How popular is the baby name Richard 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 Richard.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Richard


Posts that Mention the Name Richard

Name Story: Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong photo

Chinese-American movie star Anna May Wong was born “Wong Liu Tsong” in Los Angeles in 1905.

Here’s what she had to say about her birth name in 1926:

I was named Wong Lew Song, which means Frosted Yellow Willows. A rather unusual name, isn’t it. Most Chinese children have names, which, interpreted into English, sound rather attractive, though they wouldn’t do for everyday use. They are all right in poetry, but I wouldn’t want to be called Frosted Yellow Willows by my acquaintances. It sounds altogether too quaint for a modern Chinese girl.

Here’s what she had to say about her American name and her stage name in 1928:

I was educated in Los Angeles. […] Our family did not live in the Chinese quarter but on Figueroa Street, where our neighbors were Americans and we were called by our English names. The doctor who brought me into the world named me ‘Anna’; my Chinese name is Tsong. When I was old enough to begin to think about a career, I added ‘May’ to ‘Anna,’ partly because we [daughters] all had four-letter names and I wanted to be different, and partly because it made a prettier signature.

(Her siblings’ American names were Lulu, James, Mary, Frank, Roger, and Richard.)

And, finally, here’s something funny I spotted in a newspaper about the 1924 movie Thief of Bagdad, which featured Wong:

The Mongol slave, a part that required emotional subtlety and balance, was played by Anna May Wong, a Chinese girl, educated in America. Her Chinese name is Lew Wong Song [sic], and means two yellow willows. When the picture was being filmed Miss Wong almost walked out on her job because an enthusiastic press agent misunderstood the translation of her name and published it as “two yelling widows.”

I saw several versions of this “two yelling widows” story, but never managed to track down the press agent’s original mis-translation.

Sources:

The TV-Inspired Debut of Janssen

The baby name Janssen debuted in the US baby name data in 1964.

The surname-name Janssen first appeared on the baby name charts in 1964:

  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: 5 baby boys named Janssen
  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: 8 baby boys named Janssen
  • 1964: 16 baby boys named Janssen [debut]
  • 1963: unlisted

It wasn’t a particularly impressive debut, but 16 baby boys was enough to make Janssen one of the the top debut names of the year.

What was the influence here?

Actor David Janssen, who played Dr. Richard Kimble in the memorable TV drama The Fugitive from 1963 to 1967. Dr. Kimble, falsely convicted of murdering his wife Helen, escaped from authorities on the way to death row and spent the rest of the series both evading recapture and searching for the real killer, the mysterious “one-armed man.”

Notably, 72% of the television sets in America tuned in to see the show’s final episode, in which Dr. Kimble finally finds the justice he’s been seeking.

(The name Kimble also saw slightly higher usage while the show was on the air.)

Do you like the name Janssen?

Sources: The Fugitive (TV series) – Wikipedia, Tuesday, August 29, 1967: The Day The Running Stopped for “The Fugitive’s” Richard Kimble

Babies Named for Famous Kings

king solomon image

A few months ago, I got an email from a reader who’d spotted an obituary for a man named “King David.” Even more intriguing, King David’s father’s name was “King Solomon.” The reader wondered what other famous kings had inspired similar first/middle name combinations.

Historical records reveal that, long before the name King became trendy in the 2000s, hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of people in America were given the first name “King.”

While most that I saw had middle names that didn’t create a special pairing (e.g., King Clyde, King Terry), a good number did have middle names that — whether intentionally or not — turned the pairing into the name of some historical, biblical, or legendary king.

Here are some of the pairings I spotted, plus links to a few examples:

King Alfred
King Arthur
King Asa
King Charles
King Edward
King Frederick
King George
King Henry
King Hezekiah
King James
King Josiah
King Louis
King Olaf
King Oscar
King Richard
King Saul

Several of these (Kingarthur, Kingcharles, Kingdavid, Kingjames, Kingjosiah, and Kingsolomon) also appear as compound names in the SSA data.

Do like the recent King-as-a-first-name trend? Why or why not?

“Brighter Day” Baby Names

brighter day, soap opera, 1950s, television
Babby, Grayling, and Patsy in 1954

The Brighter Day was a moderately popular soap opera that ran on radio from 1948 to 1956 and on television from 1954 to 1962.

The show featured the Dennis family, which was headed by widowed father Rev. Richard Dennis. His five children were adult daughters Elizabeth (Liz) and Althea, adult son Grayling, and teenage daughters Patricia (Patsy) and Barbara (Babby).

At least four Brighter Day characters influenced U.S. baby names:

Grayling

In a 1949 article, Grayling Dennis was described as “restless, charming, spoiled. He writes poetry, plays the violin, has a long string of girl friends who adore his flashing eyes and his wonderful tennis, and drinks too much. But none of these activities has helped Gray, at twenty-three, to “find himself.””

The show was radio-only at that time — listeners would hear Grayling’s name, but never see it — so it’s not surprising that a slew of spelling variants ended up in the baby name data. In fact, the first of the group to debut was Graylin in 1949. Grayling, Grayland, and Graylon appeared in 1950, and Graylan, Graylyn, Graylen, and Greyling followed.

YearGraylinGraylingGraylandGraylon
19601436109
19592761 [987th]1115
19582855186
19572858 [997th]1516
195625471912
19551638158
1954824146
1953111167
195288.6
195178.8
19501117 [debut]5 [debut]5 [debut]
19496 [debut]...
1948....

The name Grayling reached the top 1000 twice in the late ’50s, but all variants saw decreased usage after the TV show was canceled in the early ’60s.

Althea

Dramatic daughter Althea dramatically boosted the usage of the name Althea in the late 1940s:

  • 1951: 334 baby girls named Althea (rank: 454th)
  • 1950: 309 baby girls named Althea (rank: 462nd)
  • 1949: 235 baby girls named Althea (rank: 545th)
  • 1948: 126 baby girls named Althea (rank: 761st)
  • 1947: 118 baby girls named Althea (rank: 803rd)

No doubt she was also behind the debut of the spelling Altheia in 1951.

Spring

In early 1951, Althea discovered she was pregnant. Althea was eager to become an movie actress, not a mother, and “regard[ed] the baby as an annoying interruption to her ambitions.” Regardless, she soon gave birth to a baby girl named Spring, and the baby name Spring debuted in the U.S. data the very same year:

  • 1959: 34 baby girls named Spring
  • 1958: 44 baby girls named Spring
  • 1957: 77 baby girls named Spring
  • 1956: 104 baby girls named Spring
  • 1955: 41 baby girls named Spring
  • 1954: 37 baby girls named Spring
  • 1953: 27 baby girls named Spring
  • 1952: 30 baby girls named Spring
  • 1951: 7 baby girls named Spring [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

By July of 1952, Althea’s daughter Spring was already 4 years old (a victim of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome). I’m not sure how often Spring appeared in the show overall, but she may have been featured prominently in 1956, judging by the usage of the baby name that year.

Babby

In a 1954 article, Babby Dennis was described as “eager and impulsive.” She was the baby of the family, and her nickname was consistently spelled with a “y” to reflect this fact, but TV audiences clearly preferred the spelling Babbie, which debuted in 1956 — years before Babby and Babbi finally showed up.

YearBabbieBabbyBabbi
1963...
196285.
1961189.
196020156
1959195 [debut]6 [debut]
19588..
19588..
19575..
195610 [debut]..
1955...

By 1959, Babby was a young adult and involved in a romance with a gangster named Peter Nino. (Despite being a gangster, Nino was popular with TV audiences: “Nino was to be killed off in six months, but fan mail gave him a reprieve.”)

Sources:

P.S. Three of the sources above refer to a single magazine that went through a bunch of name changes over the course of its existence (1930s to 1970s). The publisher was Macfadden, founded by Bernarr Macfadden, who knew a bit about name changes himself…

Name Quotes 79: Consuela, Gisele, Jeff

Phoebe Buffay becomes Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock in this month's collection of name-related quotes at Nancy's Baby Names.

From the 2004 Friends episode in which Phoebe changes her name to Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock:

Mike: So what’s new?

Phoebe: Well, I’m no longer Phoebe Buffay.

Mike: That’s great, you changed your name?

Phoebe: Yes I did! Meet Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock.

Lyrics from the song “Dear Winter” (2019) by indie band AJR:

Dear Winter,
I hope you like your name.
I hope they don’t make fun of you
When you grow up and go to school, ok?
‘Cause Winter is a badass name.

(The baby name Winter is already on the rise, but do you think this song could give it an extra boost?)

From an article that asks how it feels when one’s name becomes a meme:

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…)

From an article about advocate Shanti Bhushnan, who was named after advocate Shanti Bhushnan (b. 1925):

I was born on March 16, 1977. By then, Senior Advocate Shanti Bhushan was a very big name in India because he had appeared for Raj Narain against then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and won the case.

So my uncle KN Puttegowda, who was an advocate and later served as President of the Bangalore Advocates Association, suggested that I should be named after the legendary lawyer.

[…]

I had not met him until now. I consider it my good luck to be named after such a big man. Many people ask me about this name because it is an unusual name in the South.

From a video about the unhurried baby naming practices of the Borana people of Ethiopia and Kenya:

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.

From an article about Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen:

…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.)

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