How popular is the baby name Karen in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Karen and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Karen.
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Did you know that author Anne Rice was born “Howard Allen O’Brien”?
The vampire novelist (and creator of Lestat) was born in New Orleans in 1941 to Howard and Katherine O’Brien. “Howard” came from her father — who went by Mike most of the time, ironically — and “Allen” was her mother’s maiden name.
I’ve been trying to piece together the stories behind the baby names Karil and Caril lately. Both of them saw increased usage in 1958:
Usage of Karil
Usage of Caril
8 baby girls
15 baby girls
7 baby girls
19 baby girls [debut]
10 baby girls
The similar names Carol and Karen were popular in the late ’50s, but I think something more specific would have caused both Karil and Caril to pop up all of a sudden like that.
Right now I have two working theories, and both involve murders (how uplifting!).
The first theory is Caril Ann Fugate, the 14-year-old from Nebraska who went on a killing spree with her boyfriend, 19-year-old Charles Starkweather, in January of 1958. The story stayed in the news for months: Starkweather was sentenced to death in May, Fugate received a life sentence in November, and Starkweather’s execution took place in mid-1959.
The second theory is Karil Graham, a Los Angeles woman who was murdered in ’55 and whose story was recounted (with a lot of embellishment) in the 1958 nonfiction book The Badge by Jack Webb, the creator of Dragnet. In late 1958, many newspapers ran Jim Bishop’s positive review of the book, which included the following excerpt highlighting Karil:
The way it is with so many women who live alone, life had held back on Karil Graham. She was likable and attractive, still a year on the sunny side of 40, sandy-haired, blue-eyed, trim-figured. But there was no husband — a marriage hadn’t worked out — no children, no other man in her lonely life.
Karil hid the hurt and filled the emptiness as best she could. Every day she went to work, on time, to her job as receptionist at a downtown Los Angeles art school. Nights, in her quiet apartment, she listened to music and dabbled in painting. She was just a dilettante, she know resignedly, but records and easel were gracious cover-ups for emptiness.
Do either of these theories seem like the primary answer to you? Do you think the answer could be a bit of both? Or something else entirely…?
Bishop, Jim. “Jack Webb: Drama in the Prowl Car.” Salt Lake Tribune 26 Nov. 1958: 24.
Oodles of multiples — eight sets of twins, one set of triplets, six sets of quadruplets, and one set of quintuplets — were featured in an early 1944 issue of LIFE magazine. Most of these multiples had been born in the 1920s and 1930s.
Curious about the names? I knew you would be! Here they are, along with ages and other details.
Marjorie and Mary Vaughan, 19.
Lois and Lucille Barnes, 21.
Betty and Lenore Wade, early 20s.
Robert “Bobby” and William “Billy” Mauch, 22.
They had starred in the 1937 movie The Prince and the Pauper.
Blaine and Wayne Rideout, 27.
They had been track stars at the University of North Texas in the late 1930s along with another set of twins, Elmer and Delmer Brown.
Charles and Horace Hildreth, 41.
Horace was elected Governor of Maine later the same year.
Ivan and Malvin Albright, 47.
Auguste and Jean Piccard, 60.
“Honors as the world’s most distinguished pair of twins must go to Jean and Auguste Piccard, stratosphere balloonists, who are so identical that not everyone realizes there are two of them.”
Diane Carol, Elizabeth Ann, and Karen Lynn Quist, 11 months.
Sadly, Karac died of a stomach infection in 1977 while Led Zeppelin was on tour in North America.
In 1979, Led Zeppelin released the album In Through the Out Door, which included a tribute to Karac called “All My Love.” At least one high-profile magazine, People, mentioned Karac in its write-up of the album. My guess is that this and other press mentions are what caused the baby name to debut in ’79.
(For the record, several U.S. babies named Karac before 1979. And I found one born in London in 1977 named “Zeppelin Karac.”)
In September of 1987, musician M.C. Hammer welcomed a baby girl named A’Keiba Monique.
But the name Akeiba didn’t debut until 1992, when A’keiba was four years old:
1994: 5 baby girls named Akeiba
1993: 6 baby girls named Akeiba
1992: 49 baby girls named Akeiba [debut]
M.C. Hammer wasn’t famous in 1987. (“U Can’t Touch This” didn’t become a hit until 1990.) So A’Keiba’s birth wouldn’t have affected the baby name charts that early.
But why did it suddenly hit in 1992?
Because A’keiba was in the spotlight several times that year.
Various publications ran a photo of A’keiba and her father attending the American Music Awards together in January, for instance, and Jet put Hammer and A’keiba (and her name, sans apostrophe) on the cover in May.
Delayed celebrity baby name debuts still occur these days, though less often — at least relative to the sheer number of celebrity baby name debuts that we now see on the charts.
The best internet-era example I can think of is Kailand, son of Stevie Wonder and fashion designer Kai Milla (Karen Millard-Morris). He was born in 2001, but his name didn’t debut until 2005 — the year he started showing up to fashion shows (one in February, another in December) with his parents.
Can you think of any other celebrity baby names didn’t debut on time?
Update, 5/1/16: Forgot to add Shangaleza to this list! Baseball player Dock Ellis welcomed a baby girl named Shangaleza in 1969, but her name didn’t debut until 1971. Why? A mention in the August issue of Sports Illustrated (“On the Lam with the Three Rivers Gang“):
Dock Ellis, the hottest-talking, hottest winning pitcher in the National League, explained that his one-year-old daughter’s name, Shangaleza Talwanga, meant “everything black is beautiful” in Swahili.
The ratio of Biblical names to non-Biblical names in the girl’s top 20 is about the same today as it was 100 years ago, though the ratio did change a bit mid-century.
(In contrast, there’s been a steady increase in the number of Biblical-origin names among the top boy names.)
Here’s the color-coded table — Biblical names are in the yellow cells, non-Biblical names are in the green cells, and several borderline names (which I counted as non-Biblical) are in the orange cells:
27%-73% is remarkably similar to both 25%-75% (smaller 2014 sample) and 30%-70% (1914 sample).
So here’s the question of the day: If you had to choose all of your children’s names from either one group or the other — Biblical names or non-Biblical names — which group would you stick to, and why?