We looked at the top baby name rises last month, so this month let’s look at the opposite: the top drops. That is, the baby names that decreased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next in the Social Security Administration’s data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year slides in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Clementine dropped 68% and usage of the boy name Neil dropped 76%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does become more accurate in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about a few of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it — leave a comment and let us know why you think any of these names saw dropped in usage when they did.
Ohati was a character played by actress Anna May Wong in the film A Trip to Chinatown (1926).
Princess Ojira was a character played by actress Helen Gardner in the film A Princess of Bagdad (1913).
Queen Okalana was a character played by actress Anne Revere in the film Rainbow Island (1944).
Ola Humphrey was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in California in 1874. Her birth name was Pearl Ola Jane Humphrey. Ola was also a character played by actress Lucy Fox in the film What Fools Men Are (1922).
Olago was a character played by actress Sarah Padden in the film Man of Two Worlds (1934).
Olala Ussan was a character played by actress Billie Dove in the film The Thrill Chaser (1923).
Olalla was a character name in the films The Wandering Jew (1923) and The Wandering Jew (1933), both of which were based upon the same stage play.
O-Lan was a character played by actress Luise Rainer in the film The Good Earth (1937), which was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name by Pearl S. Buck. Rainer won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1937 for playing O-Lan.
Olana was a character played by actress Marie Walcamp in the short film Olana of the South Seas (1914).
Ollante was a character played by actress Dorothy Dalton in the film The Jungle Child (1916).
Olympe Olympe Bradna was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. She was born in France in 1920. Her birth name was Antoinette Olympe Bradna. Olympe was also a character name in multiple films, including New Lives for Old (1925) and Camille (1936).
Oma Tuthill was a character played by actress Mayre Hall in the film The Battle of Ballots (1915).
Ona Munson was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1950s. She was born in Oregon in 1903. Her birth name was Owena Elizabeth Wolcott. Ona was also a character played by actress Gail Kane in the film The Jungle (1914).
Opitsah was a character played by actress Bessie Eyton in the short film Opitsah: Apache for Sweetheart (1912). Despite the title, the word opitsah isn’t Apache — it’s Chinook Jargon for “knife,” but it can also denote a “lover” or “sweetheart.”
Ora Carew was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Utah in 1893. Ora was also a character name in multiple films, including Sparrow of the Circus (short, 1914) and Her Supreme Sacrifice (short, 1915).
Ottima was a character played by actress Marion Leonard in the short film Pippa Passes; or, The Song of Conscience (1909).
Ottola Nesmith was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1960s. She was born in Washington, D.C., in 1889. She was named after her father, Capt. Otto Nesmith.
Ouida Bergère was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in 1886. Her birth name was Eunie Branch. The name Ouida was invented by English author Ouida (b. 1839), whose birth name was Marie Louise Ramé.
Last week, Becca commented with some interesting Jeopardy! contestant names (e.g., Hobie, Dorcas) and mentioned J! Archive, which lists tens of thousands of Jeopardy! contestants going back to 1984, when the show premiered.
I skimmed through all the contestants from 1984 to 2015 (as we don’t have baby name data for 2016 yet) and spotted hundreds of unusual names. And it looks like at least two of them got a boost thanks to the show:
One-time player Alancia Wynn, a family practice physician from Virginia, was on Jeopardy! in October of 1999.
The name Brannon saw an increase in usage in 1998:
1999: 118 baby boys named Brannon
1998: 158 baby boys named Brannon
1997: 113 baby boys named Brannon
One-time player Brannon Denning, a graduate student from Connecticut, was on Jeopardy! in September of 1998. (Looks like Brannon Denning is now a law professor at Samford University.)
Alaric & Ezgi …?
These two names may have gotten a slight boost as well, though it’s hard to tell.
Alaric, in 2005. One-time player Alaric Smith was on the show in October of 2005.
Ezgi, in 2015. One-time player Ezgi Ustundag was on the show in October of 2015.
Ezgi is a female name that means “melody” in Turkish.
Anjali (false positive)
“Kids Week” contestant Anjali Tripathi was on the show in September of 1999. The same year, the baby name Anjali more than doubled in usage:
2001: 222 baby girls named Anjali
2000: 230 baby girls named Anjali
1999: 202 baby girls named Anjali
1998: 93 baby girls named Anjali
1997: 80 baby girls named Anjali
But this was a suspiciously steep rise. And it was accompanied by the debut of an alternate spelling (Anjalie). And usage didn’t drop back to normal levels the next year, as one would expect. These facts pointed me to something more high-profile than a Jeopardy! contestant.
Turns out the very successful Hindi coming-of-age romantic comedy Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had been released in 1998. The movie featured not one but two main characters named Anjali.
Here are the rest of the names that caught my eye, sorted by year: