How popular is the baby name Shani 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 Shani.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Shani


Posts that Mention the Name Shani

African Names in the Newspapers

In 1971, a list of African names published in Jet magazine had an impact on U.S. baby names.

In 1977, a list of African names published in Ebony magazine had a similar impact on U.S. baby names.

And in between, in 1973, a list of African names was published in an interesting place: U.S. newspapers nationwide. That is, not in a magazine written for an African-American audience specifically.

African names, newspaper article, 1973, baby names
African names in U.S. newspapers, Aug. 1973

So…did this newspaper-based list have an impact as well?

Yes, turns out it had roughly the same impact as the other two lists.

The opening line of the article was: “Here’s help for young black couples wanting to give their infants African names.” Toward the end, the article featured a list of 23 names. Most of these names ended up seeing movement in the data, including 10 (!) debuts.

  1. Abeni – debuted in 1974
  2. Avodele – never in the data
  3. Dalila – increased in usage ’73
  4. Fatima – increased in usage ’73/’74
  5. Habibah – debuted in 1974
  6. Halima – increased in usage ’74
  7. Hasina – debuted in 1974
  8. Kamilah – increased in usage ’73/’74
  9. Salama – debuted in 1974
  10. Shani – increased in usage ’74
  11. Yaminah – debuted in 1973
  12. Zahra – debuted in 1973
  13. Abdu – debuted in 1973
  14. Ali – no movement in the data
  15. Bakari – debuted in 1973
  16. Hasani – debuted in 1973
  17. Jabari – increased in usage ’73/’74
  18. Jelani – debuted in 1973
  19. Muhammad – no movement in the data
  20. Rudo – never in the data
  21. Sadiki – not in data yet
  22. Zikomo – not in data yet
  23. Zuberi – not in data yet

The article cited as its source The Book of African Names (1970) by Chief Osuntoki. As it turns out, though, the Chief wasn’t a real person. He was a fictional character invented by the publisher, Drum and Spear Press. Here’s a quote from the book’s introduction, purportedly written by the Chief:

It is strange, indeed, it hurts my heart, that brothers from afar often come to greet me bearing such names as “Willie”, “Juan” and “François”. But we can not be hard against them, for they have been misled.

Of the 23 names listed above, the one that debuted most impressively was Jelani. In fact, Jelani ended up tied for 43rd on the list of the top boy-name debuts of all time.

  • 1976: 55 baby boys named Jelani
  • 1975: 46 baby boys and 6 baby girls named Jelani [debut as a girl name]
  • 1974: 53 baby boys named Jelani
  • 1973: 36 baby boys named Jelani [overall debut]
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: unlisted

Which of those 23 names do you like best?

Sources:

  • “African chief explains symbolism of names.” San Bernardino County Sun 15 Aug. 1973: B-4.
  • Markle, Seth M. A Motorcycle on Hell Run: Tanzania, Black Power, and the Uncertain Future of Pan-Africanism, 1964-1974. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2017.