The gritty TV police drama Toma, which starred actor Tony Musante as New Jersey police detective David Toma, started airing in 1973.
The year the show premiered, the baby name Toma, which had only ever appeared in the data as a girl name, started seeing usage as a boy name. It even cracked the boys’ top 1,000 briefly.
1975: 6 baby girls / 26 baby boys named Toma
1974: 21 baby girls / 84 baby boys [rank: 884th] named Toma
1973: 21 baby girls / 43 baby boys [debut] named Toma
1972: 9 baby girls / x baby boys named Toma
1971: 5 baby girls / x baby boys named Toma
But usage petered out after Toma was canceled in 1974.
In 1975, a retooled version of Toma called Baretta came out. The new show, which starred Robert Blake as New York City police detective Tony Baretta, was less violent and included more comic relief than the original. (Baretta had a pet cockatoo named Fred, and one of his informants was a man called Rooster.)
In response, the name Baretta debuted in the baby name data, and it remained there for the same number of years the Emmy-winning series was on the air (1975-1978).
1978: 8 baby boys named Baretta
1977: 13 baby boys named Baretta
1976: 6 baby girls / 13 baby boys named Baretta
1975: 14 baby girls [debut] / 18 baby boys [debut] named Baretta
Notice how the name debuted on both sides of the list. Other dual-debut names from the 1970s include Chaffee, Chudney, Khaalis, Shilo, Sundown, and Tavares.
Though vast majority of the baby names on the Social Security Administration’s yearly baby name lists are repeats, every list does contain a handful of brand-new names.
Below are the highest-charting debut names for every single year on record, after the first.
Why bother with an analysis like this? Because debut names often have cool stories behind them, and high-hitting debuts are especially likely to have intriguing pop culture explanations. So this is more than a list of names — it’s also a list of stories.
Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!