Did you know that the teenage characters of the cartoon Scooby Doo, Where Are You! — Fred, Shaggy, Daphne, and Velma — were based directly on four of the teenage characters in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis — Dobie, Maynard, Thalia, and Zelda?
(And, did you know that Shaggy’s real name was Norville?!)
So let’s try a poll. Which set of names do you like better, the Dobie Gillis names or the Scooby Doo names?
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
1962: 6 baby boys named Dobie
1961: 8 baby boys named Dobie
1960: 9 baby boys named Dobie [debut]
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:
Do you like any of the above Dobie Gillis names? How about the name “Dobie” itself?
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.
Many of us have ancestors who traveled by sea. But few of us know the names of the ships that conveyed our ancestors from place to place. That’s too bad, because some of these vessels had names like:
M. F. Elliott
Malcolm Baxter Jr
Margaret May Riley
Marie di Giorgio
Marion G. Douglas
Mary G. Maynard
Maurice R. Thurlow
Myron C. Taylor
All of the above are actual ship names. These particular ships arrived at Ellis Island in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They could inspire some great baby names, couldn’t they?
Of course, performing genealogical research and then combing through passenger manifests is tedious business. And, even then, there’s no guarantee that the ship names you find in your family tree will be appropriate baby names.
But if you do put the time in, you might just discover a name that not only appeals to you, but is symbolic of your family, of overcoming hardship, of starting a new life. A name like that would certainly give your child a cool story to tell one day.
Are there any boy names out there that aren’t at risk of becoming girl names?
This may not be the answer you want to hear, but: nope. There’s simply no way to guarantee that a boy name won’t suddenly become trendy for girls. (A movie mermaid was all it took for the name Madison — a name with the word “son” right in there — to become a girl name.)
No boy names are girl-proof, but some are certainly girl-resistant. Which ones? Here are five types I’ve come up with:
1. Boy names with unstylish elements, such as “bert” and “stan.” If a boy name isn’t fashionable enough to be popular for boys, it shouldn’t be too tempting to use for girls either.
2. Boy names with few vowels. They tend to sound more masculine than other names.
3. Boy names with length. Most of today’s popular unisex names stop at two syllables.
4. Boy names with hard endings, such as D, K and T. Many of the boy names being used by girls end with softer consonants like L, N and R.
5. Boy names with well-known feminine forms. If there’s a readily available girl-version, doesn’t it seem silly to use the masculine form for a female?
As I mentioned, there’s never a guarantee. (A female Scrubs character is named Elliot — will that be the next to go? How about Blake, thanks to Blake Lively?) But I think boy names that fit into the above categories are relatively safe bets.
Are there any other types of names you’d add to the list?