Saddam Hussein served as the leader of Iraq from the mid-1970s until the early 2000s.
In August of 1990, he invaded Kuwait and set off the Persian Gulf War. (Years later, when asked why he invaded Kuwait, one of his answers was: “When I get something into my head I act. That’s just the way I am.”)
In early 1991, the a U.S.-led allied coalition attacked Iraq, mainly from the air (Operation Desert Storm). By late February, the Iraqis were finally driven out of Kuwait.
Saddam Hussein was in the U.S. news enough in the early 1990s that the name Saddam appeared in the U.S. baby name data for three years in a row:
- 1993: unlisted
- 1992: 5 baby boys named Saddam
- 1991: 10 baby boys named Saddam
- 1990: 15 baby boys named Saddam [debut]
- 1989: unlisted
The name Saddam means “one who confronts” in Arabic. In 2007, The Economist specified that the “ungainly” name was “a conjugate of the Arabic words for “shock” and “collision.””
Saddam Hussein’s full name at birth was Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti. “Hussein” was his father’s name, “Abd al-Majid” was his grandfather’s name, and “al-Tikriti” refers to the town of Tikrit, where he was born. He later abolished regional surnames, possibly to “obscure the number of members of his inner circle who were relatives from Takrit.”
As far as I know, the first internet- or tech-related baby name to debut on the U.S. charts was Iuma, which appeared in 2000 thanks to a baby name contest put on by the now-defunct Internet Underground Music Archive.
…But am I overlooking Ariba?
Like Iuma, the baby name Ariba debuted in 2000, then dropped off the list again in 2001:
- 2004: 10 baby girls named Ariba
- 2003: 7 baby girls named Ariba
- 2002: 8 baby girls named Ariba
- 2001: unlisted
- 2000: 11 baby girls named Ariba [debut]
- 1999: unlisted
Ariba may have simply been a variant spelling of the Muslim name Areeba, which started appearing in the data in the mid-1990s. The names Areebah and Aribah also debuted in the early 2000s, for instance.
On the other hand, it may have been inspired by California software company Ariba, which was making headlines around that time. The B2B company had an impressive IPO in mid-1999, and the stock price surged during 2000. (“Ariba Executes Marketplace Magic” declared The Motley Fool in July.)
Of the hundreds of technology/internet companies (WedMD, Red Hat, Priceline, iVillage, NaviSite, etc.) that went public around the same time, Ariba was one of the few with a name that sounded even remotely human.
But the stock crashed in mid-2001 with the bursting of the dot-com bubble:
What do you think: Did Ariba debut — and then drop off the list just as suddenly — thanks to tech news/hype, or were those 11 Aribas bound to show up in the data regardless due to prevailing trends?
Sources: Twitter’s Up 75%? Bah, That’s Nothing Compared With 1999, Ariba’s next big challenge: managing hypergrowth
Several TV programs about the unsolved murder of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey are set to air in the coming weeks and months, as December 25 of this year marks the 20th anniversary of JonBenét’s death.
The news of her murder brought attention to her unusual name (an invention inspired by the name of her father, John Bennett Ramsey) and in 1997 we see Jonbenet appear for the first time in the SSA’s baby name data:
- 2000: unlisted
- 1999: 6 baby girls named Jonbenet
- 1998: unlisted
- 1997: 14 baby girls named Jonbenet [debut]
- 1996: unlisted
The name was on the list again in 1999, but dropped off after that.
Do you think all the 20th anniversary attention will boost the name back onto the charts either this year or next?
Source: JonBenét Ramsey – Wikipedia
On September 11, 2001, members of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda carried out four coordinated terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, most of whom died with the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York City.
New York City mayor Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani was lauded for his leadership in the aftermath of the attacks. He made a number of appearances on TV* and radio. Oprah Winfrey dubbed him “America’s Mayor.”
On the last day of 2001, Time magazine declared Giuliani “Person of the Year.” (That day was also Giuliani’s last day as mayor, incidentally). Time said:
With the President out of sight for most of that day, Giuliani became the voice of America. Every time he spoke, millions of people felt a little better. His words were full of grief and iron, inspiring New York to inspire the nation. “Tomorrow New York is going to be here,” he said. “And we’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to be stronger than we were before…I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, that terrorism can’t stop us.”
And in 2002, we see the baby name Giuliani appear for the very first time in the SSA’s baby name data:
- 2003: unlisted
- 2002: 6 baby boys named Giuliani [debut]
- 2001: unlisted
Two other baby names that debuted around this time, Independence in 2001 and Patriot in 2002, were also likely given a boost by the events of 9/11.
*Later in September, Rudy Giuliani was featured in the Saturday Night Live “9/11 Tribute” (video) that memorably ended with this short exchange between Lorne Michaels and Giuliani: “Can we be funny?” “Why start now?”
Source: Pooley, Eric. “Mayor of the World.” Time 31 Dec. 2001.
P.S. Fr. Mychal Judge, the first official casualty of 9/11, also had an impact on baby names in the early 2000s.
The names Dodie, Dody, and Dodi are most familiar to us as nicknames for Dorothy (or Dolores).
But in 1997, Dodi pops onto the charts as a boy name for the first and only time:
- 1998: unlisted
- 1997: 5 baby boys named Dodi [debut]
- 1996: unlisted
Because 1997 was the year that Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed died in a high-speed car crash in Paris. The crash happened on August 31 — almost exactly a year after Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles was finalized.
Diana and Dodi had only been together since July, but their romance quickly became the top tabloid story of the summer. CNN said on August 11 that their relationship “[was] just a few weeks old, but Monday’s headlines on Britain’s royalty-obsessed tabloids practically had them married.”
Wealthy playboy Dodi, whose full name was Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Moneim Al-Fayed, was the son of an Egyptian billionaire. Before Diana, he had been linked to a string famous women including Brooke Shields, Tawny Kitaen, and Tina Sinatra.
Source: As tabloids tell it, Diana practically married (CNN, 8/11/1997)
Image: © People
Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from 1967 until 1991.
Prior to that, he was known for having won 29 of the 32 cases he’d argued argued before the Supreme Court. Most were civil rights cases, including the famous Brown v. Board of Education case that ended legal segregation in public schools in 1954.
The year he died, the name Thurgood debuted on the U.S. baby name charts:
- 1994: unlisted
- 1993: 5 baby boys named Thurgood [debut]
- 1992: unlisted
…and it never returned, making Thurgood a statistical one-hit wonder.
So how did Thurgood Marshall get his unusual first name?
It was passed down from his paternal grandfather, who apparently went by either of two names: Thorneygood and Thoroughgood.
The elder Thoroughgood/Thorneygood served in the U.S. Army, and he didn’t know which name to use when he enlisted, so he used both. And he ended up getting two sets of retirement checks because of it.
Thurgood Marshall told TIME: “I was named Thoroughgood after him but by the time I was in the second grade, I got tired of spelling all that and shortened it.”
His maternal grandfather also had a distinctive name: Isaiah Olive Branch Williams. Isaiah and his wife Mary had six children, all with fascinating names — several inspired by Isaiah’s travels abroad with the U.S. merchant marine.
- Avonia Delicia – first name after Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
- Avon Nyanza – first name also after Stratford-upon-Avon
- Denmedia Marketa – after the family’s grocery store, located on Baltimore’s Denmead Street
- Norma Arica – after the opera Norma and the place where Isaiah first heard it, the Chilean port city of Arica
- Fearless Mentor – because, according to Isaiah:
Most kids don’t open their eyes until they’re at least a few hours old. This one looked me straight in the eye as soon as I came in. He’s a fearless little fellow and Fearless will be his name.
- Ravine Silestria – after a ravine in the Bulgarian/Romanian port city of Silistra
Norma was Thurgood Marshall’s mother. He called Fearless and Denmedia “Uncle Fee” and “Aunt Medi.”
The collapse of communism (and the economy) in Albania in 1991-1992 triggered a mass exodus.
Hundreds of thousands of Albanian refugees fled to other countries — primarily nearby countries like Italy and Greece. But some refugees ended up in entirely different parts of the world, such as the United States.
Evidence of this 1991-1992 wave of Albanian immigration can be see in the sudden appearance of several rather patriotic Albanian baby names to the U.S. baby name data:
||5 baby boys
||9 baby girls
(5 in NY)
|11 baby boys
(5 in NY)
||21 baby girls
(12 in NY)
|10 baby boys
(5 in NY)
|5 baby girls [debut]
||29 baby girls [debut]
(18 in NY)
|13 baby boys [debut]
(8 in NY)
(“Unlisted” means the name was used fewer than 5 times — the minimum for inclusion on the national list.)
The Albanian names Liridon, Liridona and Ilirida are all based on the Albanian word liri, which means “freedom, liberty.” The one-hit wonder name Ilirida refers specifically to the “Republic of Ilirida,” a theoretical secessionist state of Macedonia proposed/declared in early 1992 by Macedonian politician Nevzat Halili (who is an ethnic Albanian).
While I think it’s most likely that these names were bestowed by recent Albanian immigrants, it’s also possible that they were used within Albanian-American families. (New York City has the largest Albanian population in the country.)
And no doubt these names became even more popular in countries that absorbed larger numbers of Albanians. In Switzerland, for instance, both Liridon and Liridona and broke into the national top 100 (!) in 1991:
||16 baby girls
||21 baby boys
||6 baby girls
||32 baby girls
||19 baby boys
||2 baby girls
||60 baby girls
||50 baby boys
||4 baby girls
||114 baby girls
|84 baby boys
||19 baby girls [debut]
||181 baby girls
|125 baby boys
||37 baby girls
||63 baby boys
||11 baby girls
||29 baby boys
The variants Liridone and Liridonë also show up in the Switzerland data — Liridone over 40 times in the ’80s and ’90s, Liridonë a handful of times in the ’90s.
Sources: Albanian Diaspora – Wikipedia, Swiss Statistics