid waters of cheesy celebrity worship. Consider this: One of the skyrocketing names is … “Anakin.” Yes, people are giving their baby boys a name invented specifically to sound non-human, for a character in another galaxy far, far away, one who grows up to become Darth Vader, an evil overlord who wants to enslave the universe. (There have been plenty of Darths, too.)

(Here’s more on Darth.)

From the video “Instrument: Celeste” featuring keyboardist Elizabeth Burley of the Philharmonia Orchestra of London:

I’ve got a celeste here today to show you how that works. As you’ll see it looks a little bit like an upright piano, but it’s actually a lot different. Although it’s operated by a keyboard, inside, instead of strings, it’s a set of…metal chime bars. They’re suspended over wooden resonating boxes, and when I press a key, a hammer hits the chime bar to make the sound, like on a piano the hammer would hit the string. The name celeste…it’s a French name meaning “heavenly,” and it does make a very heavenly sound, as you’ll hear.

From a blog post about electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire at Open Culture:

With her buttoned-up style, work with the UN, and name like a plucky character in a certain English wizard series, Delia Derbyshire may not seem a likely pioneer of experimental electronic music.

From the blog post “What’s in a Name?” by theology professor/social activist Rev. Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre:

Today, no one calls me Brother Mike. Nonetheless, if the first act of liberation is self naming, why do I still insist on spelling my surname the way those who had power over me taught me? I have no doubt the reader is probably wondering what’s the big deal? Just spell my name correctly. What they fail to recognize is the power of the colonizing process, and the difficulty to reclaim identity. So as I tag my name to my liberationist works I am reminded with each upper case letter how far I still need to go to claim my own liberation. The struggle, la lucha, continues, even in the letters of my name.

From the article “What Your Conference Room Names Say About Your Company Culture” by Ekaterina Walter:

At Sprinklr, our conference rooms are named after the company’s values. Honesty, Passion, Perseverance, Humility, Character, Courage, and Integrity are just some of the names you will encounter. My personal favorites are Awesomeness and 1+1=3. When I asked our founder, Ragy Thomas, why the leadership team chose to name conference rooms in this way, he said: “It would be kind of hard to be arrogant in a room named Humility, wouldn’t it? Or give up in a room named Perseverance, don’t you think?”

From the New York Times article “Jens and Vita, but Molli? Danes Favor Common Names” (2004) about Denmark’s Law on Personal Names, which was “initially designed to bring order to surnames”:

Then in the 1960’s, a furor erupted over the first name Tessa, which resembled tisse, which means to urinate in Danish. Distressed over the lack of direction in the law, the Danish government expanded the statute to grapple with first names. Now the law is as long as an average-size book.

Among the baby names rejected in Denmark: Anus, Pluto, and Monkey. Among those accepted: Leica, Benji, Jiminico, and Fee.

Want more quotes? Here’s the name quotes category.

It’s Time for More Cowbell

will ferrell, SNL, more cowbell
Will Ferrell as cowbell player “Gene Frenkle” on SNL, 4/8/00

You probably already know this, but today marks the 16th anniversary of the cowbell-centric Saturday Night Live sketch “Behind the Music: Blue Öyster Cult.”

So if you’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell, I think I can help you out.

Because today I’ve got two people who were apparently named cowbell.

First up is CowBelle Debradt. In 1940 she was 39 years old and living in Ohio with her husband and four sons. She was originally from Pennsylvania.

Cow Belle Debradt, U.S. Census 1940

Second we have CowBelle M. Willis. In 1940 she was 12 years old and living in Montana with her parents and sister.

Cowbelle Willis, U.S. Census 1940

I’ve spotted other Cowbell(e)s as well, but don’t yet have screenshots of the source documents as proof, so I’ll leave them off the list for now.

What are your thoughts on Cowbelle as a modern female name? Is it ridiculous, or could it be some intentionally ironic hipster alternative to -belle names like Annabelle and Isabelle?

Source: 1940 U.S. Census

The Baby Name Ramona

Ramona, movie
Dolores del Rio as Ramona
in Ramona (1928)
Actress Dolores del Rio was the star of not one but two silent films with theme songs that influenced the baby name charts.

In 1926 she played Charmaine in What Price Glory?, and two years later she played the titular character in Ramona, which was based on the book Ramona (1884) by Helen Hunt Jackson.

The book is a tragic romance set in mid-19th century Southern California, and the protagonists are Ramona, a mixed-race Scottish–Native American orphan, and her lover Alessandro.

Like Trilby a decade later, Ramona was a bestseller that inspired many namesakes: schools, streets, freeways, even towns (such as Ramona, California). The number of human namesakes is harder to gauge, though the U.S. Census of 1900 indicates that there was a moderate increase in the number Ramonas in 1884.

Still, the book’s impact on baby names can’t compare to the impact of its most successful film adaptation, Ramona (1928)…thanks in large part to the music.

The song “Ramona” was commissioned for the film in 1927, and released later that year — long before the film came out in May of 1928, interestingly. It was a big hit with more than two million copies sold and two different versions reaching #1 on the Billboard charts in 1928: first the Paul Whiteman version for 3 weeks, then the Gene Austin version for 8 more weeks.

This song, the first to borrow a film’s title, became the most successful movie theme song of the decade, and greatly enhanced the success of the film. Its popularity gave Hollywood producers much food for thought about how to publicize movies.

Usage of the baby name Ramona, already on the rise in the late 1920s, increased so much in 1928 that the name nearly reached the top 100:

  • 1931: 1,130 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 164th]
  • 1930: 1,410 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 149th]
  • 1929: 2,036 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 120th]
  • 1928: 2,237 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 117th]
  • 1927: 567 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 277th]
  • 1926: 467 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 307th]
  • 1925: 450 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 313th]

So where does the name Ramona come from?

Ramona and its masculine form, Ramón, are the Spanish versions of Raymond, which is ultimately based on the Germanic words ragin, meaning “advice, decision, counsel,” and mund, meaning “protection.”

Do you like the name Ramona? Would you use it?

Source: MacDonald, Laurence E. The Invisible Art of Film Music: A Comprehensive History. Lanham, MD: Ardsley House, 1998.

Name Quotes for the Weekend #18

bruno mars name quote

From an MTV interview with Bruno Mars, birth name Peter Gene Hernandez:

TWU: Bruno Mars is a world away from your name, so where did that come from?

Bruno Mars: My father and my mother. There was a wrestler in their day called Bruno San Martino and he was a very heavy-set wrestler and I guess when I was a kid I was a real chubby, chunky kid. Everyone calls me Bruno; they don’t ever call me Peter, that was just my government name.

From an article by Conor Grennan called 8 Rules for Naming Your Future Child:

As for me, I was named Conor in 1974 (the Irish spelling of that name, with one ‘n’) by my Irish father and worldly mother, at a time when that name didn’t exist as a first name. I got the same question every day: Is Conor your first name or your last name? And one memorable day in Kindergarten I came home crying, furious at my father because the other kids had made fun of my unusual name.

So my father, the Irish poet Eamon Grennan, told me the story of the first Conor — Conor mac Nessa, the legendary Irish king. He told me how Conor was born the same day as Christ himself, how he became king when he was just 7 years old (“That’s in two years, lad!”) and how he became the greatest ruler in the history of Ulster.

I still hated my name. But those stories, that meaning, made it a little easier to bear. It told me that my parents weren’t just punishing me. It told me that they knew what they were doing. That they had been purposeful in their choice. That they had named me — the goofy, red-haired, ill-mannered, walking-temper-tantrum of a boy — after a King.

From an Indiana University press release called Copycats pave the way to problem-solving success:

People were more likely to imitate popular choices, particularly those choices that are on the upswing, a dynamic Goldstone and his IU colleague Todd Gureckis had documented earlier in an observational study of baby names in 130 years of U.S. Social Security records. People likewise choose names that have “positive momentum” in their popularity. For baby names, over 130 years, the United States has shifted from a society in which decreases in popularity in one year are likely to be followed by increases in popularity in the next year (and vice versa) to one in which increases are likely to be followed by increases, and decreases by decreases.

From an 2005 interview with Portia de Rossi in The Advocate:

Advocate: When did you become Portia?

Portia: When I was 15, I changed it legally. In retrospect, I think it was largely due to my struggle about being gay. Everything just didn’t fit, and I was trying to find things I could identify myself with, and it started with my name.

I picked Portia because I was a Shakespeare fan [Portia is the character in The Merchant of Venice who famously declaims, “The quality of mercy is not strain’d / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”]. De Rossi because I was Australian and I thought that an exotic Italian name would somehow suit me more than Amanda Rogers. When you live in Australia, Europe is so far away and so fascinating, so stylish and cultured and sophisticated.

From an essay on “outrageous baby names” by Kiri Blakeley:

As for my own story, family lore has it that my mom wanted to name me Kama Sutra, after the famous Indian sex positions book. Was my mother under the effects of some kind of drug after she pushed me out of her loins and chose this name? I have no idea. I just thank the nurses who supposedly said “no” and took me out of the room until she came up with something slightly more suitable. And I ended up with a weird one anyway.

From the book Christian Names in Local and Family History by George Redmonds:

Other regional concentrations worth noting are Edith in Dorset, Felice and Petronille in Staffordshire and Amice in Leicestershire, but a close examination of the evidence reveals significant small ‘clusters’ right down the list. Typical of these are Goda (East Anglia), Godelena (Kent) and Osanne, the last of these found only in Spalding in Lincolnshire. It derives from ‘Hosanna’, a Hebrew word used as an appeal to God for deliverance, which was adopted into Christian worship as a more general expression of praise. We are familiar with it through the Bible and it occurs as ‘osanne’ in Chaucer’s Tale of the Man of Lawe: ‘Mary I mene, doghter to Seint Anne, Bifore whos child aungeles singe oscanne’. Less well known is its use as a baptismal name from the twelfth century, possibly to commemorate a birth on Palm Sunday. The earliest examples have been noted in Dorset and Herefordshire and it occurred often enough to serve as a by-name. Typical of these are ‘Reginaldus filius Osanna’, in the pipe roll of 1180, and Richard Osan of Shelley in 1277.

From How (Not) To Name Your Baby by Samantha Cappuccino-Williams:

On a related note, if you’re going to be “that guy” and give your kid an effed up name, don’t also be the guy who refuses to share the name because you’re afraid of negative commentary or feedback. As soon as someone tells me they’re not sharing baby names, I assume the name they picked sucks or will scare people–and they know it. When you pick a name for your kid–good or bad–own it. Don’t be a puss about it. If someone begins to pooh-pooh your name, cut them off. Who cares if the biggest moron in their high school was Skippy, or the biggest douche was Biff? That’s their experience, not yours. Who cares if your coworkers think Maroon Marmalade is a terrible name as long as you love it. Most people know better than to slam your baby name anyway. Everyone is so damn sensitive nowadays. But on the bright side of the unwanted commentary, someone might actually have a helpful tidbit about your name that you should know before legally assigning it to your child. Like, “Adam Samuel Samsonite? Soooo…his initials will be ASS?” Oh hell no. Thanks for pointing that out, Friend.

Want more? Here’s the Name Quotes category.

Baby Names from Cockney Rhyming Slang?

Here’s something I’ve never seen before.

Last month, Canadian singer Bryan Adams and his girlfriend welcomed their second baby girl, Lula RosyLea. Lula’s middle name is a reference to her time of birth, as per this tweet by Adams:

Lula Rosylea arrived @ teatime this wk. a cup of ‘rosie lee’ = ‘cup of tea’ in cockney. Lula comes from Gene Vincent’s song Be-Bop-A-Lula

This is the first baby I know of to be named via Cockney rhyming slang.

What’s Cockney rhyming slang? It involves word substitution based on rhyme. Typically, a word in a sentence is replaced with a rhyming phrase, and then the rhyming part of the phrase is dropped. This makes the resulting sentence hard for those not in-the-know to understand.

Here’s an example: “Use your loaf.” It’s really “use your head,” but the phrase loaf of bread was used instead of head, and then loaf of bread was shortened to just loaf. Hence, “use your loaf.” Get it?

Speaking of bread, if you’ve ever heard people use the slang word bread to mean money, that’s CRS too. Money rhymes with the old expression bread and honey, which shortens to bread.

So that’s how Bryan Adams turned tea into Rosie Lee, which is a common CRS rhyme for tea. (And now, if you’re ever in London and someone asks you if you want a cup of Rosie, you’ll know what they’re talking about!) “Rosie Lee” refers to American burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970).

I thought this was a rather cool way to come up with a baby name, so I’ve collected a few dozen other well-known CRS rhymes that involve names. On the left you’ll find the original word, in the middle is the name/phrase substitution, and on the right is the shortened version.

  • back – rhymes with Cilla Black – shortens to Cilla
  • ball – rhymes with Albert Hall – shortens to Albert
  • belly – rhymes with Darby Kelly – shortens to Darby
  • brake – rhymes with Veronica Lake – shortens to Veronica
  • cake – rhymes with Sexton Blake – shortens to Sexton
  • coat – rhymes with Billy goat – shortens to Billy
  • curry – rhymes with Ruby Murray – shortens to Ruby (if these parents had had a girl instead of a boy, Ruby would have been a great option)
  • door – rhymes with Rory O’Moore – shortens to Rory
  • fairy – rhymes with Julian Clairy – shortens to Julian
  • fish – rhymes with Lillian Gish – shortens to Lillian
  • gin – rhymes with Anne Boleyn – shortens to Ann
  • gin – rhymes with Vera Lynn – shortens to Vera
  • ice – rhymes with Vincent Price – shortens to Vincent
  • kettle – rhymes with Hansel and Gretel – shortens to Hansel
  • lisp – rhymes with Quentin Crisp – shortens to Quentin
  • mess – rhymes with Elliot Ness – shortens to Elliot
  • neck – rhymes with Gregory Peck – shortens to Gregory
  • old man (father) – rhymes with Peter Pan – shortens to Peter
  • rail – rhymes with Toby Ale – shortens to Toby
  • Stella (brand of beer) – rhymes with Yuri Geller – shortens to Yuri
  • Stella – rhymes with Nelson Mandela – shortens to Nelson
  • table – rhymes with Betty Grable – shortens to Betty
  • tea – rhymes with Bruce Lee – shortens to Bruce
  • tea – rhymes with Kiki Dee – shortens to Kiki
  • tea – rhymes with Rosie Lee – shortens to Rosie
  • telly – rhymes with Liza Minnelli – shortens to Liza (e.g., “What’s on the Liza?”)
  • trouble – rhymes with Barney Rubble – shortens to Barney
  • 2:2 (lower second-class honors) – rhymes with Desmond Tutu – shortens to Desmond
  • undies – rhymes with Eddie Grundies – shortens to Eddie
  • wedding – rhymes with Otis Redding – shortens to Otis

I think Darby (for “belly”) might be an especially tempting one baby namers, no? :)

Bryan’s first baby girl, Mirabella Bunny, was born last Easter.

Sources: @bryanadams, February 14, 2013, Cockney Rhyming Slang

Frosty the Snowman & Frosty the Baby Name

Frosty - Snowman & Baby NameThe one and only year the baby name Frosty made the SSA’s list was 1950:

  • 1951: unlisted
  • 1950: 6 baby boys named Frosty [debut]
  • 1949: unlisted

What inspired the sudden interest in Frosty that year?

The novelty song “Frosty the Snowman,” which was first recorded by Gene Autry and released in time for the 1950 holiday season. Before the end of the year, the song hit #4 on the Hot Country Singles Chart and #7 on the Billboard Pop Chart.

(This was after Autry’s success with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” the year before.)

The Social Security Death Index indicates that dozens of other people have been named Frosty over the years as well.

Source: Crump, William D. The Christmas Encyclopedia. 3rd ed. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2013.

Would You Give Your Son the Name Bimbo?

Bimbo, Jim Reeves
Bimbo, Jim Reeves
I ask because Bimbo was a one-hit wonder on the U.S. baby name charts in 1954. Five baby boys got the name that year.

  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 5 baby boys named Bimbo
  • 1953: unlisted

Cruel name? Perhaps.

Though these parents weren’t bestowing it with the slang term in mind. (Bimbo, originally a variant of bambino, Italian for “baby,” had become a synonym for “floozie” back in the 1920s.)

They’d heard it in a country song about a little boy called Bimbo.

“Bimbo” was written in the late ’40s by Glenn O’Dell. The country song was recorded by various singers over the years, but seemed to do particularly well in 1954.

First there was the Jim Reeves version of the song, which hit the top of the country charts in January of 1954. Then there was the Ruby Wright version of the song, which hit #7 on the UK singles chart in April of 1954. Finally, Gene Autry’s version, which I don’t believe charted anywhere, was released in 1954. (A few years before, Gene’s “Frosty the Snowman” had inspired a handful of parents to name their sons Frosty.)

Here’s the first verse of “Bimbo”:

Bimbo is a little boy who’s got million friends
and every time he passes by, they all invite him in
He’ll clap his hands, sing and dance, and talk his baby talk
With a hole in pants, and his knees stickin’ out, he’s just big enough to walk

And here’s a video featuring the Jim Reeves recording:

What do you think of the name Bimbo?

Source: Bimbo – Online Etymology Dictionary