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.
Since the late 1970s, cryptographers have been using personal names (instead of labels like “person A” and “person B”) to describe various communications scenarios. Many of these scenarios involve two communicating parties named Alice and Bob and an eavesdropper named Eve.
Extra parties are assigned names alphabetically (e.g., Carol, Dave) unless they play a specific role within the scenario. For instance, a password cracker is named Craig, a malicious attacker is named Mallory, an intruder is named Trudy, and a whistle-blower is named Wendy.
In zero-knowledge protocols, the “prover” and “verifier” of a message are typically named Peggy and Victor…but Pat and Vanna (after Wheel of Fortune presenters Pat Sajak and Vanna White) are sometimes used instead.
Here’s more about Alice and Bob from American cryptographer Bruce Schneier:
And you’d see paper after paper, and [in] the opening few paragraphs, the authors would explain what they’re doing in terms of Alice and Bob. So Alice and Bob have a storied history. They send each other secrets, they get locked in jail, they get married, they get divorced, they’re trying to date each other. Anything two people might want to do securely, Alice and Bob have done it somewhere in the cryptographic literature.
Question of the day: If you were tasked with updating the names of “person A” (female) and “person B” (male), what new names would you choose?
The ground-breaking ’80s sitcom focused on the Huxtables, a well-off African-American family living in New York City. It starred Bill Cosby as Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable.
The show ran from mid-1984 to mid-1992 and was the top-rated program in the nation for 5 consecutive seasons.
And it influenced a whole bunch of baby names, such as…
Vanessa & Tempestt
Vanessa, the second-youngest Huxtable child, was played by Tempestt Bledsoe. The baby name Vanessa saw its highest-ever levels of usage during the years the show was on:
1989: 6,955 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 50th)
1988: 7,515 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 41st)
1987: 7,345 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 43rd)
1986: 7,367 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 43rd)
1985: 7,562 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 42nd)
1984: 7,153 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 45th)
1983: 6,383 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 49th)
And the baby name Tempestt debuted on the charts the year after the show premiered:
1990: 70 baby girls named Tempestt
1989: 98 baby girls named Tempestt
1988: 72 baby girls named Tempestt
1987: 87 baby girls named Tempestt
1986: 78 baby girls named Tempestt
1985: 36 baby girls named Tempestt [debut]
The name Tempest also got a boost during the last half of the ’80s.
Rudy & Keshia
Rudith “Rudy” Huxtable, the baby of the family, was played by Keshia Knight Pulliam. The baby name Keshia entered the top 1,000 for the very first time the year after the show premiered:
1990: 385 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 594th)
1989: 496 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 479th)
1988: 398 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 547th)
1987: 483 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 457th)
1986: 511 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 426th)
1985: 321 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 596th)
1984: 96 baby girls named Keshia
1983: 64 baby girls named Keshia
The name Rudy also rose in usage, and the variant spelling Rudi debuted on the charts in 1985.
Huxtable mother Clair was played by actress Phylicia Rashād. The baby name Phylicia entered the top 1,000 for the first time two years after the show premiered:
1990: 257 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 787th)
1989: 265 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 744th)
1988: 286 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 679th)
1987: 290 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 649th)
1986: 213 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 789th)
1985: 122 baby girls named Phylicia
1984: 13 baby girls named Phylicia
1983: 7 baby girls named Phylicia
Theo & Malcolm-Jamal
Theo, the middle Huxtable child (and the only male in the family besides Cliff) was played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner. The baby name Theo almost tripled in usage the year after the show premiered:
1990: 66 baby boys named Theo
1989: 75 baby boys named Theo
1988: 77 baby boys named Theo
1987: 75 baby boys named Theo
1986: 85 baby boys named Theo
1985: 76 baby boys named Theo
1984: 23 baby boys named Theo
1983: 26 baby boys named Theo
Usage of the baby name Malcolm also began to rise in the mid-’80s, and the baby name Malcolm-Jamal (rendered Malcolmjamal by the SSA, which leaves off hyphens) debuted on the baby name charts two years after the show premiered:
1988: 5 baby boys named Malcolm-Jamal
1986: 5 baby boys named Malcolm-Jamal [debut]
(Where did actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner get his name, btw? He was named after civil rights activist Malcolm X and jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal.)
So now here’s the question: Does The Cosby Show beat Family Ties in terms of impact on the baby name charts? Cosby clearly affected a greater number of names, but is that enough to offset the massive rises of both Mallory and Alex?
In December of 2011, Disney announced that the family in the sitcom would be welcoming a fifth child. Fans were given a 2-week window in which to vote for their favorite baby name via the show’s official webpage. These were the choices:
The baby, a boy, arrived during the episode that aired on June 24, 2012. He was born in an ice cream truck and given the name Toby (which had received nearly 26 million votes).
Usage of the baby name Toby has been declining in the US lately:
2007: 457 baby boys, 51 baby girls with the name Toby
2008: 439 baby boys, 52 baby girls with the name Toby
2009: 396 baby boys, 56 baby girls with the name Toby
2010: 356 baby boys, 50 baby girls with the name Toby
2011: 289 baby boys, 60 baby girls with the name Toby
Do you think the popular sitcom could turn this trend around?
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.