Over the last few years, it has become increasingly popular to end online jokes with a name. The set-up usually goes like this: a person jokes about an annoying behaviour as though they were directly talking to the person annoying them, then they end the joke-angry outburst with a name. That name then slowly becomes cultural shorthand for a type of behaviour. Other names become internet jokes because they were part of movies that were clipped into gifs – such as “Sure, Jan” to denote disbelief, “My name is Jeff” for anyone whose name is, yes, Jeff, or “Bye, Felicia” for anyone irritating.
(Other names used in memes: Karen, Sharon, Janet, Chad, Becky…)
When a child is a toddler, if you have the means, you call on people to gather and name the child. If you don’t have enough, you can ask your relatives to help you prepare the ceremony. That’s how we name a child. Until you name them, you just call them by random names of your choice.
…Gisele has become a brand in itself. That monicker is fortunate – it’s easy to equate “Gisele” with “gazelle”, which is exactly what comes to mind when you see her strutting down the catwalk…
How rapper Post Malone (born Austin Richard Post) came up with his stage name:
I was like 14, and I had started getting into producing and rapping and singing over my own stuff. And I needed a name, you know, for my s—- mixtape,” he told Jimmy Fallon. “So I ran [my real name] through a random rap name generator… now I’m stuck with it.”
How rapper Childish Gambino (born Donald Glover) came up with his stage name:
“We were all hanging out, chilling and drinking and then we were like, ‘Oh, Wu-Tang name generator, let’s put our name in,'” he revealed on The Tonight Show back in 2011. “And we’re putting them all in, and they’re all funny and stuff, and then mine came up and I was like, ‘you guys, it’s not funny anymore. This is something big.’ I just really liked it.”
How spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle (born Ulrich Tölle) came up with his new name:
Some time after this “inner transformation”, Tolle changed his first name from Ulrich to Eckhart following a dream in which he saw books lying around. On the cover of one was the name Eckhart and he knew he had written it. By coincidence, he bumped into an acquaintance, a psychic, a few days later who, for no apparent reason, called him Eckhart! Having become a completely different person he was ready to relinquish the name Ulrich and the unhappy energy the name held for him.
(Other sources say Tolle chose “Eckhart” in deference to 13th-century German theologian/mystic Meister Eckhart.)
Gail Gail Kane was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1887. Her birth name was Abigail Kane. Gail Patrick was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1930s. She was born in Alabama in 1911. Her birth name was Margaret LaVelle Fitzpatrick. Gail was also a character name in multiple films, including Dangerous (1935) and Woman Doctor (1939).
Garda Garda Sloane was a character played by various actresses (Florence Rice, Rosalind Russell, Ann Sothern) in various late-1930s mystery movies (Fast Company, Fast and Loose, Fast and Furious) written by Harry Kurnitz.
Gerda Gerda Holmes was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Illinois in 1892. Gerda was also a character name in multiple films, including Three Sinners (1928) and Babies for Sale (1940).
Germaine Germaine De Neel was an actress who appeared in films in the 1930s. She was born in Canada in 1911. Germaine was also a character name in multiple films, including Evening Clothes (1927) and The Great Garrick (1937).
Gertrude Gertrude McCoy was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Georgia in 1890. Gertrude Robinson was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1890. Gertrude was also a character name in multiple films, such as Coming-Out Party (1934).
Ginna Ginna was a character played by actress Eve Arden in the film My Reputation (1946).
Usage of the baby name Ginna (which debuted in the data in 1947).
Ginny Ginny Simms was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Texas in 1913. Her birth name was Virginia Ellen Simms. Ginny was also a character played by actress Luana Patten in the film Song of the South (1946).
Glad Glad was a character played by various actresses (such as Mary Pickford and Jacqueline Logan) in various movies called The Dawn of a Tomorrow, all based on the novella of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Glenda Glenda Farrell was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1970s. She was born in Oklahoma in 1901. Glenda was also a character name in multiple films, including TheWhite Parade (1934) and Down Argentine Way (1940).
Gypsy Gypsy Abbott was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Georgia in 1897. Gypsy Rose Lee was an actress who appeared in films in the 1930s to the 1960s. She was born in Washington in 1911. Her birth name was Rose Louise Hovick. Gypsy was also a character played by actress Evelyn Brent in the film Bowery Champs (1944).
During the first half of the 20th century, the name Kelly was more of a boy name than a girl name. That is, it was given far more often to baby boys than to baby girls.
But things changed in the 1950s, when the overall usage of Kelly began to rise quickly — and rise faster for girls than for boys. The first year that more girls than boys were named Kelly was 1957:
# Girls Named Kelly
# Boys Named Kelly
6,379 (rank: 74th)
2,436 (rank: 142nd)
4,471 (rank: 108th)
2,299 (rank: 148th)
1,907 (rank: 187th)
1,868 (rank: 167th)
831 (rank: 310th)
1,472 (rank: 189th)
540 (rank: 380th)
1,251 (rank: 204th)
455 (rank: 406th)
960 (rank: 225th)
226 (rank: 590th)
845 (rank: 232nd)
Even though the gender switch happened in 1957, usage for boys continued to rise for several more years. Only in 1962 then did the two trajectories finally start to diverge.
So what’s behind both the popularization and feminization of the name Kelly in the 1950s? There seem to be at least three different influences (and possibly others that I haven’t discovered yet). Here’s what I’ve got so far:
Grace Kelly: actress, most popular around 1955/1956
Kelly and Me: movie, released in 1957
Bachelor Father: television show, aired from 1957 to 1962
I have a big post about Grace Kelly-inspired baby names scheduled for tomorrow, so for now I’ll just say that, if she was an influence here, she wouldn’t be the first famous actress to inspire parents to start using her surname as a girl name. Before her was Janet Gaynor, June Allyson, Cyd Charisse, Debra Paget, Denise Darcel, Pier Angeli, etc.
The movie Kelly and Me, which co-starred Piper Laurie, is weirdly reminiscent of the 2008 movie Marley and Me. Both films feature a male dog as a main character, and both titular names saw increased usage as baby names — particularly girl names — the years the movies were released. Apparently neither the species nor the gender of the character mattered much to parents. (Here’s the popularity graph for Marley.)
The TV show Bachelor Father focused on a wealthy Beverly Hills attorney named Bentley Gregg who is raising his orphaned teenage niece, a female Kelly. The show clearly gave the name Bentley a boost in the late ’50s and early ’60s, nudging it into the top 1,000 for the first time in 1961, so no doubt it also helped American audiences see Kelly as a nice name for a daughter.
Do you like the name Kelly? Do you like it more as a girl name or as a boy name? (Or does it not matter to you?)
The name Damita first appeared in the SSA’s baby name dataset in 1950:
1953: 33 baby girls named Damita
1952: 7 baby girls named Damita
1951: 18 baby girls named Damita
1950: 5 baby girls named Damita [debut]
It saw peak usage in the early ’60s:
1963: 74 baby girls named Damita
1962: 102 baby girls named Damita
1961: 117 baby girls named Damita [peak]
1960: 49 baby girls named Damita
1959: 20 baby girls named Damita
(In fact, the name Damita would have entered the top 1,000 in 1961 if the six-way tie between Barrie, Callie, Damita, Freida, Staci, and Tonda — ranked 1,000th through 1,005th — hadn’t included a B-name and a C-name. As it happened, only Barrie made the cut and Damita technically ended up in 1,002nd place.)
So what was the influence?
Singer Damita Jo DeBlanc, born in Texas in 1930 and known simply as “Damita Jo” for most of her decades-long career.
Though she was most successful during the early ’60s — her highest-charting songs were 1960’s “I’ll Save the Last Dance for You” and 1961’s “I’ll Be There” — her first solo singles (like “Believe Me” and “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere”) were released in 1950 and 1951, and she spent the rest of the ’50s performing and recording with the R&B group Steve Gibson & the Red Caps. She also appeared on, and won, an episode of the TV talent show Chance of a Lifetime in 1952.
In 1960, Jet magazine defined Damita Jo DeBlanc’s name as meaning “little lady of white” in “French and Spanish.”
My wild guess is that she was named after French-born movie star Lili Damita, whose Hollywood career began in the late ’20s. The Spanish word damita does indeed mean “little lady,” but Lili Damita’s claim that it was a nickname given to her by King Alfonso XIII of Spain is harder to prove.
Speaking of namesakes, several of Damita Jo’s namesakes became famous in their own right. There’s Damita Jo Freeman (b. 1953), the memorable Soul Train dancer. There’s Damita Jo Nicholson (b. 1953), “Miss Miami Beach 1972.” And, most notable of all, there’s singer/actress Janet Damita Jo Jackson (b. 1966) – yes, Michael’s sister. Janet even put out an album called “Damita Jo” in 2004 — the year of her infamous wardrobe malfunction.