How popular is the baby name Harry 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 Harry.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Harry


Posts that Mention the Name Harry

The Beginning of Buff

mike wallace, buff cobb, 1950s, television

Here’s a curious one: Buff. It appeared in the SSA data in the middle of the 20th century as both a boy name and a girl name — but slightly more often as a girl name. The female usage was entirely in the 1950s:

  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: 5 baby girls named Buff
  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 6 baby girls named Buff
  • 1955: 15 baby girls named Buff
  • 1954: 10 baby girls named Buff
  • 1953: 6 baby girls named Buff
  • 1952: 5 baby girls named Buff [debut]
  • 1951: unlisted

What was the influence here?

An actress with an intriguingly gender-neutral name: Buff Cobb.

She was born Patrizia Chapman in Italy in 1927 to American parents. When she decided in her teens to become a film star, she created the stage name “Buff Cobb” from her mother’s nickname, Buffy, and her maternal grandfather’s surname, Cobb. (He was writer/humorist Irvin Cobb.)

While Buff’s film career didn’t pan out, she did tour with a company putting on Noël Coward’s play Private Lives in the late ’40s. During a stop in Chicago, she was interviewed for a radio show by a young reporter named Mike Wallace — most famous today for his work as a 60 Minutes correspondent from 1968 to 2006.

She and Mike got married in 1949 and began co-hosting a Chicago radio show, which led to two New York City TV shows (both live):

  • Mike and Buff (1951-1953), originally entitled Two Sleepy People, one of television’s first talk shows. “[T]he couple would engage in heated debate over a different topic each day, then try to settle their differences after interviewing experts.” One of Mike’s catchphrases on the show was: “Smarten up, Buff!” The show was sponsored by Pepsi and guests included Harry Belafonte and Mickey Spillane.
  • All Around the Town (1951-1952), an interview show typically broadcast from different parts of New York City.
mike and buff

A year after Mike and Buff was cancelled, the real Mike and Buff were also cancelled — they divorced in 1954. Buff appeared regularly on just one more TV show after that: the ’50s game show Masquerade Party, from 1953 to 1955. Usage of the (female) name Buff was highest during these years.

Do you like the name Buff for a baby girl? Do you like it more or less than Buffy and Buffie (both of which also debuted during the first half of the ’50s)?

Sources:

Image: Clipped from page 12 of the December 1952 Radio-TV Mirror.

The Emergence of Jolie

red foley, jolie blon, song, baby name, 1940s
Red Foley

These days, main association for the name Jolie, from the French word for “pretty,” is actress Angelina Jolie (who single-handedly turned Maleficent into a baby name a few years ago). But Angie — though she’s certainly influenced the usage of the name recently — didn’t put the name on the map in the late ’40s:

  • 1952: 22 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1951: 19 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1950: 26 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1949: 6 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1948: 9 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1947: 7 baby girls named Jolie [debut]
  • 1946: unlisted

In 2006, name expert Cleveland Kent Evans noted that the name “was first brought to the attention of Americans by Jolie Gabor…the mother of actresses Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor.” I don’t think this is wrong — I think Jolie Gabor may account for some of the usage of the name during the ’50s — but I also don’t think it’s right, as Zsa Zsa wasn’t terribly famous in ’40s. (The name Zsa Zsa first appeared in the data in 1957.)

My guess on the 1947 debut of Jolie is the song “New Jolie Blonde” by country singer Red Foley. That, plus a couple of the similar songs: “New Pretty Blonde (Jole Blon)” by Aubrey “Moon” Mullican and “(Our Own) Jole Blon” by Roy Acuff. All three saw heavy play on juke boxes in 1947, according to Billboard. Red’s rendition, which featured the “Jolie” spelling in the title, was the most successful.

The song is ultimately based on the old (pre-1900) Cajun song “Jole Blon.” In 1946, Cajun fiddler Harry Choates came out with an updated version of the song that saw moderate success. Other performers then followed Harry’s lead with their own versions.

(According to one source, the title of the version by Harry Choates was initially misspelled jolie blonde, “thus forever altering the song title among Anglophone audiences,” but I haven’t seen any evidence of this misspelling, so I doubt it would have had much impact. The Choates version was only ever called “Jole Blon” in Billboard magazine, for example.)

What do you think of the baby name Jolie?

Sources:

The Story of Tondalaya

leon gilbert, tondalaya, 1955,
Leon Gilbert with children Leon and Tondalaya
© 1955 Jet

The sudden appearance of Tondalaya in the SSA’s baby name data in the mid-1950s had me stumped for a long time.

  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: 11 baby girls named Tondalaya
  • 1954: unlisted

Why? Because “Tondalaya” was so suspiciously close to “Tondelayo,” the name of a character from the 1942 movie* White Cargo. The character was a mixed-race African character played by Hedy Lamarr.

tandelayo, hedy lamarr
(from the White Cargo trailer)

But the spelling didn’t match, and the timing was way off.

Finally, years later, I happened to find the link between these two things: a photo in a 1955 issue of Jet magazine that featured an 11-year-old girl named Tondalaya. Here’s what the caption said:

Paroled after five years imprisonment for disobeying Army orders while a lieutenant in Korea, Leon A. Gilbert is reunited with his wife, Kay, son Leon, and daughter Tondalaya at Los Angeles’ International Airport.

(Further research revealed that her name was actually spelled “Tondalayo.”)

So that solved the mystery of the name, but…who was Leon Gilbert?

Up until mid-1950, he was a decorated WWII veteran serving with the 24th Infantry Regiment in Korea.

But on July 31, he refused an order and was arrested on the spot.

Seems like an appropriate outcome for a disobedient soldier during wartime…until you consider that the 24th was an all-black unit, that the 24th’s commanders were all white, and that this particular order amounted to a multi-man suicide mission. (The order would have had Gilbert leading about a dozen men back to a location that had been abandoned due to heavy enemy fire.)

Leon Gilbert was court-martialed. At the trial, which lasted about four hours, no witnesses were called on Gilbert’s behalf, medical reports indicating that he suffered from acute stress reaction were ignored, and the defense attorney didn’t bother to make a closing statement. Leon Gilbert was convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad.

Back home, the case was being followed closely by the press — particularly by the black press. The sentence angered many Americans, and “petitions calling for [Gilbert’s] freedom were sent to Washington from around the country.”

An investigation carried out by NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall found that Gilbert was one of “many blacks and no white troops who had been charged with misconduct in the presence of the enemy.” He also said that “[i]t seems apparent that some of [the black soldiers] are being made scapegoats for the failures of higher personnel.”

In late November, President Harry Truman commuted the death sentence to 20 years in prison.

Ultimately — as mentioned in the photo caption — Leon Gilbert served five years in a military prison before he was released on parole in 1955.

Sources:

*The movie was based on play of the same name from the 1920s. In the play, the character’s name was spelled “Tondeleyo.” The play was based on the novel Hell’s Playground (1912) by Ida Vera Simonton, but Tondeleyo did not appear in the novel. Playwright Leon Gordon created (and named) Tondeleyo by combining the attributes/histories of two of the book’s female characters, Ndio and Elinda.

Pop Culture Baby Name Game, 2019

pop culture baby name game, 2019

Time for the annual Pop Culture Baby Name Game!

But first: Happy birthday, Elvis Presley! (He would have been 85 today.)

So now, think back to 2019. Think of all the pop culture that caught your attention. Think of movies, music, TV shows, social media, sports, video games, news, politics, products, and so forth.

Which of these things had an influence on U.S. baby names last year, do you think? Which baby names will see higher usage (or appear for the very first time) in the 2019 data thanks to 2019 pop culture?

Here are some names to start with:

  • Adeya – from celebrity baby Adeya (born in March to Kehlani)
  • Alita – from the movie Alita: Battle Angel
  • Archie – from royal baby Archie (born in May to Harry & Meghan)
  • Billie – from singer Billie Eilish
  • Brixton – from the movie Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
  • Deckard – from the movie Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
  • Dorian – from hurricane Dorian
  • Eilish – also from singer Billie Eilish
  • Gloria – from the St. Louis Blues anthem “Gloria
  • Greedy – from NFL player Andraez Montrell “Greedy” Williams
  • Greta – from environmental activist Greta Thunberg
  • Lizzo – from rapper/singer Lizzo (originally a Melissa)
  • Luce – from the movie Luce
  • Maleficent – from the movie Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  • Nipsey – from the late rapper Nipsey Hussle
  • Post – from rapper Post Malone
  • Psalm – from celebrity baby Psalm (born in May to Kim & Kanye)
  • Saybie – from newsworthy baby Saybie
  • Shaed – from the band Shaed (“Trampoline”)
  • Sulwe – from the book Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
  • Wick – from the movie John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

A few names from the 2018 game (Kamala? Kelleth? Sanni? Marsai?) might still be applicable as well.

What other names should we add to the list? Let me know by commenting below. Please don’t forget to mention the pop culture influence!

I’ll be posting the game results in May of 2020, a few days after the SSA releases the 2019 baby name data. If you don’t want to miss the results post, just subscribe to NBN!