The Debut of Sade (shah-day)

Nigerian-born British singer Sade Adu (born Helen Folasade Adu) formed her eponymous smooth jazz band Sade in the early 1980s.

The band went on to see massive success in the mid-1980s with its first two albums: Diamond Life (1984) and Promise (1985). These albums included the popular singles “Smooth Operator” [vid], “Your Love Is King,” “The Sweetest Taboo,” and “Never as Good as the First Time” — each of which reached the U.S. Hot 100 in either 1985 or 1986.

Notably, on the debut album, the band’s record label (Epic) decided to include a suggested pronunciation of the band’s name: shar-day. This pronunciation could be found on all formats of the album, from the vinyl record to the cassette tape to the CD:

“Diamond Life” CD

The problem? Shar-day is the British-English pronunciation of Sade. Brits often drop their R’s — they speak a non-rhotic version of English — so shar-day to a Brit is essentially shah-day to an American.

But the label forgot to account for this dialectical difference when they released the album overseas, and Americans were forced to conclude that Sade, despite not including the letter R, somehow featured an audible R-sound.

Even the Chicago Tribune emphasized this mispronunciation in a December 1985 article entitled, “The Name is Shar-Day“:

Not ”Sahd,” not ”Sayd,” not ”Say-dy.”

”Shar-day.”

The band’s success had a big impact on American baby names. The name Sade was the top debut name of 1985 (in fact, it was one of the top debut names of all time) and it saw peak popularity in 1986. Even more interesting, though, is the sheer number of variant spellings featuring that letter R.

Here are Sade and all the Sade-variants I could find in the mid-1980s U.S. baby name data, sorted by 1986 levels of usage:

Name1984198519861987
Sade393*
[rank: 513th]
1,245
[rank: 213th]
626
[rank: 373rd]
Shardae129*200
[rank: 836th]
99
Sharde124*190
[rank: 876th]
87
Sharday100*170
[rank: 938th]
80
Sharda7011165
Charde67*10544
Chardae50*8151
Shade336141
Shadae29*5841
Shada5264738
Shaday13*4022
Shardai33*3319
Charday24*3219
Charda12*2013
Chade6**185
Shardey5*17
Chadae5*12
Chardai10*1011
Shadai8*106
Folasade5*1011
Shardee11*9
Shadea7*10
Shardea11*610
Shardaye6*5
Chardee5*5
Shawday5*
Chardey5*
Chada5*
Sadea5*

*Debut. (The last 3 names were one-hit wonders.)
**Gender-specific debut only.

Finally, as a reward for making it to the end of the post, here’s a clip of young Sade Adu talking about her name. Be sure to listen to the end, where she laughs and says, “American people tend to go sharrr-day.”

What do think of the name Sade?

Sources: Sade – Wikipedia, Sade Chart History | Billboard

The Unexpected Introduction of Jade

katharine hepburn, jade, dragon seed, movie, baby name, 1940s

Here’s one I didn’t expect: the baby name Jade, very trendy during the last quarter of the 20th century, was put on the onomastic map in the U.S. thanks to one of the strangest roles of Katharine Hepburn’s career.

  • 1947: 18 baby girls named Jade
  • 1946: 32 baby girls named Jade
  • 1945: 37 baby girls named Jade
  • 1944: 6 baby girls named Jade [debut]
  • 1943: unlisted

The war drama Dragon Seed, released in the summer of 1944, told the tale of Chinese peasants fighting off Japanese invaders during 1937, at the start of the during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It was based on the 1942 novel of the same name by Pearl S. Buck.

Hepburn played Jade, a Chinese woman who led the resistance in her village. (These days it would seem pretty out-of-touch — or possibly racist — to cast a non-Asian actor in a role like this one. Back then, though, it was the convention.)

After getting this boost in the mid-1940s, the name Jade stuck around in the data. In fact, it ended up reaching the top 100 for a couple of years in the early 2000s.

Do you like the name Jade? Would you use it?

Source: Dragon Seed – TCM

The Baby Name Charlayne

© 1961 Jet

The baby name Charlayne saw peak usage in 1961 — after a decade of being used so infrequently that it didn’t even register in the U.S. baby name data.

  • 1963: 29 baby girls named Charlayne
  • 1962: 15 baby girls named Charlayne
  • 1961: 66 baby girls named Charlayne
  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: unlisted

What happened in 1961 to give this name such a boost?

On January 9, 1961, two African American college students — 18-year-old Charlayne Hunter and 19-year-old Hamilton Holmes — arrived at the campus of the all-white University of Georgia to enroll, as per a federal court order to desegregate. In her memoir, Charlayne wrote:

Sure enough, we were greeted by a raucous crowd made up of some of the 20,000 white students at UGA. They limited their violence to words, calling out things like, “There go the niggers.”

Rioting broke out on January 11. “A student mob threw bricks at Charlayne’s dormitory and yelled vulgarities up at her window.” State police arrived to restrain the rioters. Charlayne and Hamilton were driven off campus, and — “for their own safety” — the university suspended them.

Finally, January 16, they returned to campus “in a cold drizzling rain from their homes in Atlanta under another federal order forbidding the university from again suspending or expelling them if disorders erupt.”

Ultimately, they became the first African-Americans “to successfully desegregate an all-white college anywhere in the South.”

Charlayne and Hamilton graduated in June of 1963. (Both had completed the first half of their sophomore year at other schools before enrolling at UGA.)

Charlayne went on to become an award-winning journalist. (Notably, while at the New York Times, she “convinc[ed] the editors to drop their use of the word Negroes when referring to African Americans.”)

What are your thoughts on the name Charlayne?

Sources:

  • “First Negroes win Georgia U. Diplomas.” Life 14 Jun. 1963: 36.
  • Hunter-Gault, Charlayne. To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2012.
  • Mullen, Perry. “Two Negroes Enter School Without Trouble.” Ottawa Herald [Ottawa, Kansas] 16 Jan. 1961: 1.
  • “Prank, Riot and Shock on Georgia Campus.” Life 20 Jan 1961: 24-25.

The Introduction of Nalda

The baby name Nalda debuted in the SSA baby name data in 1923. In fact, it was the top debut name of the year.

  • 1925: unlisted
  • 1924: unlisted
  • 1923: 15 baby girls named Nalda [debut]
  • 1922: unlisted
  • 1921: unlisted

What gave it a boost?

A story called “The Regeneration of Malcolm Starmount” that had been serialized in the newspapers in 1923. One of the characters was a beautiful actress named Nalda Courteney.

I haven’t read the entire story, but I do know that Nalda ended up dying in a plane crash (along with the married man she’d been dating). The character’s obituary read: “Nalda Courteney had for some years been noted on Broadway. Her pearls, motors and love affairs have featured [on] the first pages of newspapers for the last five or six years.”

The story was written by journalist Idah McGlone Gibson (1860-1933), who, according to one source, was the “writer of the first syndicated story ever published in a newspaper in this country.” (Tantalizing claim! I don’t have any other details, though.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Nalda?

Sources:

  • Gibson, Idah McGlone. “The Regeneration of Malcolm Starmount.” Hamilton Daily News 1 Sept. 1923: 5.
  • Woman Writer Dies in Hollywood Home.” Ogden Standard-Examiner 17 Dec. 1933: 14.

Pop Culture Baby Name Game, 2019

pop culture baby name game, 2019

Time for the annual Pop Culture Baby Name Game!

But first: Happy birthday, Elvis Presley! (He would have been 85 today.)

So now, think back to 2018. Think of all the pop culture that caught your attention. Think of movies, music, TV shows, social media, sports, video games, news, politics, products, and so forth.

Which of these things had an influence on U.S. baby names last year, do you think? Which baby names will see higher usage (or appear for the very first time) in the 2018 data thanks to 2018 pop culture?

Here are some names to start with:

  • Adeya – from celebrity baby Adeya (born in March to Kehlani)
  • Alita – from the movie Alita: Battle Angel
  • Archie – from royal baby Archie (born in May to Harry & Meghan)
  • Billie – from singer Billie Eilish
  • Brixton – from the movie Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
  • Deckard – from the movie Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
  • Dorian – from hurricane Dorian
  • Eilish – also from singer Billie Eilish
  • Gloria – from the St. Louis Blues anthem “Gloria
  • Greedy – from NFL player Andraez Montrell “Greedy” Williams
  • Greta – from environmental activist Greta Thunberg
  • Lizzo – from rapper/singer Lizzo (originally a Melissa)
  • Luce – from the movie Luce
  • Maleficent – from the movie Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  • Post – from rapper Post Malone
  • Psalm – from celebrity baby Psalm (born in May to Kim & Kanye)
  • Saybie – from newsworthy baby Saybie
  • Shaed – from the band Shaed (“Trampoline”)
  • Sulwe – from the book Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
  • Wick – from the movie John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

A few names from the 2018 game (Kamala? Kelleth? Sanni? Marsai?) might still be applicable as well.

What other names should we add to the list? Let me know by commenting below. Please don’t forget to mention the pop culture influence!

I’ll be posting the game results in May of 2020, a few days after the SSA releases the 2019 baby name data. If you don’t want to miss the results post, just subscribe to NBN!