The Debut of Dokken

Beast from the East, album, Dokken, 1980s, rock music
Dokken album “Beast from the East” (Nov. 1988)

The unusual baby name Dokken debuted in 1989 and never came back, making it a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data.

  • 1991: unlisted
  • 1990: unlisted
  • 1989: 5 baby boys named Dokken [debut]
  • 1988: unlisted
  • 1987: unlisted

Where did it come from?

My guess is the ’80s rock band Dokken, which “was a fixture on MTV in the eighties and enjoyed a string of best-selling albums through the decade.”

The band formed in 1979 and became a commercial success in the mid-1980s. The Dokken song “Dream Warriors” was featured in the slasher movie A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987).

In 1989, Dokken scored its first and only Grammy nomination (in the brand new “Best Metal Performance” category) with the live album Beast from the East. But — along with Faith No More, Queensrÿche, and Soundgarden — they ended up losing to Metallica.

The band was named after vocalist Don Dokken, whose Norwegian surname can be traced back to an Old Norse geographical word meaning “hollow, depression.”

…And now it’s time for the question of the day! The Dokken-like, cologne-inspired baby name Drakkar popped up in the data just a few years before Dokken did. Which late ’80s name do you prefer, Dokken or Drakkar?

Sources:

  • Dokken – Wikipedia
  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Phillips, William and Brian Cogan. Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal Music. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2009.

Chemise: Fashion-Inspired Baby Name

chemise, dress, baby name, 1950s
Chemise dress by Cardin
© 1957 Life

The baby name Chemise first appeared in the U.S. data in 1958:

  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: 7 baby girls named Chemise [debut]
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: unlisted

At first I didn’t think much of it, as chemise is an old French word (originally for a woman’s undergarment) that happens to have a pleasant sound: sheh-MEEZ or sheh-MEES (similar to Charisse). Seeing it pop up in the ’50s data didn’t really surprise me.

But then I did some research…and discovered a fascinating bit of fashion history.

For most of the ’50s, the dominant silhouette in ladies’ fashion was an hourglass shape that included defined waists and full skirts.

But in 1957 specifically, several high-fashion designers (including Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Laroche) shook things up by presenting dresses that hung loose from the shoulder and were not cinched at the waist.

These shapeless “chemise” dresses — sometimes called “bag” or “sack” dresses — ended up being a hot topic in the American press during the last months of 1957 and throughout 1958. Supporters praised chemises for being modern and simple; detractors called them ungainly and ugly.

Perhaps even more importantly, the controversy inspired the novelty song “No Chemise, Please” [vid] by Gerry Granahan. It was popular over the summer of 1958.

After a while, the debate died down and the silhouette became accepted (and eventually mainstream). But not before it had given the French word chemise lots of extra exposure. And this extra exposure ended up having a (slight) effect on American baby names, resulting in that 1958 debut in the data.

So what do you think of Chemise as a baby name? (How about as a dress style?)

Sources: Balenciaga – FIDM Museum & Galleries, Chemise dress – Objects – RISD Museum, Caftan Liberation: How an Ancient Fashion Set Modern Women Free

The Arrival of Randye

randye, baby name, 1949, triplets
Most of the Herman family, 1949

The baby name Randye debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1949. The usage was primarily in New York state.

YearRandye, usage in U.S.Randye, usage in N.Y.
195311 baby girls10 baby girls
195224 baby girls11 baby girls
195112 baby girls6 baby girls
19509 baby girls6 baby girls
194924 baby girls [debut]14 baby girls [debut]
1948unlistedunlisted
1947unlistedunlisted

Why the debut, and why New York?

Because of a set of identical triplets born to New York City couple Murray and Marjorie Herman in May of 1949. The three girls were born at Polyclinic Hospital and named Jaimye, Randye, and Vickye.

My guess is that the triplets — plus their older sister, Leslye — were featured in the local news throughout their childhood. All four of must have been in the papers around 1952, for instance, because usage of three of the four names increased that year.

Female usage of names similar to Randye (like Randy and Randi) were seeing higher usage in general during this time period, likely thanks to the influence of movie actress Randy Stuart (born Elizabeth Shaubell).

Sources:

Baby Names from Hill Street Blues

Hill Street Blues, baby names, 1980s, television,

The police drama Hill Street Blues, which aired on NBC from 1981 to 1987, revolutionized the “cop show” TV genre. The series was the first of its kind to feature sequential storylines (vs. stand-alone episodes), an ensemble cast (vs. a single star), overlapping dialogue, hand-held camerawork, and more.

In fact, CNN went ahead and labelled Hill Street Blues “the most influential TV show ever.”

But it wasn’t just influential in the world of television. It also left its mark on American baby names. Hundreds of babies born in the ’80s got a Hill Street Blues-inspired baby name, such as…

Travanti

Actor Daniel J. Travanti, who played main character Capt. Frank Furillo, was nominated for the “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” Emmy five times in a row (1981 to 1985), winning twice (in ’81 and ’82). Also in 1982, the name Travanti debuted in the baby name data:

  • 1985: 14 baby boys named Travanti
  • 1984: 12 baby boys named Travanti
  • 1983: 8 baby boys named Travanti
  • 1982: 15 baby boys named Travanti [debut]
  • 1981: unlisted
  • 1980: unlisted

Taurean

Actor Taurean Blacque (born Herbert Middleton), who played Det. Neal Washington, was nominated for the “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series” Emmy in 1982. (In fact, all five nominees for the award that year were HSB actors.) The name Taurean debuted in the data for both genders in 1981:

  • 1985: 143 baby boys named Taurean [rank: 745th]
  • 1984: 172 baby boys [rank: 659th] and 10 baby girls named Taurean
  • 1983: 231 baby boys [rank: 554th] and 17 baby girls named Taurean
  • 1982: 210 baby boys [rank: 593rd] and 7 baby girls named Taurean
  • 1981: 91 baby boys [rank: 944th] and 6 baby girls named Taurean [dual-debut]
  • 1980: unlisted

Taurean was the top boy-name debut of 1981, and the variants Taurian, Tauren, and Taureon all popped up in the data as well that year.

(And how did Herbert come up with the stage name “Taurean Blacque”? It’s “a combination of astrology and race with some fancy spelling thrown in.” He wanted a name he “could identify with and one that would stand out on a billboard.”)

Kiel

Actor Kiel Martin played Officer John “J.D.” LaRue. While the show was on the air, the baby name Kiel rose to peak usage among baby boys:

  • 1985: 221 baby boys [rank: 591st] and 5 baby girls named Kiel
  • 1984: 260 baby boys [rank: 534th] and 5 baby girls named Kiel
  • 1983: 277 baby boys [rank: 505th] and 8 baby girls named Kiel
  • 1982: 194 baby boys named Kiel [rank: 623rd]
  • 1981: 68 baby boys named Kiel
  • 1980: 9 baby boys named Kiel

Darylann

Actress Deborah Richter played recurring character Daryl Ann from 1982 to 1987 (but primarily during the last three years). In response, not only did the usage of the name Daryl for baby girls increase, but the name Darylann appeared for the first time:

  • 1989: unlisted
  • 1988: 7 baby girls named Darylann
  • 1987: 5 baby girls named Darylann [debut]
  • 1986: unlisted

Shirret

Actress Van Nessa L. Clarke played minor character Shirret Anders in a pair of back-to-back 1981 episodes. The same year, the baby name Shirret debuted in the data:

  • 1982: unlisted
  • 1981: 5 baby girls named Shirret [one-hit wonder]
  • 1980: unlisted

Have you ever met someone with a Hill Street Blues-inspired baby name?

Sources:

The Emergence of Jovon

baby name, jovon, actress, 1960s
Jovon Monteil

When I first noticed the name Jovon popping up in the U.S. baby name data, I thought of Jovan Musk. But the Musk was from the ’70s, and the name popped up a decade earlier:

  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: 5 baby girls named Jovon
  • 1960: 10 baby girls named Jovon [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

So, what put it on the map?

An actress named Jovon Monteil, who was making guest appearances on TV in the late 1950s and early 1960s. (The image is from Sea Hunt.) She was also in one movie: Born Reckless (1959).

Jovon’s real name was Louise Davis and she was originally from Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Journal noted in late 1957 that “Jovon Monteil” was “her newly chosen professional name.”

By the end of 1960 she was married and had a baby (named Michelle), which is likely why she stopped pursuing a career in entertainment.

The names Jovon and Jovan both saw a steep rise in usage in the ’70s thanks to Jovan Musk, put out by the Chicago-based Jovan company. (Here’s a long list of perfume-inspired baby names.)

Sources:

  • “Jovon Monteil Completes Part in ‘Born Reckless’.” Albuquerque Journal 22 Dec. 1957: 15.
  • “Beauty Contest Winner.” Albuquerque Journal 21 Jan. 1962: 15.