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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Michelle


Posts that Mention the Name Michelle

The Emergence of Mychal

mychal, sports, baby name, 1970s

The name Mychal first appeared in the SSA’s baby name data in 1978, when it was suddenly given to nearly five dozen baby boys:

  • 1981: 29 baby boys named Mychal
  • 1980: 26 baby boys named Mychal
  • 1979: 35 baby boys named Mychal
  • 1978: 59 baby boys named Mychal
  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: unlisted

That number was impressive enough to make Mychal not just the top debut name of 1978, but also the 26th-highest boy-name debut of all time.

What was the influence?

Bahamian basketball player Mychal Thompson. He was the #1 pick in the 1978 NBA draft (chosen by the Portland Trail Blazers) and also happened to be the first foreign-born player to be a #1 pick.

Later in his career, he played for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning two championships with them in the late ’80s. As a result, the baby name Mychal shot into the top 1,000 in 1987 and saw peak usage in 1988.

So how did he get the name “Mychal”? He gave it to himself, actually. In an interview with Lakers Nation, he told the story of why he changed the spelling from the original “Michael”:

When I did start playing basketball in high school, all of a sudden people started talking about Michael Thompson in all the [newspaper] write-ups. […] So every time they’d write my name they’d go, Mike Thompson. And my name is Michael.

Now I understand Mike is short for Michael, but I wanted to be known as Michael, so I said, ‘How can I get them to stop calling me Mike?’ I’ll tell you what, I’ll change the spelling of my name so that way, and I figured I wanted to make it kind of a unique name, so people know it’s me, cause there are a million Michaels out there, it’s one of the most popular names there is.

So I figured, ok, just [so that] everybody knows that it’s me when I write Michael Thompson, I started writing M-y-c-h-a-e-l, nah, M-y-k-a-e-l, nah I don’t like that one, M-y-c-h-a-l, oh that looks cool, I’ll just go with that. So I started signing my name that way and to make it legal, I actually had to go back home [to the Bahamas] and change my name legally to Mychal.

All three of Mychal’s uniquely named sons — Mychel (different spelling; “I didn’t want him to be a junior”), Klay, and Trayce — now play professional sports. In fact, much of the recent usage of “Klay” is in California, where Klay Thompson has been playing for the Golden State Warriors since 2011.

Mychal admitted that his eldest son doesn’t like that his name is often mispronounced Michelle, but also noted that, while Mychel is “always complaining about it, […] he’s never changed it back to the original spelling.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Mychal? Do you like the spelling?

Sources: Mychal Thompson – Wikipedia, Lakers Nation Special Feature, Part 1: Getting to Know Mychal Thompson [vid]

The Introduction of Turiya

baby name, turiya, music, 1970s, album
Illuminations (1974) by Turiya Alice Coltrane and Devadip Carlos Santana

The rare name Turiya has appeared in the SSA’s baby name data just twice so far, in 1974 and 1975:

  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: unlisted
  • 1975: 7 baby girls named Turiya
  • 1974: 6 baby girls named Turiya [debut]
  • 1973: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Signs point to Alice Coltrane, who wasn’t just the widow of famous jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, but also an accomplished jazz musician in her own right. She played piano and organ professionally starting in the early 1960s, and later learned to play the harp as well.

Following the death of her husband in 1967, Alice did two things: she “devoted herself to Vedic practice,” and she began recording albums as a bandleader (instead of as a sideman).

In the ten years that followed, she released about a dozen albums on Impulse! and Warner Bros., many of them masterpieces that imagine a meeting point between jazz and psychedelic rock, gospel traditions and Indian devotional music.

So how does “Turiya” fit into all this?

At some point in the early ’70s, Alice adopted the name Turiyasangitananda, which she translated as “the Transcendental Lord’s highest song of bliss.” The Sanskrit components of the name are: turiya, meaning “the fourth (state of the soul),” sangita, meaning “music,” and ananda, meaning “bliss.”

The shortened version, Turiya, soon started appearing in song titles: “Turiya & Ramakrishna” (1970) and “Galaxy In Turiya” (1972).

But its most prominent appearance came in 1974 with the album Illuminations, which was co-created by “Turiya Alice Coltrane” and “Devadip Carlos Santana.” (In Sanskrit, deva means “god,” dip means “lamp” or “light.” Like Narada Michael Walden, Carlos Santana was a follower of Sri Chinmoy.)

Though Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda eventually left her professional music career to head a spiritual community — not to mention raise four children (Michelle, John Jr., Ravi and Oranyan) as a single mother — she never stopped making music.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Turiya?

Sources: Alice Coltrane – Wikipedia, Alice Coltrane’s Devotional Music, Alice Coltrane – Discogs

The Baby Name Shelleen

baby name, 1960s, shelleen, movie
Lee Marvin as Kid Shelleen, 1965

Here’s an interesting one. Most baby names that debut on the girls’ side of the list are put there by a female (either real or fictitious). But Shelleen, just like Kookie and Korla, seems to have popped up in 1965 thanks to a male.

  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: 6 baby girls named Shelleen
  • 1965: 7 baby girls named Shelleen [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted

The name can be linked to Kid Shelleen, the bumbling gunfighter played by Lee Marvin in the 1965 comedy Western Cat Ballou.

In fact, Lee Marvin had two roles in the film: Kid Shelleen, and Kid’s brother Tim Strawn, a much more competent gunfighter. For the dual role, Marvin won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actor in early 1966.

Males don’t typically give rise to new female names, but the timing and trends were just right for Shelleen in the ’60s. The same decade, similar names like Shelly, Michelle, and Sheila all saw peak usage.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Shelleen? Do you like it more or less than, say, Shelly?

Source: Cat Ballou – Wikipedia

The Emergence of Jovon

baby name, jovon, actress, 1960s
Jovon Monteil

When I first noticed the name Jovon popping up in the U.S. baby name data, I thought of Jovan Musk. But the Musk was from the ’70s, and the name popped up a decade earlier:

  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: 5 baby girls named Jovon
  • 1960: 10 baby girls named Jovon [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

So, what put it on the map?

An actress named Jovon Monteil, who was making guest appearances on TV in the late 1950s and early 1960s. (The image is from Sea Hunt.) She was also in one movie: Born Reckless (1959).

Jovon’s real name was Louise Davis and she was originally from Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Journal noted in late 1957 that “Jovon Monteil” was “her newly chosen professional name.”

By the end of 1960 she was married and had a baby (named Michelle), which is likely why she stopped pursuing a career in entertainment.

The names Jovon and Jovan both saw a steep rise in usage in the ’70s thanks to Jovan Musk, put out by the Chicago-based Jovan company. (Here’s a long list of perfume-inspired baby names.)

Sources:

  • “Jovon Monteil Completes Part in ‘Born Reckless’.” Albuquerque Journal 22 Dec. 1957: 15.
  • “Beauty Contest Winner.” Albuquerque Journal 21 Jan. 1962: 15.

Name Quotes 78: Brene, Neal, SanDeE*

The name SanDeE* from LA Story (1991).
SanDeE* from LA Story

From the 1991 movie LA Story, a conversation between Harris (played by Steve Martin) and SanDeE* (played by Sarah Jessica Parker):

H: What was your name again?

S: SanDeE*

H: I’m sorry, Sandy, Sandy… It’s a nice name. Everybody has such weird names now, it’s like Tiffany with a P-H-I, and instead of Nancy it’s Nancine. [He begins to write her name down.]

S: Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E.

H: What?

S: Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E. [She grabs his hand and writes directly on it.] Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E. Then there’s a little star at the end.

Anna Wintour recently talking about her new puppy, named Finch [vid]:

She’s called Finch because we call all of our dogs after characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. So we have had a Scout, a Radley, and a Harper. And let me tell you, they are not happy about Finch’s arrival.

From a 1995 interview with R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe, whose paternal grandfather was a Methodist minister:

Well, Methodism was started by John Wesley, who was, in his way, a really radical guy who believed in a lot of individual responsibility. It’s not the kind of religion that’s right around your throat. Actually, I was named after him, John Michael Stipe.

From an article about Lara Prescott, author of the new book The Secrets We Kept, a fictional account of the dangers of publishing Doctor Zhivago in the 1950s:

You could say she was born to write this historical novel: Prescott’s mother named her after the doomed heroine from her favorite movie, the 1965 adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s epic.

A non-edited tweet from Cardi B, whose sister’s name is Hennessy:

Fun fact :Always wanted a daughter and I always used to say imma name her HennyLynn. It’s a cute mix of my sisters name but then I started calling my sister HennyLynn then it became one of the nicknames I gave my sister so it woulda been weird naming my daughter that .

From an article about a Georgia man whose name, Neal, came from a POW bracelet:

His father, the late John Carpenter, was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy and was deployed overseas at the time. He arrived home in time for his son’s birth. When it became necessary to scramble and find a boy’s name, John Carpenter looked down at the POW/MIA bracelet he was wearing.

The engraved name was Neal Clinton Ward Jr. He had been listed as Missing in Action since June 13, 1969. An airman, his plane had been shot down over Laos in the jungles of Southeast Asia, nine days before his 24th birthday.

The Carpenters named their son Neal Ward Carpenter.

(Neal’s mom had been convinced the baby would be a girl. Neal said: “I was going to be April Michelle, and that’s all there was to it.”)

Research professor and author Brené Brown on her unique name:

Growing up, every time we drove from San Antonio to Houston, going to Stuckey’s — all these places where you buy monogrammed shirts and glasses — I was so put out because there was never a “Brené.” So I think I made up in my head that it was French. And then I hitchhiked across Europe after high school and I got to France and I was like, “Je suis Brené!” And they were like, “What kind of name is that?” They’d never heard of it. My parents just made it up. I had a whole narrative in high school — “When I bust out of this suburban Spring, Texas, high school I’m going to go back to France where my people are!” But, no, it’s not French — it’s south side San Antonio.

Marketing expert Seth Godin’s take on the best middle name ever:

It’s not Warren or Susan or Otis or Samuel or Tricia.

It’s “The.”

As in Attila The Hun or Alexander The Great or Zorba The Greek.

When your middle name is ‘The’, it means you’re it. The only one. The one that defines the category. I think that focus is a choice, and that the result of appropriate focus is you earn the middle name.

For more name-related quotes, check out the name quotes category.