How popular is the baby name Tanya 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 Tanya.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Tanya


Posts that Mention the Name Tanya

The Inception of Sway

sway, gone in 60 seconds, movie, character
Angelina Jolie as Sara “Sway” Wayland

The word Sway popped up for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 2001:

  • 2003: 14 baby girls and 5 baby boys named Sway
  • 2002: 12 baby girls named Sway
  • 2001: 8 baby girls named Sway [debut]
  • 2000: unlisted
  • 1999: unlisted

For a long time I assumed the main influence was MTV personality Sway Calloway. But, while I still think Sway had an influence on male usage, I’ve since discovered a much better explanation for the 2001 debut as a female name.

One of the main characters in the 2000 car heist film Gone in 60 Seconds was mechanic-slash-bartender Sara “Sway” Wayland (played by Angelina Jolie). She was the love interest of protagonist Randall “Memphis” Raines (played by Nicolas Cage), who was tasked with stealing 50 specific, expensive cars inside of 72 hours.

The film didn’t get great reviews, but I do remember appreciating the fact that each of the 50 cars was assigned a feminine code-name:

Mary, Barbara, Lindsey, Laura, Alma, Madeline, Patricia, Carol, Daniela, Stefanie, Erin, Pamela, Olga, Anne, Kate, Vanessa, Denise, Diane, Lisa, Nadine, Angelina, Rose, Susan, Tracey, Rachel, Bernadene, Deborah, Stacey, Josephine, Hillary, Kimberley, Renee, Dorothy, Donna, Samantha, Ellen, Gabriela, Shannon, Jessica, Sharon, Tina, Marsha, Natalie, Virginia, Tanya, Grace, Ashley, Cathy, Lynn, Eleanor

So, how do you feel about the name Sway? If you were having a baby girl, would you be more likely to name her something modern, like Sway, or something traditional, like Sara or Susan?

Sources: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia, Talk:Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia

Tonga: Baby Name Inspired by Early TV?

tonga, nina bara, space patrol, 1950s, television, sci-fi
Tonga from Space Patrol

The intriguing name Tonga debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1953:

  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: 7 baby girls named Tonga [debut]
  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: unlisted

I don’t think the Polynesian country had anything to do with it. Instead, I’m thinking that it may have come from the the early science-fiction TV series Space Patrol. It began as a Los Angeles-only show in early 1950, but by early 1951 it was being syndicated nationally both on TV and on radio (thanks to being picked up by the ABC network).

Set a thousand years in the future, the show featured members of the Space Patrol crew endeavoring to fight against the bad guys of the solar system. The two female crew members were named Tonga (played by Nina Bara) and Carol (Virginia Hewitt). Tonga’s character began as a criminal, but by the time the show had a national audience, she had undergone a “Brainograph” treatment and joined up with the good guys.

The name Tonga may have been given a boost in 1953 specifically thanks to LIFE magazine drawing attention to the show in a 1952 feature article (“Space Patrol Conquers Kids,” Sept. 1952)…or maybe it simply showed up because Space Patrol‘s audience was still growing at that time.

But the name dropped out of the data the very next year — possibly because actress Nina Bara was released from the show in late 1953, so the character Tonga didn’t appear in the show very frequently after that.

All this said…I should also mention that the name Tanya and its variants were on the rise during the 1950s, and that “Tonga” ended up being used as a variant of Tanya on occasion (likely by way of Tanja). So that’s another possible reason for the debut.

Do you like Tonga as a baby name? If so, how would you pronounce it?

Sources:

P.S. A supporting character in the 1953 Gary Cooper movie Return to Paradise also happened to be named Tonga, but this character was male.

Name Quotes #57: Gage, Ciku, Abigail Fortitude

George Clooney explaining why he and his wife Amal named their twins Alexander and Ella (People):

“[We] didn’t want to give them one of those ridiculous Hollywood names that don’t mean anything,” George told Paris Match in an interview published Saturday. “They’ll already have enough difficulty bearing the weight of their celebrity.”

Summary of a recent study on the practice of naming winter storms (WBIR):

The researchers presented their subjects with three mock tweets about an upcoming winter storm — either using names like “Bill,” “Zelus,” or no name at all — then asked them about their perceptions of the storm’s potential severity.

It turned out that the survey participants were equally likely to show concern for the storm regardless of whether common names such as Bill were used, rather than uncommon names, such as Zelus. This was a surprise to Rainear, who thought that more “Americanized” names might make people more wary.

On the origin of the name of the Slinky (New York Times):

[N]ext month the Toy Manufacturers of America will induct Betty James, 82, the retired toy maker who gave the Slinky its name, into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

Mrs. James came up with the name after deciding that Slinky best described the sound of a metal spring expanding and collapsing. Slinky, of course, meaning sort of stealthily quiet. Mrs. James did not have sexy evening wear in mind; it was 1943, after all, and there was a war.

On changing name trends in Kenya (SDE Kenya):

It is so 1980 for modern Kenyan parents to name their children after biblical figures. Ati names like Grace, Hannah, Sarah, Magdalene or Jane for their daughters is now a no-no. For sons, naming them Abednego or Adonijah sounds like a bad Sunday school dream.

[…]

Names like Peter and Paul, Esther and Lois were fashionable in their grandparents’ time and today, girls are named Tasha, Tanya or Tiffany, while boys go by cooler ones like Cy, Kyle, Declan and Sherwin.

…The article also mentioned that many traditional names now have modernized forms:

  • Wangui -> Kui
  • Waithiageni -> Sheni
  • Wanjiku -> Ciku
  • Wanjiru -> Ciru
  • Wambui -> Foi
  • Wacera -> Cera

“Modern parents have no qualms having them appear like that in official documents. Welcome to baby names in 21st century Kenya.”

Onomastician Cleveland Kent Evans vs. the baby name Gage (Washington Post):

But right now, Evans is pondering the sudden, explosive rise of the male first name Gage. From out of nowhere. There’s no record of this name, nothing in the texts, nothing anywhere. And yet just in the last couple of years, it’s been popping up all around the country.

[…]

Finally, he asked his students at Bellevue College near Omaha. One student got the reference immediately: “Emergency!” he said. Meaning the short-lived 1970s TV series, of course. Turns out there was a character named John Gage on that show, and he was generally addressed as Gage.

[…]

Incredibly, “Emergency!,” which aired opposite “60 Minutes” for four years, was exceedingly popular among elementary-school children.

One mom’s positive experience with revealing her son’s name during pregnancy (Popsugar)

One reason why people don’t reveal the baby’s name is to ward off other people’s opinions. I could tell there were a couple of my friends who didn’t like the name, but just like I didn’t get pregnant to please them, I’m wasn’t going to change his name for them either. Most people that I talked to had enough common sense to keep their opinions to themselves. Even if they didn’t, it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

My son’s name […] is special to me. I didn’t stop feeling that way once I told it to people — if anything, it made the pregnancy a whole lot easier.

From the script for Mother Is a Freshman (1949), about a 35-year-old widow, Abigail, who starts attending the college that her daughter Susan goes to:

Abigail: I mean about the Abigail Fortitude Memorial Scholarship.
Susan: The one they give to any girl whose first two names are Abigail Fortitude?
Abigail: Yes.
Susan: Clara Fettle says no one’s applied for it since 1907, and there’s zillions piling up.
Abigail: And you never told me!
Susan: Of course not.
Abigail: It never occurred to you that my first names are Abigail Fortitude–that I’ve had to put up with them all my life!
Susan: I know, Mom. It must have been awful.
Abigail [struck by thought]: Maybe that’s why my mother gave me those names. Maybe she know about the scholarship.

…Turns out the scholarship had been set up by Abigail’s grandmother, also named Abigail Fortitude.

*

Want to see more quotes about names? Check out the name quotes category.

The Debut of Devy

Devy Barnett, Ted Mack, television, 1960
Devy on ‘The Original Amateur Hour‘ in May, 1960

The baby name Devy popped up in the SSA’s data a single time, in 1960. But it wasn’t just any old one-hit wonder — it was the top one-hit wonder of 1960. In fact, Devy was one of the top one-hit wonders of all time, with over two dozen baby girls being named Devy that year:

  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 27 baby girls named Devy [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted

So where did it come from?

A soprano named Devy Barnett who performed on the TV talent competition Ted Mack & the Original Amateur Hour at least once, on May 16, 1960. (She may have appeared on other episodes that year as well, I’m not sure.)

I don’t have much information on Devy. She was a music student at Rutgers in the early ’50s, she put out her first recording (Songs of Charles Ives, released by Stereo Age) in 1958, and in the ’80s she was a member of the studio music faculty at Cal State. She married at least twice, and had several children.

But she never achieved fame. Apparently not many Amateur Hour contestants did, with a few notable exceptions: Gladys Knight, Pat Boone, Ann-Margret, Tanya Tucker, and Irene Cara (see the posts on Fame and Sparkle for more on Irene).

The name Devy reminds me of the name Eydie in that both names were put on the onomastic map by young singers making television appearances. (Coincidentally, Eydie was also given to exactly 27 baby girls in 1960.)

What are your thoughts on the name Devy? Do you like it?

Tayna – Possible Baby Name?

Tayna, faint galaxy from early universe

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes recently spotted the faintest object ever seen in the early universe.

The galaxy they spotted existed 13.8 billion years ago — only 400 million years after the Big Bang.

The research team nicknamed the galaxy Tayna, which means “first-born child” in Aymara, the language spoken by the Aymara people of the Andes.

I’m not sure if tayna is/was used as a personal name among the Aymara, but it’s a possibility. (Among the Dakota Sioux, the word winona, meaning “first-born daughter,” was traditionally used as a name for first-born daughters.)

The name Tayna has been given to hundreds of baby girls in the U.S. Many of the parents who opted for Tayna, though, probably had the name Tanya in mind.

What do you think of Tayna as a baby name? Do the definition and the cool space reference offset the inevitable Tanya-confusion?

Source: NASA Space Telescopes See Magnified Image of Faintest Galaxy from Early Universe
Image: NASA, ESA, and Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile