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, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Gene.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Gene


Posts that Mention the Name Gene

What Would You Name the Catfish-Riding Boy?

little boy, large catfish, old photo, texas, 1940s

This might be my favorite photo on the entire internet.

The shot, which depicts a playful little Texas boy pretending to ride a dead catfish on someone’s front porch, was taken by photographer Neal Douglass in April of 1941.

The Portal to Texas History calls it “Mrs. Bill Wright; Boy Riding Catfish.” So I’m guessing that “Mrs. Bill Wright” was the boy’s mother. But there’s no other identifying information, so I don’t know the boy’s name, nor do I have any way of tracking it down.

So let’s turn this into a name game!

First, let’s suppose our little catfish-rider was not named “Bill” (or “William,” or “Willie,” etc.) after his father. With that rule in place, here are the questions:

  • What do you think Mrs. Bill Wright named her son?
  • What would you have named him?

Just for reference, popular names for Texas newborns in the late ’30s included:

Albert
Arthur
Carl/Charles
Clarence
Daniel
David
Don/Donald
Edward/Eddie
Ernest
Frank
Fred
Gary
Gene/Eugene
George
Gerald
Harold
Henry
Jack
James
Jerry
Jesse
Jesus
Jimmie/Jimmy
Joe/Joseph
John/Johnny
Jose
Juan
Kenneth
Larry
Louis
Manuel
Melvin
Paul
Raymond
Richard
Robert/Bobby
Ronald
Roy
Thomas/Tommy
Walter

For extra credit, what do you think the boy named his catfish? And, what would you have named his catfish? ;)

(If you like this game, here’s a similar one from years ago: What Would You Name the Two Frenchmen?)

Name Quotes #69: Larry, Darryl, Darryl

larry, darryl, darryl, newhart, names

From the ’80s TV show Newhart:

“I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.”

From a 1936 newspaper article about movie actress Veda Ann Borg:

Miss Borg was given a new tag almost the minute she stepped into the studio. It was “Ann Noble.” […] Miss Borg contended that her own name is more descriptive of her personality than Ann Noble. The former model’s argument was convincing. She will be billed as Veda Ann Borg.

(Keavy, Hubbard. “Screen Life In Hollywood.” Wilkes-Barre Record 23 Apr. 1936: 19.)

From an Atlas Obscura article about Australian nicknaming conventions:

How in the world did we get from “Jeremy” to “Jezza”?

There is a rule for how this works. Names which have the letter R in them–Jeremy, Catherine, Sharon, Barry, Murray–are trouble for speakers of non-rhotic variations of English to abbreviate. Rhoticity is a linguistic term for describing when the letter is pronounced; in non-rhotic dialects of English, the sound will be discarded unless followed immediately by a vowel. The dialects of England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and, well, New England are all non-rhotic, which is why the word “car” sounds like “cah.”

This isn’t a problem in any of those names if they’re pronounced fully; there’s always a vowel after the R. But to truncate them would be difficult. Typically hypocoristic nicknames are formed by cutting everything but the first syllable and then either leaving that as-is or adding a vowel. That’s how “Daniel” becomes “Danno”: clip to the first syllable (“Dan”) and add a vowel. (The -o ending is most common for male names; -ie is more common for female names.)

From a press release about a newly discovered prehistoric shark:

The team, led by North Carolina State University’s Terry Gates, named the shark Galagadon nordquistae, a nod to its teeth, which have a stepped triangle shape like the spaceships in the 1980s video game Galaga, and to Karen Nordquist, the Field Museum volunteer who discovered the fossils.

From a 1976 article in People about pianist Lorin Hollander and his then-wife Cali:

Lorin now often finds himself babysitting while Cali campaigns against atomic power. Symbolically, not long ago she shed the name she’d “hated for 30 years” for one that sounded right. Margo became Cali. “I look at myself differently now,” she says firmly, “except people all across the country think Lorin has remarried.”

From a WPMU DEV blog post about the Wayback Machine digital archive:

The Wayback Machine was named to reference Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine from the popular cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle. In the show, the machine was pronounced as “way back,” which is where the index got its name.

From a BBC article about unpopular baby names in the UK:

The name Clive was 44th most popular choice for boys in 1954 but dropped to 58th place in 1964, and has not been in the top 100 since.

Clive Tricker, 70, from Kesgrave in Suffolk, said the cultural references associated with his name were no longer current.

[…]

“I don’t really mind too much if it dies out because the less of us there are the more unique we are.

(Tricker specified that he was named after Clive of India because his grandfather had been stationed in India while he was in the Army.)

From a Mental Floss article about Ron Howard:

However, Howard did go out of his way to confirm one long-held belief about Willow: that two of the villains were named after famous film critics. The evil General Kael was named after the notoriously ruthless Pauline Kael and the two-headed monster Eborsisk was named after the iconic At the Movies duo of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

And, finally, a pair of snippets from a Colorado Public Radio article about Denver street names. First:

William McGaa [one of Denver’s founding officials] had a debaucherous reputation of his own, drinking and adulterating his way out of favor with the city’s elite. McGaa even named Wazee and Wewatta streets after two of his many wives, both Native American woman from local tribes.

(The settlement of Denver was named in late 1858. McGaa’s son, William Denver McGaa, was born in the settlement in March of 1859 and named after it. His mother was neither Wazee nor Wewatta, but a half-Native American woman named Jennie.)

Second, regarding Denver’s “double alphabetical” streets, which were renamed in 1904:

The pattern is a proper noun name, ideally British, followed by the name of a tree or plant. Albion and Ash, Bellaire and Birch, Clermont and Cherry.

The switch wasn’t without resistance from those wealthy neighborhoods. When Eudora Avenue became Fir Street, residents decried the name as “too plebeian.”

Want to see more blog posts like this one? Check out the name quotes category.

Contrarian Baby Names: Cliff, Janet, Steve, Wanda…

contrarian baby names, uncool baby names

“Everly” is hot…”Beverly” is not. It’s a one-letter difference between fashionable and fusty.

If you’re sensitive to style, you’ll prefer Everly. It fits with today’s trends far better than Beverly does.

But if you’re someone who isn’t concerned about style, or prefers to go against style, then you may not automatically go for Everly. In fact, you may be more attracted to Beverly because it’s the choice that most modern parents would avoid.

If you’ve ever thought about intentionally giving your baby a dated name (like Debbie, Grover, Marcia, or Vernon) for the sake of uniqueness within his/her peer group — if you have no problem sacrificing style for distinctiveness — then this list is for you.

Years ago, the concept of “contrarian” baby names came up in the comments of a post about Lois. Ever since then, creating a collection of uncool/contrarian baby names has been on my to-do list.

Finally, last month, I experimented with various formulas for pulling unstylish baby names out of the SSA dataset. Keeping the great-grandparent rule in mind, I aimed for names that would have been fashionable among the grandparents of today’s babies. The names below are the best results I got.

Contrarian Baby Names: Girls

Alberta
Anita
Ann
Annetta
Annette
Bambi
Becky
Benita
Bertha
Bessie
Beth
Betty
Beverley
Beverly
Blanche
Bobbie
Bobby
Bonita
Candy
Caren
Carlene
Carol
Carole
Cary
Caryn
Cathleen
Cathy
Charla
Charlene
Charmaine
Cheri
Cherie
Cheryl
Chris
Christi
Cindy
Claudette
Coleen
Colleen
Connie
Dale
Danette
Danita
Darlene
Dawn
Dawna
Deanne
Debbie
Debora
Debra
Deirdre
Delores
Denice
Denise
Diane
Dianna
Dianne
Dollie
Dolores
Dona
Donna
Doreen
Dori
Doris
Dorthy
Eddie
Edwina
Ernestine
Ethel
Gail
Gayle
Gena
Geralyn
Germaine
Gilda
Glenda
Glenna
Harriett
Jackie
Janet
Janice
Janis
Jayne
Jean
Jeanette
Jeanie
Jeanine
Jeanne
Jeannette
Jeannie
Jeannine
Jeri
Jerri
Jerry
Jill
Jimmie
Jo
Joan
Joann
Joanne
Jodi
Jody
Joellen
Joni
Juanita
Judi
Judy
Juli
Kandi
Karin
Kathie
Kathy
Kay
Kaye
Kerrie
Kerry
Kim
Kimberley
Kitty
Kris
Kristi
Ladonna
Laureen
Lauretta
Laurie
Lavonne
Lee
Leesa
Lois
Lorene
Lori
Lorie
Lorinda
Lorna
Lorraine
Lorrie
Lou
Louann
Lu
Luann
Luanne
Lucretia
Lupe
Lyn
Lynda
Lynn
Lynne
Madonna
Marcia
Marcy
Margie
Mariann
Marianne
Marla
Marsha
Maryjo
Maureen
Meg
Melba
Melinda
Melva
Michele
Migdalia
Mitzi
Myrna
Nanette
Nelda
Nicki
Nita
Norma
Pamela
Patrice
Patsy
Patti
Patty
Pauline
Peggy
Pennie
Phyllis
Randy
Reba
Rene
Rhonda
Rita
Robbie
Robbin
Roberta
Robin
Rochelle
Ronda
Rosanne
Roseann
Roxane
Roxann
Sandy
Saundra
Sharon
Sheila
Shelia
Shelley
Shelly
Sheri
Sherri
Sherry
Sheryl
Shirley
Sondra
Sue
Susanne
Suzan
Suzanne
Tammie
Tammy
Tena
Teri
Terri
Terry
Thelma
Theresa
Therese
Tina
Tonia
Tonya
Tracey
Traci
Tracie
Tracy
Treva
Trina
Trudy
Velma
Verna
Vicki
Vickie
Vicky
Wanda
Wendy
Willie
Wilma
Yolanda
Yvonne

Contrarian Baby Names: Boys

Adolph
Al
Alford
Alphonso
Arne
Arnie
Arnold
Artie
Barry
Barton
Bennie
Bernard
Bernie
Bert
Bill
Billie
Bob
Bobbie
Brad
Bradford
Brent
Bret
Britt
Bud
Buddy
Burl
Burt
Butch
Carey
Carleton
Carlton
Carmen
Carroll
Cary
Cecil
Chester
Chuck
Clarence
Claude
Cletus
Cleveland
Cliff
Clifford
Clifton
Columbus
Curt
Curtiss
Dale
Dan
Dana
Dannie
Darrel
Darryl
Daryl
Dave
Davie
Del
Delbert
Dell
Delmer
Denny
Derwin
Dewey
Dirk
Don
Donnie
Donny
Doug
Douglass
Doyle
Duane
Dudley
Duwayne
Dwain
Dwaine
Dwane
Dwight
Earl
Earnest
Ed
Edsel
Elbert
Ernie
Farrell
Floyd
Fred
Freddie
Fredric
Gale
Garland
Garry
Garth
Gene
Geoffrey
Gerard
Gerry
Gilbert
Glen
Glenn
Greg
Gregg
Greggory
Grover
Guy
Hal
Haywood
Herbert
Herman
Homer
Horace
Howell
Hubert
Irwin
Jackie
Jame
Jeff
Jefferey
Jeffry
Jerald
Jerold
Jess
Jim
Jimmie
Jodie
Jody
Johnie
Johnnie
Karl
Kelly
Ken
Kenney
Kennith
Kent
Kermit
Kerry
Kim
Kirk
Kraig
Kurt
Laurence
Lawrance
Len
Lenard
Lennie
Les
Leslie
Lester
Lindell
Lindsay
Lindsey
Linwood
Lloyd
Lonnie
Lonny
Loren
Lorin
Lowell
Loyd
Lynn
Marion
Marty
Matt
Maxie
Mel
Merle
Merrill
Mickel
Mickey
Millard
Milton
Mitch
Mitchel
Monty
Neal
Ned
Nicky
Norbert
Norman
Norris
Orville
Perry
Pete
Phil
Ralph
Randal
Randel
Randell
Randolph
Rayford
Rick
Rickey
Rickie
Rob
Robby
Robin
Rock
Rodger
Rogers
Rojelio
Rolf
Ron
Roosevelt
Rudolfo
Rudolph
Rufus
Russ
Rusty
Sal
Sammie
Sandy
Sanford
Scot
Sherman
Sherwood
Skip
Stan
Stanford
Steve
Stevie
Stewart
Stuart
Sylvester
Tad
Ted
Terence
Thurman
Tim
Timmothy
Timmy
Tod
Todd
Tom
Tommie
Toney
Tracey
Tracy
Val
Vernell
Vernon
Waymon
Wendell
Wilbert
Wilbur
Wilford
Wilfred
Willard
Willis
Winfred
Woody

Interestingly, thirteen of the names above — Bobbie, Cary, Dale, Jackie, Jimmie, Jody, Kerry, Kim, Lynn, Robin, Sandy, Tracey, Tracy — managed to make both lists.

Now some questions for you…

Do you like any of these names? Would you be willing to use any of them on a modern-day baby? Why or why not?

The Surprising Source of Tierney

joseph mccarthy, adopted baby, tierney elizabeth
Joseph, Tierney and Jean McCarthy – Jan. 1957

The Irish surname Tierney first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1957. In fact, it was the top debut name of the year.

  • 1960: 18 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1959: 14 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1958: 26 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1957: 46 baby girls named Tierney [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

For a long time I’d assumed that Hollywood actress Gene Tierney was the cause. Then it dawned on me that Gene’s career was on the wane in 1957 — that the peak of her fame had been in the 1940s. So Gene wasn’t the answer.

But you know who was? The adopted daughter of the infamous politician Joseph McCarthy. (This makes Tierney a celebrity baby name, essentially.)

In early 1957, the Wisconsin senator (and zealous communist hunter) and his wife Jean adopted a five-week old baby girl from the New York Foundling Home. They named her Tierney Elizabeth.

Tierney’s first name came from Joe’s mom Bridget Tierney McCarthy; her middle name came from Jean’s mom Elizabeth Fraser Kerr. The name Tierney is based on the Irish surname Ó Tíghearnaigh, meaning “descendant of Tighearnach,” and the byname Tighearnach is based on the Old Irish word tigern, meaning “lord, master.”

The McCarthys brought Tierney home to Washington, D.C., on January 13. The same day, Joseph “announced over a nationwide television program [Press Conference on ABC] that he was a brand new father and invited photographers to his home for a preview of the new arrival.”

A second unfortunate event that gave the name another round of exposure was Joseph McCarthy’s death in May — a mere four months after the adoption. In fact, some newspapers (including the New York Daily News) re-ran the baby photos of Tierney alongside McCarthy’s obituary.

…Despite all this, I’m still left wondering about Gene Tierney’s influence. While she clearly didn’t inspire the debut, she had given the surname Tierney a strong feminine association. Was she the reason why the McCarthys opted for Tierney over Elizabeth as the primary name? Hm…

What are your thoughts on the baby name Tierney?

Sources:

  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • “McCarthy Blasts Eisenhower Palace Guard.” Redlands Daily Facts [Redlands, Calif.] 14 Jan. 1957: 9.
  • “Meet Miss McCarthy.” News-Palladium [Benton Harbor, Mich.] 14 Jan. 1957: 3.

P.S. Baby Tierney was in the news at the same time as baby Sindee.

Name Quotes #66: Brenton, Jacob, Gene Autry

It’s the last batch of name quotes for 2018!

Let’s start with a line from the Blake Shelton country song “I’ll Name The Dogs”:

You name the babies and I’ll name the dogs

From an article about dog names in New Orleans:

New Orleans dogs are often the namesakes of the cuisine (Gumbo, Roux, Beignet, Po-Boy, Boudin); the Saints (Brees, Payton, Deuce); music (Toussaint, Jazz, Satchmo); streets (Clio, Tchoupitoulas, Calliope); neighborhoods (Pearl, Touro, Gert) and Mardi Gras krewes (Zulu, Rex, Bacchus).

From an article about the names of Scottish salt trucks (“gritters”):

At any given moment, the trucks are working away to keep Scotland’s roads safe, with their progress available for all to see on an online map [the Trunk Road Gritter Tracker], which updates in real time. But a closer look at this map, with its jaunty yellow vehicles, reveals something still more charming: An awful lot of these salt trucks have very, very good names. Gritty Gritty Bang Bang is putting in the hard yards near Aberuthven. Dynamic duo Ice Buster and Ice Destroyer are making themselves useful near Glasgow and Loch Lomond. Three trucks apparently hold knighthoods–Sir Salter Scott, Sir Andy Flurry, Sir Grits-a-Lot. At least two (Ice Queen and Mrs. McGritter) are female. Every one is excellent.

(Some of the other gritter names are: For Your Ice Only, Grits-n-Pieces, Grittalica, Grittie McVittie, Luke Snowalker, Plougher O’ Scotland, Ready Spready Go, Salty Tom, and Sprinkles.)

From an article about the name Brenton being trendy in Adelaide in the 1980s (found via Clare of Name News):

No doubt the popularity of the name Brenton interstate and in the US is down to the paddleboat TV drama All the Rivers Run, which starred John Waters as captain Brenton Edwards and Sigrid Thornton as Philadelphia Gordon.

The miniseries first ran on Australian television in October 1983 and was later broadcast on the American channel HBO in January 1984.

From an article about baby-naming in New South Wales:

Once upon a time the list of top 100 names in a year used to capture nearly 90 per cent of the boys born, and three-quarters of girls. Now it’s less than half of either gender.

The reason is an explosion in variety, with multiculturalism and parents’ desire for individuality seeing the pool of baby names grow from 4252 in 1957 to 16,676 today. That’s 300% more names for only 30% more babies being born.

Professor Jo Lindsay from Monash University has researched naming practices in Australia and said parents today had more freedom and fewer family expectations than previous generations.

From an article about the 16-child Sullivan family of North Carolina:

They were, in order, Cretta in 1910, Leland in 1912, Rosa in 1913, Woodrow in 1916, Wilmar in 1918, Joseph in 1919, Dorothy in 1921 and Virginia in 1923.

The second wave included Irving in 1924, Blanche in 1925, C.D. in 1927, Geraldine in 1928, Marverine in 1930, Billy in 1932, Tom in 1934 and Gene in 1938.

[…]

Gene Autry Sullivan, the youngest of the children and the one who organizes the reunion each year, said he was told he was named after legendary cowboy movie star Gene Autry “because his parents had run out of names by then.”

(The post about Sierra includes a photo of Gene Autry.)

From an article about the challenges of growing up with an unfamiliar name:

Recently I was asked to give a talk to students at a mostly white school. I’d been in back-and-forth email contact with one of the teachers for ages. My full name, Bilal Harry Khan, comes up in email communication. I’d signed off all our emails as Bilal and introduced myself to him that way too. He had been addressing me as Bilal in these emails the entire time. But as he got up to introduce me to a whole assembly hall of teachers and students, he suddenly said, “Everyone, this is Harry.”

From an article about a college football team full of Jacobs (Jacob was the #1 name in the US from 1999 to 2012):

Preparing for the fall season, the offensive coordinator for University of Washington’s football team realized his team had a small problem. It went by the name Jacob.

The Pac-12 Huskies had four quarterbacks named Jacob or Jake (plus a linebacker named Jake and a tight end named Jacob).

From an article about Sweden’s even-stricter baby-naming laws:

The number of baby names rejected by Swedish authorities has risen since last summer, when the regulations were tightened.

The new law made it easier to go through a legal name change in some ways, including by lifting a ban on double-barrelled surnames, but regulations around permitted first names were tightened.

Some of the restrictions include names that are misleading (such as titles), have “extreme spelling”, or resemble a surname.

To see more quotes about names, check out the name quotes category.