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.
When I wrote about the name Tareva a couple of years ago, I said it was the only Star Search-inspired debut name I’d ever come across. Well, I’ve since discovered one more!
The name Symba was a 2-hit wonder that only appeared in the SSA data in 1991 and 1992:
1992: 5 baby girls named Symba
1991: 30 baby girls named Symba [debut]
The cause? Not Disney’s animated baby lion, which didn’t come along until a few years later, but Star Search spokesmodel competitor Symba Smith, who appeared on multiple episodes of the show during the 1991 season and ultimately won the 1991 championship (which included $100,000 in prize money).
Two years earlier, in 1989, Mississippi-born Symba had won the “Miss Teen All-American” pageant. (Four years before that, the pageant winner had been Halle Berry.)
But that’s not all. Here are two more names that saw a boost in usage thanks to Star Search:
The name Durell spiked in popularity in 1985 thanks to singer Durell Coleman, winner of the 1985 season.
1987: 50 baby boys named Durell
1986: 123 baby boys named Durell
1985: 208 baby boys named Durell
1984: 46 baby boys named Durell
The name Countess jumped back onto the charts in 1988 thanks to Countess Vaughn, who sang on the show as a 9-year-old.
1989: 6 baby girls named Countess
1988: 15 baby girls named Countess
Vaughn went on to join the cast of Moesha in 1996 as a teenager.
Two more names that may have been influenced by Star Search — it’s hard to tell — are Garcelle and Jordis. Garcelle Beauvais competed as a spokesmodel in 1986, and Jordis Unga competed as a vocalist in 2004. (Unga’s 2005 appearance on Rock Star: INXS was probably a bigger influence on overall usage.)
Last year we saw that nearly 75% of the original American Gladiator names (e.g. Blaze, Laze, Siren) had appeared on the SSA’s baby name list. None of them appeared due to the influence of the show exclusively, though.
Not so with Alaetra! In 1991, contestant Alaetra Dorsa appeared on American Gladiators three times before being eliminated. Her name debuted on the SSA’s list the same year:
1993: 6 baby girls named Alaetra
1992: 5 baby girls named Alaetra
1991: 17 baby girls named Alaetra [debut]
This is the only American Gladiators contestant-inspired baby name debut I know of, but I’ll be on the lookout for others. (I thought Tareva was the only Star Search debut when I found it, but I’ve found since found one more…)
P.S. What’s the best American Gladiators contestant name of all time? Purple Roundy, who competed during season three (same as Alaetra Dorsa). Check out the Purple Roundy fan site. There’s even a Purple Roundy definition at Urban Dictionary.
Tareva is the only Star Search baby name I’ve ever come across.
Toward the end of 1985, Tareva Henderson of Baton Rouge started appearing on the popular TV talent show Star Search. According to one Louisiana newspaper, “She finished out the show Dec. 28 with six wins in the female vocalist category. That’s more than enough to put her in the Search semi-finals.”
Looks like Tareva lasted for a total of eight episodes, actually. Here are the songs she sang:
“Saving All My Love For You“
“I Knew You When”
“Tonight I Give In”
“Let Me Be Your Angel”
“Come to Me”
“You Could Have Been With Me”
“Bridge Over Troubled Waters”
The baby name Tareva started appearing on the SSA’s baby name list the same year Tareva Henderson began appearing on Star Search:
1988: not listed
1987: 9 baby girls named Tareva
1986: 63 baby girls named Tareva
1985: 13 baby girls named Tareva [debut]
1984: not listed
It only remained on the charts for three years, though.
Spelling variants Tereva and Tavera, both of which popped up a year later, were one-hit wonders.
1987: not listed
1986: 11 baby girls named Tereva & 5 baby girls named Tavera [debuts]
1985: not listed
What do you think of the baby name Tareva?
Source: “Area & some residents find places on the tube.” Advocate [Baton Rouge] 3 Jan. 1986.