“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.
Girl-crazy teenager Dobie Gillis was a character created by writer Max Shulman in the 1940s. He was first brought to life in the movie The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953, but the most memorable portrayal of Dobie was by Dwayne Hickman in the four-season TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which premiered in September of 1959.
Dobie Gillis is notable for being “the first prime-time series to consistently privilege teenage characters, activities, and spaces over those associated with family shows.”
It was also known for the unusual character names. Dobie (pronounced doh-bee, rhymes with Toby) had friends with names like:
Maynard (a beatnik played by Bob Denver, who later portrayed Gilligan)
Zelda (a brainiac played by Sheila James Kuehl, sister of Jeri Lou)
Thalia Menninger (a rich girl played by Tuesday Weld)
These “uncommon first names [were] evidently meant to seem vaguely silly in their failure to conform with ’50s norms.”
The show ended up influencing the usage of several baby names. First of all, it was behind the debut of the name Dobie in 1960:
1964: 9 baby boys named Dobie
1962: 6 baby boys named Dobie
1961: 8 baby boys named Dobie
1960: 9 baby boys named Dobie [debut]
The name Thalia also saw a spike in usage in 1960, which makes sense because all but two of the episodes featuring Thalia Menninger were first-season (1959-1960) episodes. Dobie pronounced Thalia’s name thale-ya.
1964: 46 baby girls named Thalia
1963: 42 baby girls named Thalia
1962: 42 baby girls named Thalia
1961: 46 baby girls named Thalia
1960: 90 baby girls named Thalia
1959: 30 baby girls named Thalia
1958: 24 baby girls named Thalia
Finally, the name Zelda saw elevated usage in the early ’60s:
1964: 133 baby girls named Zelda
1963: 171 baby girls named Zelda
1962: 178 baby girls named Zelda
1961: 168 baby girls named Zelda
1960: 136 baby girls named Zelda
1959: 142 baby girls named Zelda
1958: 131 baby girls named Zelda
Fun fact: Zelda — who pursued Dobie as ardently as Dobie pursued all other females — once convinced a girl named Phyllis to break it off with Dobie by warning her that her married name would be “Phyllis Gillis.”
Many of the secondary and single-episode characters had unusual names as well. Here are some examples:
Do you like any of the above Dobie Gillis names? How about the name “Dobie” itself?
Kearney, Mary C. “Teenagers and Television in the United States.” Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television, ed. by Horace Newcomb, 2nd ed., New York: Routledge, 2013, pp. 2276-2281.
Sterritt, David. Mad to be Saved: The Beats, the ’50s, and Film. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.
(The SSA omits spaces, hyphens, and apostrophes, so “Jerilou” here includes Jeri Lou, Jeri-Lou, and other potential renderings.)
Where did Jerilou come from?
Child actor Jeri Lou James, who was on TV primarily during the first half of the 1950s.
She was born Jerilyn Louise Kuehl in California in 1945. (Her birth name may have been inspired by celebrity baby Jerilyn Jessel.)
Jeri Lou guest starred on various TV shows, but the one show she appeared on regularly was The Dennis Day Show, which aired on NBC from 1953 to 1954. No doubt this is what gave Jeri Lou’s name enough visibility to see a temporary rise in usage.
These days, Jeri Lou James is Hon. Jerilyn L. Borack, a family law judge on the Sacramento Superior Court.
Both her acting career and her law career were inspired by the acting and law careers of her older sister, Sheila James (b. Sheila Ann Kuehl in 1941), whose best-remembered TV role was that of Zelda on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963). Today Sheila Kuehl is a politician in California.
Which name do you like better, Jerilyn or Jerilou?