In May of 1948, she was profiled in Life magazine in a 12-page, 24-image photo essay called “The Private Life of Gwyned Filling.” A 25th image of Gwyned was featured on the cover.
Gwyned, a recent college graduate from Missouri, was working in New York City as a copywriter at the Newell-Emmett advertising agency for $52 a week. The photos showed Gwyned in her day-to-day life: quarreling with her roommate Marilyn in their 11×15-foot apartment, eating breakfast at the diner for 15¢, going on a date, running to work in the rain, and so forth.
“In a world where television was still a novelty, the story turned her into a minor celebrity. The issue sold so fast it had to be reprinted in the first week.”
The very first paragraph of the accompanying article revealed that Gwyned’s mother Mildred had discovered the name “Gwyned” in the society column of a newspaper. Life called it an “odd name.” (It may have been based on Gwynedd, the name of an ancient kingdom in Wales.)
In November of the same year, Life gave readers an update on Gwyned: she had quit her job and married a co-worker named Charlie. For their honeymoon, they took a cruise to the Caribbean.
What are your thoughts on the name Gwyned? Do you like it more or less than the similar name Gwyneth?
When a major celebrity chooses an uncommon baby name, there’s a good chance that name will become trendy.
Seems like this might be a modern phenomenon, right? Maybe tied to the rise of the Internet?
Nope. In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised at just how far back it goes.
Let’s take a look at celebrity baby names through the decades, focusing on those that inspired debuts on the SSA’s baby name list. (To debut, a rare names needs to be given to at least 5 babies of one gender or the other in a single year.)
Which baby name was the very first to debut on the charts thanks to a celebrity baby?
The answer depends on how strict you want to be about spelling.
If exact-spelling debuts are what you want, the first I know of doesn’t appear until the late ’40s.
If variant-spelling debuts are okay, though, there’s a celebrity baby name from the early ’40s that inspired a whopping six of them:
In October of 1941, actor/comedian George Jessel (43 years old) and showgirl Lois Andrews (17) welcomed a baby girl named Jerilyn.
The name Jerilyn itself had already been on the list for a few years, but usage rose significantly in both 1941 and 1942:
1943: 182 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 558th]
1942: 325 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 397th]
1941: 135 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 608th]
1940: 10 baby girls named Jerilyn
The popularity of similar names like Jerrilyn and Jerelyn also increased, and six other variants appeared on the national list for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942 (asterisks denote debuts):
I was skeptical about this one for a while, as I’d never heard of George Jessel before. Was he really high-profile enough for his baby to have that sort influence? Turns out he was indeed a popular entertainer from the ’20s until at least the ’50s. He’s the one responsible for the “Garland” part of Judy Garland’s stage name, and some sources even claim he invented the Bloody Mary.
Even more variants of Jerilyn (e.g., Gerilynn) debuted during the ’40s and early ’50s, when young Jerilyn was being mentioned in newspaper articles and appearing on TV and in films with her father. Here’s a fundraising film from 1953, for instance, featuring both George and Jerilyn.
Jerilyn Jessel’s influence on the U.S baby names was impressive, but, technically speaking, she didn’t put “Jerilyn” on the map.
The first exact-spelling celebrity baby name debut was Yasmin, which appeared on the list in 1949.
In December of 1949, actor Rita Hayworth and her husband Prince Aly Khan welcomed a baby girl named Yasmin. The same year, the baby name Yasmin appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
(The name Yasmin was late addition to the post. Thank you, Becca!)
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In October of 1951, actors Tyrone Power and Linda Christian welcomed their first baby, Romina, who was named after the church in Italy (Santa Francesca Romana) where they had married in 1949. The same year, the baby name Romina appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
In September of 1953, Power and Christian welcomed their second baby girl, Taryn, whose name was likely inspired by “Tyrone.” The same year, the baby name Taryn debuted on the list.
In November of 1956, boxer Floyd Patterson and his wife Sandra welcomed a baby girl named Seneca. The same year, the traditionally male name Seneca debuted on the list as a female name. Patterson said the name was inspired by a street in Brooklyn.
In October of 1958, singer/actor Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer welcomed a baby girl named Monsita — their fourth child. The same year, Monsita debuted. It fell off the list the very next year, though, making it a one-hit wonder.
Honorable mentions from the ’50s include:
Liza, which became more popular after Liz Taylor named her daughter Liza in 1957.
Tyrone, which became more popular after Tyrone Power named his third child Tyrone in 1959. The increased usage could also have been influenced by the death of the actor himself the same year, though.
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In September of 1961, singer of Nat King Cole and his wife Maria welcomed identical twin baby girls named Timolin and Casey. The same year, the baby name Timolin debuted on the list.
In September of 1965, actor/director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands welcomed a baby girl named Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes. The same year, the baby name Xan debuted on the list.
In October of 1967, singer Eddie Fisher and actress Connie Stevens welcomed a baby girl named Joely. The same year, the baby name Joely debuted on the list.
In June of 1968, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed a baby girl named Maryum. The same year, the baby name Maryum debuted on the list.
In March of 1969, singers Cher and Sonny Bono, welcomed a baby girl named Chastity. The same year, the baby name Chastity debuted on the list. In May of 2010, Chastity legally changed genders and adopted the name Chaz.
Honorable mentions from the ’60s include:
Dodd, which became more popular after Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee named their son Dodd in late 1961.
At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 1970, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed twin baby girls named Rasheda and Jamillah. The same year, the baby name Rasheda debuted on the list.
(An Ebony article from 1971 misspelled her name “Reeshemah.” The same year, there was a spike in the usage of Reeshemah and a dip in the usage of Rasheda.)
In 1971, comedian/activist Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian welcomed a baby girl named Ayanna. The same year, the baby name Ayanna debuted on the list.
In July of 1973, Dick Gregory and Lillian welcomed a baby boy named Yohance. The same year, the baby name Yohance debuted on the list.
In March of 1974, musician/producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton welcomed a baby girl named Kidada. The same year, the baby name Kidada debuted on the list.
In August of 1975, singer Tito Jackson (of The Jackson 5) and his wife Dee Dee welcomed a baby boy named Taryll. The same year, the baby name Taryll debuted on the list.
In April of 1975, singer Mary Wilson (of The Supremes) and her husband Pedro welcomed a baby girl named Turkessa. The same year, the baby name Turkessa debuted on the list. Turkessa was just 3 babies away from being the top baby name debut of the year. Here’s how Mary came up with the name:
Pedro brought me a beautiful plant. I asked him was it was called. “Turquesa,” he replied, “Spanish for turquoise.” So we named our daughter Turkessa.
In November of 1975, singer Diana Ross (also of The Supremes) and her husband Robert welcomed a baby girl named Chudney. The next year, the baby name Chudney debuted on the list. Here’s how Diana came up with the name:
Friends kept suggesting popular names like Courtney, but so many girl babies were getting that. I suddenly thought of something I liked very much — chutney. Only I didn’t know how to spell it — I put a ‘d’ where the ‘t’ should have been on the birth certificate. And that’s how my little girl became Chudney!
In 1978, Puerto Rican dancer/singer Iris Chacón and her husband Junno welcomed a baby girl named Katiria. The same year, the baby name Katiria debuted on the list. Most of these babies were born in New York.
At least three of the baby names that debuted during the 1980s were inspired by celebrity babies, and at least one was inspired by a celebrity grandbaby:
In September of 1984, singer Gladys Knight didn’t have a baby, but her son James (b. 1962) and his wife Michelene did. They welcomed a boy named Rishawn. The next year, the baby name Rishawn debuted on the list. It was one of the top debut names of 1985, in fact.
In November of 1986, football player Willie Gault and his wife Dainnese welcomed a baby girl named Shakari. The next year, the baby name Shakari debuted on the list.
I wrote about Condola a few months ago, but here’s a recap: In December of 1986, actress Phylicia Rashad and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad welcomed a baby girl named Condola. The next year, the baby name Condola debuted on the list.
In December of 1987, filmmaker/actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow welcomed a baby boy named Satchel. The next year, the baby name Satchel debuted on the list. He now goes by Ronan, and rumor has it that he is *possibly* the biological son of Frank Sinatra.
At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In July of 1991, actors Demi Moore and Bruce Willis welcomed a baby girl named Scout. (And in August, that famous image of 7-months-pregnant Demi ran on the cover of Vanity Fair.) The next year, the baby name Scout debuted on the list, for both genders.
In February of 1995, actor Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy welcomed twin baby girls named Aquinnah and Schuyler. The same year, the baby name Aquinnah debuted on the list. (I wrote more about the name Aquinnah a few years ago.)
In July of 1998, model Christie Brinkley and her husband Peter welcomed a baby girl named Sailor. The same year, the baby name Sailor debuted on the list as a girl name. It had debuted as a boy name the year before.
Honorable mentions from the ’90s include:
Seven, which became more popular after Erykah Badu named her son Seven in 1997.
Zion, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her son Zion in 1997.
Selah, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her daughter Selah in 1998.
At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 2001, singer Shania Twain and her husband Robert welcomed a baby boy named Eja. The same year, the baby name Eja debuted on the list (as a girl name).
In August of 2001, actors Tisha Campbell-Martin and Duane Martin welcomed a baby boy named Xen. The same year, the baby name Xen debuted on the list.
In March of 2003, singer Toni Braxton and musician Keri Lewis welcomed a baby boy named Diezel. The same year, the baby name Diezel debuted on the list.
In June of 2005, magician Penn Jillette and his wife Emily welcomed a baby girl named Moxie (middle name CrimeFighter). The next year, the baby name Moxie debuted on the list.
In September of 2006, model Anna Nicole Smith and her partner Larry Birkhead welcomed a baby girl named Dannielynn. The next year, the baby name Dannielynn debuted on the list.
Honorable mentions from the ’00s include:
Massai, which became more popular after Nia Long named her son Massai in 2000.
Rocco, which became more popular after Madonna and Guy Ritchie named their son Rocco in 2000.
Denim, which became more popular after Toni Braxton named her son Denim in 2001.
Maddox, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted son Maddox in 2002.
Carys, which became more popular after Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas named their daughter Carys in 2003.
Stellan, which became more popular after Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their son Stellan in 2003.
Apple, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple in 2004.
Coco, which became more popular after Courtney Cox and David Arquette named their daughter Coco in 2004.
Zahara, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted daughter Zahara in 2005.
Moses, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their son Moses in 2006.
Kingston, which became more popular after Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale named their son Kingston in 2006.
Suri, which became more popular after Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their daughter Suri in 2006.
Shiloh, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter Shiloh in 2006.
Pax, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their adopted son Pax in 2007.
Harlow, which became more popular after Nicole Richie and Joel Madden named their daughter Harlow in 2008.
Knox & Vivienne, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their twins Knox and Vivienne in 2008.
Honor, which became more popular after Jessica Alba named her daughter Honor in 2008.
Nahla, which became more popular after Halle Berry named her daughter Nahla in 2008.
Bronx, which became more popular after Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son Bronx in 2008.
Which girl names increased/decreased the most in popularity from 2012 to 2013?
Below are two versions of each list. My version looks at raw number differences and takes all 19,114 girl names on the 2013 list into account. The SSA’s version looks at ranking differences and covers roughly the top 1,000 girl names.
My great, great aunt was called Golingabeth. I can’t seem to convince my wife who is expecting to even consider this name. Graeme Fryer, Bray, Ireland
Our daughter’s name skipped more than a few generations. She’s named after the Babylonian goddess of war and sex, Ishtar. My son’s name is even more unusual, he’s called Till, a German boy’s name. German names seem much more unfashionable here than mere ancient gods and goddesses. Liz Jones, Wells, Somerset
And one more:
I bet my name has not featured in the lists at all for a good number of years. It is perhaps softer sounding than Jasper or Rupert but eminently searchable. It sometimes produces a titter in meetings where someone unknowingly uses the word bland rather something more anodyne. I have grown used to the name and it is rather distinctive so I do tend to be remembered. Though my real name is Charles Bland Tomkinson, I have always been called Bland. Bland Tomkinson
Elder always went by the name Lynn, but she adopted the stage name “Bonnie” — a shortened version of her real first name — at the suggestion of the show’s producers because there was already a cast member, a boy, with the first name Lynn, her cousin said.
Simon Powell: So what’s your name?
Panda Ross: Panda.
Panda: Panda. Like the bear.
Simon: That’s your real name?
Panda: That’s my real name.
Simon: Why were you called Panda?
Panda: My mom, well, she was kinda, you know, in jail when she had me, and her cellmate was a white lady, she was black, and so, they just kinda came up with the name.
The Candy singer also spoke about celebrity baby names and how he and wife Ayda Fields chose their daughter’s moniker.
Robbie quipped: ‘We wanted to call her Teddy but that’s bordering on celebrity nonsense and we thought what if she doesn’t go into showbiz and needs a professional name, so Theodora is her professional name and Teddy is the name she goes by at home.’
The hit-maker revealed how he had once mixed up the name of Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter, when the actress paid a visit to his house.
He remembered: ‘We were at my house in Los Angeles and the Coldplay boys had been over for a game of football and Gwyneth turned up. I was like, “Gwyneth Paltrow is in my house”, and as she walked towards me I kept saying in my head, “say something to Gwyneth Paltrow, say something to Gwyneth Paltrow” and I said, “Does Melon want some Apple?”‘
And Kailyn? Well, turns out she was a huge Hanson fan (okay, who wasn’t?), and named Isaac after the eldest brother. “Do you remember, ‘Mmm Bop?'” she pleads to the other, seemingly clueless girls. They may not, but…oh, we remember.
That’s the first time I’ve ever seen/heard someone admit they named their kid after a member of Hanson.
Soon after, a woman named Strawberry Saroyan (granddaughter of writer William Saroyan) wrote a long letter to the New York Times about her experiences with a fruit-name. Here are some highlights:
Strawberry found it helpful to be raised in a “tiny California beach community full of poets, peppered with lots of other kids with unconventional names.” Her younger sister was named Cream, and other kids were named Ivory, Shelter, Wonder, Ocean, Raspberry and Echo.
What were they going to do, make fun of me? They did, but I could bite back. I’ll never forget the terror as Cream and I awaited the arrival of Wonder’s mother to speak with ours because we had been calling her daughter Wonder Bread.
When Strawberry was 13, her family moved to a “super-preppy” town in Connecticut. “I had little choice but to change my name, a shift that stuck for three years (I chose Cara).”
One of the reasons Strawberry now likes her name is that it serves as an ice-breaker, “especially in the company of other people from well-known families.”
Once when I was in the offices of George magazine, John F. Kennedy Jr. shook my hand enthusiastically. “Strawberry? Tell me about your parents!” The irony seemed delightful: How often had he, perhaps the most famous progeny in the world, gotten to say those words? I wanted to throw the question back at him: what were J.F.K. and Jackie like? But I restrained myself.