How popular is the baby name Lou in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Lou and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Lou.

The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.


Popularity of the Baby Name Lou

Number of Babies Named Lou

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Lou

The Many Names in Dobie Gillis

The baby name Dobie debuted in the US baby name data in 1960.

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
  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: 6 baby boys named Dobie
  • 1961: 8 baby boys named Dobie
  • 1960: 9 baby boys named Dobie [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted

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:

Aphrodite
Arabella
Aristede
Blossom
Bruno
Bubbles
Chatsworth
Clothilde
Clydene
Drusilla
Esmond
Glynis
Imogene
Jethro
Kermit
Laurabelle
Leander
Maribelle
Mignonne
Poppy
Riff

Do you like any of the above Dobie Gillis names? How about the name “Dobie” itself?

Sources:

  • 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 Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (TV Series 1959–1963) – IMDb

The Debut of Jeri Lou

jeri lou, racket squad, television, 1950s
Jeri Lou James in a 1952 episode of Racket Squad
The name Jerilou appeared for the first and only time in the SSA’s baby name data in 1953:

  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: 9 baby girls named Jerilou [debut]
  • 1952: unlisted

(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?

Sources:

The Baby Name Peggysue

Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly, 1958
In September of 1957, the classic rock and roll song “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly came out. (This was just a few months after the doo wop song “Deserie” was released.)

“Peggy Sue” was on the Billboard Top 100 for 22 weeks in late 1957 and early 1958, reaching as high as the #3 spot.

Right on cue, the compound baby name Peggysue debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1958:

  • 1962: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1961: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1959: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1958: 7 baby girls named Peggysue [debut]
  • 1957: unlisted

The name Peggy by itself also saw a significant increase in usage that year:

  • 1961: 6,434 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 69th]
  • 1959: 7,408 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 57th]
  • 1958: 10,072 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 42nd]
  • 1957: 7,379 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 62nd]
  • 1956: 7,487 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 63rd]

No doubt many of these Peggys had the middle name Sue.

So how did Buddy Holly chose the name “Peggy Sue” for the song? He didn’t — he wrote a song called “Cindy Lou,” taking the names from his newborn baby niece, Cindy Carol, and Cindy’s mom (Buddy’s sister) Patricia Lou.

But the original song wasn’t working out, so the band experimented with it in the summer of ’57. One of the changes they made was to the name. The rhythmically identical “Peggy Sue” was suggested by drummer Jerry Allison, who was dating a girl named Peggy Sue at the time.

At the end of 1958, Buddy Holly started working on “Peggy Sue Got Married,” one of rock and roll’s first sequel songs. Sadly he didn’t finish the song before February 3, 1959 — the day that he, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.

*

If you were having a baby girl, and you had to name her either Peggy Sue or Cindy Lou, which combination would you choose?

I prefer...

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Sources: ‘Peggy Sue’: NPR, Who Was Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”?, Patricia Lou Holley-Kaiter (Obit) – Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Babies Named After Oscar DePriest

the baby name depriest
Oscar DePriest
The name DePriest debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1929, and usage peaked in 1930:

  • 1931: unlisted
  • 1930: 10 baby boys named DePriest
  • 1929: 5 baby boys named DePriest [debut]
  • 1928: unlisted

Where did the name come from?

Chicago politician Oscar DePriest, the first African-American from outside the southern states to be elected to Congress.

Oscar DePriest was born in Alabama in 1871. His parents, former slaves, moved the family northward to Salina, Kansas, after 7-year-old Oscar discovered a neighbor “who had been lynched and riddled with bullets.”

As a young adult, Oscar continued to move northward — first to Dayton, and finally to Chicago.

Chicago is where he met and married his wife Jessie in 1898, where he become wealthy thanks to his real estate business and investments in the stock market, and where he first got involved in politics.

Decades later, in 1928, Oscar DePriest was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Not only was he the first African-American from the North to be elected to Congress, but he was also the first African-American to serve in Congress during the post-Reconstruction period.

(In fact, Oscar DePriest was re-elected twice, and during all three consecutive terms he was the only African-American in Congress, becoming by default “the only voice in Congress for twelve million black Americans.”)

Needless to say, many people in the South were not big fans of Oscar DePriest.

In April of 1929, the members of the 71st Congress were sworn in all at once — as opposed to state by state, which had been the tradition up to that point — “in large part to prevent any challenges to the legality of DePriest’s seating.”

In June of 1929, DePriest’s wife Jessie made national headlines when she visited the White House to have tea with First Lady Lou Hoover. Southern journalists and politicians (including Coleman Blease) criticized the DePriests and accused the Hoovers of “defiling” the White House. The Georgia legislature, the Texas legislature, the Florida legislature, and the Mississippi legislature all passed resolutions condemning the event and the Hoovers themselves.

Here is part of Oscar’s reaction to the criticism:

“I want to thank the Democrats of the south for one thing. They were so barbaric they drove my parents to the north. If it had not been for that I wouldn’t be in Congress today. I’ve been Jim Crowed, segregated, persecuted, and I think I know how best the Negro can put a stop to being imposed upon. It is through the ballot, through organization, through eternally fighting for his rights.”

Thankfully, the DePriests also had plenty of supporters. And some of that support was expressed in the form of baby names.

More than a dozen babies were named DePriest in 1929 and 1930 (as we saw above) and more than two dozen other babies born in 1929 or the 1930s got the first-middle combination “Oscar DePriest.” Here are some examples:

And baby girls weren’t left out entirely. I found one born in Texas in 1929 with the first-middle combo “Jessie DePriest.”

Sources:

Image: Oscar DePriest, 5/8/29, Library of Congress

The One-Hit Wonder Baby Name Seroba

serobaA week or so ago I came across a curious one-hit wonder name from 1927: Seroba.

For context, 1927 was the year Lindbergh became big news, the year both Sunya and Jobyna debuted, and the year Arbutus nearly cracked the top 1,000.

So I started doing some research, and you know what kept coming up in the search results? A bunch of news items about Mary Lou Bartley.

Who’s Mary Lou Bartley? If you’ve been reading NBN for a while, you might remember her from that post about radio-crowdsourced baby names.

Mary Lou was born in Kentucky in early 1927. Her parents had asked a radio station to help them name their baby, the station aired the request, and the result was hundreds of baby name suggestions from across the nation. This is the earliest (complete) example of baby name crowdsourcing that I know of.

What did Seroba have to do with Mary Lou Bartley, though?

That’s what I wanted to know. So I read through the news items, all from 1927, and realized that each one was calling her “Seroba Mary Lou.” Which was strange, as all the sources I’d used to reconstruct Mary Lou’s story for that crowdsourcing post — everything from the 1930 census all the way to her 2009 obituary — referred to her simply as “Mary Lou.”

Here’s a caption that ran in one newspaper:

Seroba Mary Lou Bartley of Whitesburg, Ky., who has the distinction of being the first baby to be christened over the radio.

And here’s an excerpt from an article that ran in another:

During the evening [of the radio broadcast] two thousand names were suggested by the listeners, and the suggestions came from almost as many places. There were many who preferred the quiet dignity of “Mary,” and as many who were interested in a name as modern as “Mitzi.” All of the suggestions were forwarded to the Bartleys and after much thought they conferred on the little newcomer, this name suggested by the radio–Seroba Mary Lou. Long love this Virginia Dare of radio!

I have no idea where the name Seroba came from. Was it part of the crowdsourced name? Did a newspaper reporter make it up? I also can’t figure out why some newspapers mentioned it and others did not.

Regardless, the Seroba-version of Mary Lou’s story was circulated widely enough to boost the baby name Seroba onto the charts for a single year:

  • 1928: unlisted
  • 1927: 8 baby girls named Seroba [debut]
  • 1926: unlisted

So that’s the explanation behind the one-hit wonder baby name Seroba. How crazy that it connects to a name we talked about for an entirely different reason more than three years ago.

What are your thoughts on the name Seroba — do you like it? Dislike it? Have you ever heard of it before?

Sources:

  • Radio Baby.” Sausalito News 28 May 1927: 3.
  • “WLS Listeners Name Kentucky Babe.” Wyoming Reporter [Wyoming, NY] 1 Jun. 1927: 3.

P.S. Usage of the baby name Marylou spiked in 1927 as well.