The Sandy-like name Sondi debuted in the U.S. data in 1959 and saw the most usage during the early 1960s:
1962: 7 baby girls named Sondi
1961: 26 baby girls named Sondi
1960: 10 baby girls named Sondi
1959: 5 baby girls named Sondi [debut]
Where did it come from?
A beauty queen from Thailand who trying her hand at acting in America.
There was no Miss Thailand contest held in 1959, so Sodsai Vanijvadhana was hand-picked to represent her country at the 1959 Miss Universe contest in Long Beach, California. She competed as “Sondi Sodsai,” and though she didn’t place, she was voted Miss Friendship (aka Miss Congeniality) by her fellow contestants.
The same year, she started making appearances (still as Sondi Sodsai) on U.S. TV shows like Mike Hammer, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, and Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life. She also released an album of exotica music on Liberty Records called Sondi.
Her most notable TV role was on the series Adventures in Paradise (1959-1962) as the recurring character “Sondi,” who appeared primarily in 1960.
She eventually returned to Thailand and became a renowned drama teacher (as Sodsai Pantoomkomol, which is her married name). The drama school at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok is now named the Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts. In 2011, Sodsai was named a National Artist of Thailand.
So which Thai beauty queen baby name do you like better: Sondi or Apasra?
Here’s a curious one: Buff. It appeared in the SSA data in the middle of the 20th century as both a boy name and a girl name — but slightly more often as a girl name. The female usage was entirely in the 1950s:
1959: 5 baby girls named Buff
1956: 6 baby girls named Buff
1955: 15 baby girls named Buff
1954: 10 baby girls named Buff
1953: 6 baby girls named Buff
1952: 5 baby girls named Buff [debut]
What was the influence here?
An actress with an intriguingly gender-neutral name: Buff Cobb.
She was born Patrizia Chapman in Italy in 1927 to American parents. When she decided in her teens to become a film star, she created the stage name “Buff Cobb” from her mother’s nickname, Buffy, and her maternal grandfather’s surname, Cobb. (He was writer/humorist Irvin Cobb.)
While Buff’s film career didn’t pan out, she did tour with a company putting on Noël Coward’s play Private Lives in the late ’40s. During a stop in Chicago, she was interviewed for a radio show by a young reporter named Mike Wallace — most famous today for his work as a 60 Minutes correspondent from 1968 to 2006.
She and Mike got married in 1949 and began co-hosting a Chicago radio show, which led to two New York City TV shows (both live):
Mike and Buff (1951-1953), originally entitled Two Sleepy People, one of television’s first talk shows. “[T]he couple would engage in heated debate over a different topic each day, then try to settle their differences after interviewing experts.” One of Mike’s catchphrases on the show was: “Smarten up, Buff!” The show was sponsored by Pepsi and guests included Harry Belafonte and Mickey Spillane.
All Around the Town (1951-1952), an interview show typically broadcast from different parts of New York City.
A year after Mike and Buff was cancelled, the real Mike and Buff were also cancelled — they divorced in 1954. Buff appeared regularly on just one more TV show after that: the ’50s game show Masquerade Party, from 1953 to 1955. Usage of the (female) name Buff was highest during these years.
Do you like the name Buff for a baby girl? Do you like it more or less than Buffy and Buffie (both of which also debuted during the first half of the ’50s)?
Gladstone, B. James. The Man Who Seduced Hollywood: The Life and Loves of Greg Bautzer. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013.
Over the last few years, it has become increasingly popular to end online jokes with a name. The set-up usually goes like this: a person jokes about an annoying behaviour as though they were directly talking to the person annoying them, then they end the joke-angry outburst with a name. That name then slowly becomes cultural shorthand for a type of behaviour. Other names become internet jokes because they were part of movies that were clipped into gifs – such as “Sure, Jan” to denote disbelief, “My name is Jeff” for anyone whose name is, yes, Jeff, or “Bye, Felicia” for anyone irritating.
(Other names used in memes: Karen, Sharon, Janet, Chad, Becky…)
When a child is a toddler, if you have the means, you call on people to gather and name the child. If you don’t have enough, you can ask your relatives to help you prepare the ceremony. That’s how we name a child. Until you name them, you just call them by random names of your choice.
…Gisele has become a brand in itself. That monicker is fortunate – it’s easy to equate “Gisele” with “gazelle”, which is exactly what comes to mind when you see her strutting down the catwalk…
How rapper Post Malone (born Austin Richard Post) came up with his stage name:
I was like 14, and I had started getting into producing and rapping and singing over my own stuff. And I needed a name, you know, for my s—- mixtape,” he told Jimmy Fallon. “So I ran [my real name] through a random rap name generator… now I’m stuck with it.”
How rapper Childish Gambino (born Donald Glover) came up with his stage name:
“We were all hanging out, chilling and drinking and then we were like, ‘Oh, Wu-Tang name generator, let’s put our name in,'” he revealed on The Tonight Show back in 2011. “And we’re putting them all in, and they’re all funny and stuff, and then mine came up and I was like, ‘you guys, it’s not funny anymore. This is something big.’ I just really liked it.”
How spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle (born Ulrich Tölle) came up with his new name:
Some time after this “inner transformation”, Tolle changed his first name from Ulrich to Eckhart following a dream in which he saw books lying around. On the cover of one was the name Eckhart and he knew he had written it. By coincidence, he bumped into an acquaintance, a psychic, a few days later who, for no apparent reason, called him Eckhart! Having become a completely different person he was ready to relinquish the name Ulrich and the unhappy energy the name held for him.
(Other sources say Tolle chose “Eckhart” in deference to 13th-century German theologian/mystic Meister Eckhart.)
The Edge of Night (1956-1984) was a television soap opera with heavy crime drama elements (e.g., courtroom scenes). It was based directly on the radio drama Perry Mason (1943-1955). In fact, the central character of EoN — a police officer/lawyer named Mike Karr — was played by actor John Larkin, who had been the voice of Perry during the last eight years of the radio show.
EoN was a popular soap, ranking anywhere from 2nd to 6th from its inception until the early 1970s. More importantly, though, several EoN characters/actors ended up influencing the U.S. baby name charts.
First we have Teal, which debuted in the data in 1957:
1962: 24 baby girls named Teal
1961: 35 baby girls named Teal
1960: 28 baby girls named Teal
1959: 21 baby girls named Teal
1958: 28 baby girls named Teal
1957: 14 baby girls named Teal [debut]
Teal was inspired by actress Teal Ames, who played Mike’s girlfriend/wife Sara Karr on the show from 1956 to 1961. When Teal decided to quit show business, the character was killed off Edge of Night in a car crash. “CBS received so many anxious and hysterical calls after this episode that actress Teal Ames had to go on the air the following day to assure her fans that she was still very much alive.”
(That said, another potential influence on the name was Japanese-American jazz singer Teal Joy — real name Elsie Itashiki — who put out an album and started appearing on TV in late 1957.)
Next is Laurieann, which debuted in 1959. (And, a year later, the similar name Laurieanne popped up.)
1964: 25 baby girls named Laurieann
1963: 39 baby girls named Laurieann
1962: 35 baby girls named Laurieann
1961: 23 baby girls named Laurieann
1960: 21 baby girls named Laurieann
1959: 5 baby girls named Laurieann [debut]
No doubt Laurieann and Laurieanne were given a nudge by Laurie, which was at peak popularity in the early ’60s (perhaps thanks to Piper Laurie). But the more direct influence was fictional Laurie Ann Karr, Mike and Sara’s only daughter, who was born in the storyline in September of 1959.
Ratings for EoN weren’t as good from the mid-1970s onward, but by then the show was becoming known for something entirely different: unusual character names. These included Taffy, Lobo, Morlock, Cookie, Gunther, Didi, Smiley, Raven, and Schuyler. (Raven and Sky were a couple, of course.) And several of these unusual names got a boost in real life, thanks to the show.
For instance, character Draper Scott was featured in the storyline from 1975 to 1981. The baby name Draper re-emerged in the SSA data in 1976 and saw peak usage in 1980:
1981: 40 baby boys named Draper
1980: 46 baby boys named Draper
1979: 39 baby boys named Draper
1978: 36 baby boys named Draper
1977: 35 baby boys named Draper
1976: 15 baby boys named Draper
And female character Winter Austin, who was on the show from 1978 to 1979, pushed the baby name Winter into the top 1,000 for the first time in the late ’70s:
1980: 140 baby girls named Winter
1979: 241 baby girls named Winter [rank: 705th]
1978: 137 baby girls named Winter [rank: 1,000th]
1977: 29 baby girls named Winter
Were you a regular viewer of The Edge of Night? Did you have any opinions on the character names?
Singer Ciara [pron. see-AIR-ah] explaining how she got her name (People):
My mom was trying to figure out my name when my dad bought her a fragrance called Ciara by Revlon. That’s where my name came from!
(The perfume name, according to the television commercials, was pronounced see‑AHR‑ah.)
Elon Musk explaining how Tesla Motors got its name (Elon Musk):
[W]e didn’t actually come up with the Tesla Motors name. Bought trademark off Brad Siewert for $75k in late 2004. He’d originally filed for it in 1994. Our alternative name was Faraday, which was used by a competitor several years later.
About a woman who married a carnival ride named Bruce (Daily Mail):
Most women look for a handsome, successful, dependable man to be their husband.
But Linda Ducharme, of Tampa, Florida, has decided to forgo relationships with men for those with metal.
The 56-year-old is ‘happily married’ to a skydiver carnival [ride] called Bruce – as she is sexually attracted to objects.
‘His name is Bruce and we’ve know each other since 1981,’ she said.
(You know you’re obsessed with names when your first question upon reading about this woman is: “I wonder why she chose the name Bruce?”)
About crafting names for San Francisco’s high-end condo towers (Modern Luxury):
Perusing high-end real estate literature these days is like reading the cubby signage at a Pacific Heights preschool. At the foot of the Bay Bridge, there’s the Jasper, a 400-foot-tall skyscraper by real estate developer Crescent Heights. Off Van Ness, you’ll run into the Austin, a shiny condo building from Pacific Eagle. And on Harrison Street awaits, well, the Harrison, with its private penthouse lounge, Uncle Harry’s. The trend of monikering luxury dwellings as though they were Ralph Lauren linen collections has hit San Francisco big-time, with the Ashton, the Avalon, and their ilk taking the place of yesteryear’s Paramount and Bel Air.
Yep, he is named after Mike Tyson, and yep, Tyson Fury is a perfect name for a boxer. Fury was born prematurely and only weighed one pound. “The doctors told me there was not much chance of him living,” said his father, John Fury. “I had lost two daughters in the same way who had been born prematurely. They told me there was not much hope for him. It was 1988, Mike Tyson was in his pomp as world heavyweight champion, and so I said, ‘Let’s call him Tyson’. The doctors just looked at me and smiled.”
About the recent celebrity baby name Indigo Blue (UPI):
French star SoKo is a new mom.
The 33-year-old singer and actress, born Stéphanie Sokolinski, took to Instagram Monday after giving birth to a daughter, Indigo Blue Honey.
SoKo shared a photo of herself kissing her baby girl’s foot. She said she named her daughter after The Clean song “Indigo Blue.”
About Marguerite Annie Johnson becoming Maya Angelou, from the book Maya Angelou: “Diversity Makes for a Rich Tapestry” by Donna Brown Agins:
Barry [Drew] signed Marguerite to a three-month contract performing as a Cuban calypso singer at the Purple Onion. He suggested that she change her name to something more exotic. She decided to use to childhood name, Maya. For added dramatic effect, she changed her married name, Angelos, to Angelou.
(Before she was a writer, she was a singer/dancer! This was news to me. The childhood nickname Maya came from her brother, who called her “Mya Sister.”)
About Malaysian sisters named Malaysia, Mayday and Mardeka (Malay Mail):
Mayday’s name pick also went through a similar spur-of-the moment decision, when Victoria was in labour.
“It was less than 24 hours to go before I had to go into labour and I looked at Kamalul and said we are going to have a baby girl soon and we have yet to decide on her name.
“At that point he was reading a historical book about Cold War and was at the part of the story where a plane was going down and an American pilot scream Mayday. He suddenly asked me why not we name her Mayday?” Victoria said with a big smile recalling the moment.
The couple immediately agreed on it since they wanted all their daughters name to start with the pronunciation of “Ma”.
About Cornell University’s two corpse flowers, named Wee Stinky and Carolus (14850.com):
Wee Stinky is named for the spot on the Cornell campus known as the Wee Stinky Glen, near the Cornell Store, that used to have a distinct odor. Carolus was named after Carolus Linnæus, the 18th Century Swedish botanist who laid the foundations of the modern biological naming system known as binomial nomenclature, says Ed Cobb, research support specialist in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “It’s also in honor of Carol Bader, the greenhouse grower who nurtured these plants for nearly ten years, but passed away before they bloomed.”