In 1983, the top newbie name on the U.S. baby name charts was Mallori, a derivative of Mallory, popularized that year by the hit TV show Family Ties.
Just below Mallori, tied for 2nd place, was the particularly ’80s-looking name Tyger:
1986: 9 baby girls named Tyger
1984: 11 baby girls named Tyger
1983: 29 baby girls named Tyger [debut]
So where did Tyger come from?
Patricia “Tyger” Hayes, the main character of two identically-named programs: Bare Essence, a CBS mini-series that aired in October of 1982, and Bare Essence, an NBC soap opera (based on the mini-series) that aired from February to June of 1983.
Tyger Hayes was a “spunky young spitfire” who married into a wealthy family. She had to “fight for her share of the family perfume empire when her husband Chase [was] murdered in the premiere episode” of the soap, which — despite heavy promotion — was ultimately a flop.
Here’s what a WaPo reviewer said:
NBC blunders in where everyone has already exhaustingly trod with “Bare Essence,” yet another glossy prime-time soap about the conniving and conjugating rich. This one, derived from a two-part CBS movie that aired last fall, comes up lacking on almost all counts. A better title would be “Bare Minimum.”
In the final episode, the identity of Chase’s murderer was finally revealed. The culprit? His amazingly named sister-in-law, Muffin.
What do you think of the name Tyger? (Do you like it more or less than Muffin?)
Shales, Tom. “Such Gloss! Such Dross! It’s ‘Bare Essence’!” Washington Post 15 Feb. 1983.
Though vast majority of the baby names on the Social Security Administration’s yearly baby name lists are repeats, every list does contain a handful of brand-new names.
Below are the highest-charting debut names for every single year on record, after the first.
Why bother with an analysis like this? Because debut names often have cool stories behind them, and high-hitting debuts are especially likely to have intriguing pop culture explanations. So this is more than a list of names — it’s also a list of stories.
Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!
Next up is everyone’s favorite character, Alex, played by Michael J. Fox. Here are the numbers for the name Alex:
1980: 1,676 baby boys and 28 baby girls named Alex
1981: 1,871 baby boys and 32 baby girls named Alex
1982: 1,955 baby boys and 46 baby girls named Alex
1983: 2,148 baby boys and 27 baby girls named Alex
1984: 3,017 baby boys and 84 baby girls named Alex
1985: 3,902 baby boys and 85 baby girls named Alex
1986: 5,104 baby boys and 142 baby girls named Alex
1987: 6,040 baby boys and 211 baby girls named Alex
1988: 6,396 baby boys and 269 baby girls named Alex
1989: 6,538 baby boys and 240 baby girls named Alex
Alex was already on the rise in the early ’80s, but the show gave the name a big boost mid-decade.
Now let’s look at the name of Keaton mom Elyse, played by Meredith Baxter-Birney.
1980: 82 baby girls named Elyse
1981: 78 baby girls named Elyse
1982: 80 baby girls named Elyse
1983: 243 baby girls named Elyse
1984: 426 baby girls named Elyse
1985: 637 baby girls named Elyse
1986: 701 baby girls named Elyse
1987: 804 baby girls named Elyse
1988: 790 baby girls named Elyse
1989: 612 baby girls named Elyse
The name Elyse, which had dropped out of the top 1,000 in the mid-1950s, was boosted back into the top 1,000 by Family Ties in 1983. It even reached the top 500 for a time (1985-1989). Usage of the spelling Elise also increased during this period.
Finally, let’s look at the family surname Keaton.
1980: 26 baby boys named Keaton
1981: 15 baby boys named Keaton
1982: 23 baby boys and 6 baby girls named Keaton
1983: 47 baby boys and 8 baby girls named Keaton
1984: 69 baby boys named Keaton
1985: 109 baby boys and 9 baby girls named Keaton
1986: 131 baby boys and 10 baby girls named Keaton
1987: 135 baby boys and 8 baby girls named Keaton
1988: 163 baby boys and 11 baby girls named Keaton
1989: 225 baby boys and 14 baby girls named Keaton
Keaton entered the boys’ top 1,000 for the first time in 1985. It’s been on the rise for both genders ever since. In 2010, nearly 800 baby boys and nearly 50 baby girls were named Keaton.