It’s hard to put into words just how bizarre 2020 was.
Despite this…people still had babies in 2020, and people still paid attention to pop culture in 2020. (In fact, thanks to quarantine, many people probably paid a lot more attention to pop culture than usual last year.) So, let’s put the seriousness of 2020 aside for a second and kick off the annual Pop Culture Baby Name Game!
Of course, “pop culture” includes not just things like movies and music and social media, but also anything that was in the news — including COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and the U.S. presidential election.
Which baby names will see higher usage — or appear for the very first time — in the 2020 SSA baby name data thanks to pop culture?
Here are some initial ideas (plus some context):
Aalam, DJ Khaled’s baby
Ahmaud, shooting of Ahmaud Arbery
Amala, Doja Cat album
Azula, character from Avatar: The Last Airbender (made available on Netflix in mid-2020)
Some of the names from the 2019 game could be applicable to the 2020 data as well.
Also, feel free to zoom out and consider name trends this year. Here are a few ways in which baby-naming may have been influenced by our collective experience of COVID-19, for instance:
“In my opinion this unprecedented situation will affect naming towards something “bolder” or “more badass” baby names and so you’ll probably see a spike of certain names like King, Major or Royal.” (Gheba)
“I’d bet on the rise of virtue names, or at least modern version of virtue names, like Brave/Bravery, Courage, Honor, etc. And I’d say names like Legend, Messiah, Legacy, Major, King, will probably rise some more too.” (Skizzo)
“I think it will also affect which media influence names this year. Eg we’ll miss out on names inspired by Olympic athletes, but might see even more from Netflix and YouTube.” (Clare)
What other names (or name trends) should we add to the list? Let me know by leaving a comment below. Just remember to make a note of the pop culture influence!
I’ll post the results as soon as I can after the SSA releases the 2020 data (in May of 2021, hopefully).
*Did you know that the actress who played Kamiyah in that Lifetime movie is named Rayven Symone Ferrell? Certainly a nod to Raven-Symoné…
The name Mardeen has appeared in the U.S. baby name data just twice — once in 1950, then again a couple years later:
1952: 5 baby girls named Mardeen
1950: 14 baby girls named Mardeen [debut]
Other variants of the name (Mardene and Mardine) had been in the data before this, but neither has ever been given to as many as fourteen babies per year.
So where did Mardeen come from? My best guess is a secondary character from the nationally syndicated comic strip Mary Worth. Mardeen made appearances regularly in 1950, from June through August.
Mardeen worked as a housekeeper for fellow character K. T. “Katy” Farrell, who was the 35-year-old, “brilliantly successful” head of a publishing house. Katy was involved in a romance — well, a love triangle — with “young novelist” Gregory Ford, one of Mary Worth’s friends. (Despite the title, Mary herself didn’t often make appearances in the strip.)
The comic Mary Worth, which has been around since the late 1930s, was being written by Allen Saunders and drawn by Ken Ernst at that time.
What do you think of the name Mardeen? How would you spell it?
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
A few years ago, we held a fun 1980s name-song tournament. (Come on, Eileen, you must remember!) This year, let’s go back even further — let’s check out songs with names in the titles from the early rock and roll era (late ’50s and early ’60s).
I’ll explain more about the tournament at the bottom of the post. For now, I’ll just forewarn you that each link opens a video in a new page so that you don’t lose your place on this page, which is pretty long.
"Wake Up Little Susie" by The Everly Brothers (57%, 4 Votes)
"Sally, Go 'Round the Roses" by The Jaynetts (43%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 7
Which song is better? (30 of 32)
"Susie Q" by Dale Hawkins (71%, 5 Votes)
"Sherry" by The Four Seasons (29%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 7
Which song is better? (31 of 32)
"Runaround Sue" by Dion (67%, 4 Votes)
"Venus in Blue Jeans" by Jimmy Clanton (33%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 6
Which song is better? (32 of 32)
"Sheila" by Tommy Roe (67%, 4 Votes)
"Susie Darlin'" by Robin Luke (33%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 6
…And that’s it for now! Round 2 will start on Friday.
Here’s the full tournament schedule:
Round 1 (64 songs to 32): Vote March 12-15
Round 2 (32 to 16): Vote March 16-19
Sweet 16 (16 to 8): Vote March 20-22
Elite Eight (8 to 4): Vote March 23-25
Final Four (4 to 2): Vote March 26-27
Championship (2 to 1): Vote March 28-29
Winner (1): Announced on March 30
Polls close at 11:59 PM (Mountain Time) on the last day of each round.
And finally, in case you’re wondering how I chose the groups and the pairings: The groups are alphabetical (A to F, G to L, L to P, and R to W). To rank the songs within each group, I used that “total” number of Google search results as a proxy for popularity. Then I created match-ups in true March Madness style: first vs. last, second vs. second-to-last, and so forth.
I only recently noticed that Behind the Name, one of my favorite websites for baby name definitions, has a page called United States Popularity Analysis — a “computer-created analysis of the United States top 1000 names for the period 1880 to 2012.”
The page has some interesting top ten lists. Here are three of them: