A mystery/suspense novel called The Sign of the Ram by Margaret Ferguson. It was published in 1944 became a best-seller.
It was set in pre-World War II Cornwall and the central character was Leah St. Aubyn, a wheelchair-bound poet who was the (young) matriarch of the well-off St. Aubyn family. Leah became increasingly vengeful and manipulative over the course of the story, and one of her targets was her secretary Sherida Binyon, who Leah thought was having an affair with her husband Mallory.
In 1948, the novel was made into a movie — mainly as a vehicle for actress Susan Peters, who had been a rising star in Hollywood before becoming a paraplegic due to a hunting accident. Actress Phyllis Thaxter played the part of Sherida. The movie didn’t do well in theaters, but it pushed the usage of Sherida up to peak levels.
Also interesting: This usage of Sherida seemed to negatively affect the (female) usage of Sheridan, which slipped in both 1945 and 1948. Americans were probably using Sheridan as a girl name in the ’40s thanks to actress Ann Sheridan.
Do you like the name Sherida? Do you like it more or less than Sheridan?
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?