How popular is the baby name Terry in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Terry and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Terry.
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Marion and Charlotte “Lottie” Story of Bakersfield, California, had at least 22 children — including five sets of twins — from 1922 to 1946. Seventeen of their kids are listed on the 1940 U.S. Census (at right).
I don’t know the names of all the Story children, but here are 20 of them: Jean, Jane, Jack, Jacqueline, June, Eileen, Clyde, Robert, James, Jeannette, Steve, Jerry, Terry (sometimes “Terrytown”), Charlotte, Scotty, Sherrie, Garry, Joanne, Frances (called Lidwina), and Monica (called Sandy).
Charlotte Story herself was one of a dozen children, born from 1899 to 1919. Her 11 siblings were named Pearl, George, Rhea, Hazel, Fern, Ira, Myrtle, Dorothy, Helen, Russell, and Viola.
And Charlotte’s mother Elsie was one of 13 children, born from 1865 to 1892. Her 12 siblings were named Edward, Levi, William, Frank, Rosa, Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Margaret, Archibald, Gertrude, and Emma.
So here’s the question: If you had to choose all of your own children’s names from just one of the sibsets above, which set would you pick? Why?
Next Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, 30-year-old identical (and alliterative) triplets Leila, Liina, and Lily Luik of Estonia are expected to run the women’s marathon. This will make the “Trio in Rio,” as they call themselves, the first set of triplets to compete in an Olympics.
In comparison, about 200 sets of twins have competed in the Olympics over the years. Here are some of the Olympic twins with similarly alliterative names:
Åke & Arne (Sweden) [not technically alliterative; see JJ’s comment]
Last year I guessed that the 1935 debut of Normandie on the SSA’s list was inspired by the maiden voyage of the SS Normandie.
Just a few weeks ago, though, I stumbled upon a theory that makes a lot more sense.
I was in the middle of researching the name Terrylea (a one-hit wonder from 1948 — any guesses?) when I found myself on the IMDB page for Terry and the Pirates (1940).
IMDB pages are full of names, so whenever I land on one I feel compelled to skim. And on this particular page I happened to spot the character name “Normandie Drake.”
It made me think of the baby name Normandie, of course, but the release year didn’t match up to any of the SSA data, so…dead end, right?
Well, turns out the movie was based on a popular comic strip of the same name by cartoonist Milton Caniff. The strip was first published in late 1934.
And which character was introduced in January of 1935? Normandie Drake.
Very intriguing — especially when you consider that a number of baby name debuts from that era were inspired by comic strip characters (e.g., Clovia, Dondi).
Another interesting point: Normandie Drake wasn’t featured in every storyline, and her comings and goings in the comic seem to correspond with the fluctuating usage of the name.
In 1942, for instance, she reappeared after an absence. That same year, the usage of Normandie increased:
1944: 9 baby girls named Normandie
1943: 9 baby girls named Normandie
1942: 14 baby girls named Normandie
1937: 11 baby girls named Normandie
1935: 7 baby girls named Normandie [debut]
Not only that, but she brought along her young daughter Merrily* and the baby name Merrily** promptly skyrocketed into the top 1,000:
1944: 71 baby girls named Merrily
1943: 120 baby girls named Merrily [ranked 914th]
1942: 201 baby girls named Merrily [ranked 698th]
1941: 13 baby girls named Merrily [ranked 513th]
A magazine interview with Milton Caniff from a few years later (1945) included a photo of two little girls named Merrily after the character. The caption also mentioned young girls named Normandie after Normandie Drake and April after another Terry character, April Kane.
So, in light of all this new information, I have to admit that my first theory was incorrect. The debut was much more likely caused by Normandie Drake than by the SS Normandie. (Although I do think the ocean liner could have been a secondary influence here.)
Sorry I didn’t have the full story on this one before posting about it initially. Better late than never, though. :)
*Milton Caniff named and modeled Merrily after Mary Lee Engli, the daughter of fellow cartoonist Frank Engli.
**The baby names Merrilee and Merrilie were also affected.
Hayward, Jennifer. Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1997.
Lily, Amelia and Abigail replace Ella, Avery and Hannah in the girls’ top 10, and Jacob replaces Alexander in the boys’ top 10.
Other girl names used 5-or-more times in 2014, in order of popularity, include: Mannat, Juniper, Yuna, Avleen, Bria, Acacia, Ember, Isis, Juno, Japji, Jovie, Neve, Saskia, Asees, Harveen, Khaleesi, Queena, Ria, Sehaj, Winnie.
And other boy names used 5-or-more times in 2014, in order of popularity, include: Arlo, Bodhi, Angus, Atlas, Sage, Enoch, Huxley, Nikola, Daya, Kesler, Kyan, Jairus, Jujhar, Kaito, Koa, Rocky, Seamus, Terry, Tejas, Thorin.
According to the state-by-state data, Deneen usage tended to be highest in the most populous states. This isn’t much of a clue, but it does tell us that the influence was national (e.g., movie, music) and not regional (e.g., college sports, local politician).
For a long time my only guess on Deneen was the same guess Hilary Parker made in her poisoned baby names post: musical duo August & Deneen. But their hit single “We Go Together” came out in 1968 — long after the 1964 baby name spike. So August & Deneen clearly isn’t the answer.
About a month ago I tried another Deneen search. This time around I found a recent thread on Deneen at the Baby Name Wizard forum. According to intel gathered by forum members, Deneen could have been popularized by a ’60s commercial for Ivory dishwashing liquid.
At first I wasn’t so sure. The only vintage Ivory commercials I could find online were for Ivory Snow laundry detergent and, while many of these did feature names (e.g., Allison, Betsy, Bonnie, Debbie, Esther, Joy, Kerry, Kimberly, Michelle, Terry) the names were never on-screen. You don’t get a spelling-specific name spike if the influence is audio-only.
Then I noticed, lower down in the thread, that someone included a link to a single Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial from 1962. The spot featured a mother-daughter pair, “Mrs. Bernard Pugar and Dana,” and their names were indeed shown on-screen for several seconds. Now this looked promising.
I’ve since tracked down a similar Ivory commercial featuring “Mrs. Blake Clark” and her daughter Nicky, though Nicky’s name was never shown on-screen. No luck finding a Deneen version yet.
So I’ll just sit tight and hope that, one day, someone uploads the commercial in question and puts this whole Deneen baby name mystery to rest. :)
In the meanwhile, some questions:
If you were watching TV in the ’60s, do you happen recall an Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial featuring the name Deneen? (Long shot, I know.)
What do you think of the name Deneen? Which spelling do you like best?
P.S. Djuna popped up on the baby name charts in 1964 as well. I’m declaring 1964 the year of the mysteriously trendy D-names.
Brando was not commonly used as a baby name before the 1950s, when Marlon Brando first hit the scene. The name debuted in the SSA’s baby name data in 1955 following the release of the crime drama On The Waterfront (1954), in which Brando played dockworker Terry Malloy.
1956: 5 baby boys named Brando
1955: 6 baby boys named Brando [debut]
Then it dropped off the list again. It stayed off the list until 1971, when the buzz surrounding The Godfather (1972) brought it back:
1974: 5 baby boys named Brando
1973: 13 baby boys named Brando
1972: 7 baby boys named Brando
1971: 5 baby boys named Brando
It’s been gaining momentum ever since. So far, peak usage years have been 2004 (the year Brando passed away) and 2008. In both of these years, 104 baby boys were named Brando.
In Marlon Brando’s case, the surname “Brando” is based on the German surname Brandau, which can refer to any of several locations in Germany.
I read a blog post last week about a young person who had recently passed away. The blogger didn’t know the deceased personally, but he’d crafted a very nice tribute to this person.
The problem? The name of the deceased wasn’t clearly male or female, and the post didn’t contain any pronouns. This left me wondering if the deceased was a boy or a girl. It wasn’t something I should have been focusing on, but I couldn’t help it.
This is one disadvantage to gender-ambiguous names that I’d never really considered before. It’s hard to talk about a deceased person without knowing that person’s gender, but it also feels insensitive to ask about that person’s gender.
It’s not like business correspondence with Terry Smith. You’ll eventually learn Terry’s middle name, or see Terry’s picture, or discover some other clue about Terry’s gender. And it will still matter at that point, because you have an ongoing relationship with Terry.
But let’s say Terry Smith has just passed away, and you’re talking with one of Terry’s family members. You’ve got one chance to offer your condolences, and to make it sound sincere. Hopefully the family member will slip you a pronoun. If you don’t get one, though, you’re stuck saying “Terry” over and over again. And that doesn’t sound sincere at all.