How popular is the baby name Torben 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 Torben.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Torben

Posts that Mention the Name Torben

Where did the baby name Torben come from?

torben ulrich, tennis, baby name, 1960s
Torben Ulrich (in 1957)

The name Torben first emerged in the U.S. baby name data in the late 1960s:

  • 1971: unlisted
  • 1970: unlisted
  • 1969: 6 baby boys named Torben
  • 1968: 7 baby boys named Torben [debut]
  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Sports…sort of.

The source seems to be Danish professional tennis player Torben Ulrich. But he’d been playing professionally for many years by the late ’60s. What happened in 1968?

That year, Torben was memorably profiled in American newspapers by sports columnist Murray Olderman. The article wasn’t about Torben’s tennis-playing as much as it was about Torben’s unapologetic nonconformism. Here’s how it began:

Behind dark glasses framed by swirls of long brown hair, Torben Ulrich looks out on a curious world. It’s the world that’s curious–not necessarily Torben–because it sees him as a slightly hunched, slender, effete, bearded and tressed hippie. It also sees him, curiously, as an athlete who has made his living, more or less, for 20 years by playing tennis. We say more or less because Torben also plays the tenor sax in a rock ‘n’ roll band, tootles a classical flute, writes a weekly column for a Copenhagen newspaper, broadcasts on the Danish national radio and raises a family.

In a tone that vacillated between mockery and admiration, Olderman described Ulrich’s nomadic lifestyle, sleeping habits (night owl), language skills (Danish, English, French, German, Italian, etc.), and sense of style (including “a bracelet made from the hair of an elephant’s tail”).

I imagine the profile would have struck a chord with counterculture readers. In fact, maybe it was those readers specifically who were enticed enough by the name Torben — which is a variant of Torbjörn, which can be traced back to Old Norse elements meaning “thunder” (Thor) and “bear” — to choose it for their newborns that year.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Torben?

P.S. The article also mentioned that Torben had a 4-year-old son. That son, Lars Ulrich, grew up to become the co-founder/drummer of the heavy metal band Metallica. (Metallica is also a baby name, btw.)


Image: Tennis – Wimbledonsterren in Noordwijk – Nationaal Archief

Name in the News: Metallica

Swedish couple Michael and Karolina Tomaro welcomed a baby girl in late 2006 and christened her Metallica, in honor of the legendary American rock band.

When the family tried to register the name with Sweden’s National Tax Agency, however, the name was rejected because it was deemed “inappropriate.”

The Tax Agency apparently refused to register the name Metallica for two specific reasons: it’s the name of a rock group, and it includes the word “metal.” (The parents also mentioned that the official handling the case called the name “ugly.”)

The parents are now “locked in a court battle” with the Tax Agency.

What are your thoughts on “Metallica” as a baby name?

Update, 4/20/2007: A few weeks after this story became international news, the Tax Agency “said it was dropping its appeal, allowing young Metallica to keep her name.”

Sources: Baby named Metallica rocks Sweden, Baby Metallica allowed to keep her name

P.S. Did you know that Metallica co-founder Lars Ulrich — who is Danish, not Swedish, but Nordic nonetheless — has a father named Torben, and that Torben Ulrich influenced U.S. baby names back in the 1960s?