The Baby Name Peggysue

Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly, 1958
In September of 1957, the classic rock and roll song “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly came out. (This was just a few months after the doo wop song “Deserie” was released.)

“Peggy Sue” was on the Billboard Top 100 for 22 weeks in late 1957 and early 1958, reaching as high as the #3 spot.

Right on cue, the compound baby name Peggysue debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1958:

  • 1962: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1961: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1959: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1958: 7 baby girls named Peggysue [debut]
  • 1957: unlisted

The name Peggy by itself also saw a significant increase in usage that year:

  • 1961: 6,434 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 69th]
  • 1959: 7,408 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 57th]
  • 1958: 10,072 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 42nd]
  • 1957: 7,379 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 62nd]
  • 1956: 7,487 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 63rd]

No doubt many of these Peggys had the middle name Sue.

So how did Buddy Holly chose the name “Peggy Sue” for the song? He didn’t — he wrote a song called “Cindy Lou,” taking the names from his newborn baby niece, Cindy Carol, and Cindy’s mom (Buddy’s sister) Patricia Lou.

But the original song wasn’t working out, so the band experimented with it in the summer of ’57. One of the changes they made was to the name. The rhythmically identical “Peggy Sue” was suggested by drummer Jerry Allison, who was dating a girl named Peggy Sue at the time.

At the end of 1958, Buddy Holly started working on “Peggy Sue Got Married,” one of rock and roll’s first sequel songs. Sadly he didn’t finish the song before February 3, 1959 — the day that he, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.

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If you were having a baby girl, and you had to name her either Peggy Sue or Cindy Lou, which combination would you choose?

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Sources: ‘Peggy Sue’: NPR, Who Was Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”?, Patricia Lou Holley-Kaiter (Obit) – Lubbock Avalanche-Journal


Doo Wop Baby Name: Deserie

the charts, deserie, band,
The Charts (Glenmore, Ross, Leroy, Stephen, & Joe)

The French name Desiree was first popularized in the U.S. by the 1954 movie Désirée, which told the story of Désirée Clary, the one-time fiancée of Napoleon Bonaparte who later became the queen of Sweden and Norway.

Several years later, during the doo-wop craze of the ’50s, five Harlem-based teens formed a vocal group called The Charts — intentionally naming themselves after the Billboard‘s hits list in the hope that they would one day see themselves on the charts.

Despite being booed off stage during an Apollo Theater amateur night, the quintet got signed to a label and ended up recording several songs before disbanding in 1958.

The only Charts song to actually reach the charts? “Deserie,” a “huge East Coast doo wop cult classic” that appeared on Billboard‘s Hot 100 four times during the second half of 1957, peaking at 88th.

Here’s a video featuring the song:

But the Charts actually charted twice, because the baby name Deserie debuted on the U.S. baby name charts the very same year:

  • 1960: 15 baby girls named Deserie
  • 1959: 8 baby girls named Deserie
  • 1958: 7 baby girls named Deserie
  • 1957: 13 baby girls named Deserie [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

Though the spelling and pronunciation aren’t quite the same, Deserie (deh-zə-REE) was no doubt inspired by then-trendy Desiree (deh-zi-RAY), which can be traced back to the Latin word for “desired,” desideratum.

Which name do you like better, Desiree or Deserie?

Source: Warner, Jay. American Singing Groups: A History from 1940s to Today. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2006.

The Baby Names Shevawn and Siobhan

siobhan mckenna, 1956, life, magazine
Siobhán McKenna on the cover of LIFE
Tara, Maeve, and many of the other
Irish names used in the U.S. today weren’t popularized by Irish immigrants. Instead, they gained traction after being introduced to the public via movies, television, and other types of pop culture.

Siobhan is no different. But it’s also a special case, because Americans heard about the name before they saw it written down. The result? The Irish spelling made a splash on the U.S. baby name charts…but only after a phonetic respelling made a similar splash. In fact, the misspelled version and the correctly spelled version were consecutive top girl name debuts in the mid-1950s.

So who’s the person behind the launch of Siobhan? Irish actress Siobhán McKenna (1923-1986).

In 1955, McKenna was nominated for a Tony for her role as Miss Madrigal in the play The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold (who had written National Velvet two decades earlier). The same year, the name Shevawn debuted in the U.S. data:

  • 1960: 5 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: 9 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1957: 8 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1956: 24 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1955: 36 baby girls named Shevawn [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted

The spellings Shevon, Shevonne, Chavonne, and Chevonne also debuted in ’55.

The next year, Siobhán McKenna impressed audiences with her portrayal of Joan of Arc in the George Bernard Shaw play Saint Joan. Her popularity in this role earned her the cover of LIFE magazine in September. Next to her image was her name, Siobhan, spelled correctly (but missing the fada). Right on cue, the name Siobhan debuted in the data:

  • 1960: 90 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1959: 85 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1958: 54 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1957: 67 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1956: 58 baby girls named Siobhan [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

Once U.S. parents learned how to spell “Siobhan,” the alternative spellings became less common, though they remained in use.

Siobhan was boosted into the top 1,000 in 1979 and remained popular during the 1980s thanks to the soap opera Ryan’s Hope, which introduced a character named Siobhan in 1978.

It’s rather fitting that Siobhán McKenna was best known for playing Saint Joan, as both “Siobhán” and “Joan” were derived from the name Jeanne, which is French feminine form of John (meaning “Yahweh is gracious”).

How do you feel about the name Siobhan? If you were going to use it, how would you spell it?

Sources: Siobhán McKenna – Wikipedia, SSA

The Baby Name Tinker

Tinker the Toymaker
The curious baby name “Tinker” debuted on the SSA’s list in the mid-1950s:

  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: 5 baby girls named Tinker
  • 1954: 5 baby boys named Tinker [debut]
  • 1953: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Well, the girls would have been named Tinker with the Peter Pan character Tinker Bell in mind. (Disney’s film version of Peter Pan came out in ’53, and the Broadway musical came out in ’54.)

But for boys, the inspiration would have been the children’s TV program Tinker’s Workshop, which was on the air from 1954 to 1958. The sole human character was gray-haired, Geppetto-like “Tinker the Toymaker” played by Bob Keeshan (who also produced the show). Keeshan wrote in the ’80s that:

[Tinker] was warm and welcoming, a grandfather who finds joy in talking to young people, passing on his wisdom, exploring the world with them.

The show was a success, but Keeshan left less than a year after it premiered to become “Captain Kangaroo” — a role he played for the next three decades.

Tinker’s Workshop continued until mid-1958, with the role of Tinker being taken up by several other actors, the last of whom was a very young Dom DeLuise.

Do you like Tinker as a baby name? Do you think it works better for boys or for girls?

Source: Keeshan, Bob. Growing Up Happy: Captain Kangaroo Tells Yesterday’s Children How to Nurture Their Own. New York: Doubleday, 1989

The Car-Inspired Baby Name Capri

capri, car, nameplateThe Italian island of Capri has been inhabited for millennia, but very few Americans were naming their babies “Capri” before Ford introduced the Lincoln Capri in the early 1950s:

  • 1955: 6 baby girls named Capri
  • 1954: 5 baby girls named Capri
  • 1953: 7 baby girls named Capri [debut]
  • 1952: unlisted

The car was on the market from 1952 to 1959 and, as far as I can tell, it was the very first car-inspired baby name to appear in the data. Since then, many different cars have inspired baby names (e.g., Camry, DeLorean, Miata, Porsche).

These days the name Capri is given to close to 200 baby girls per year, which puts it pretty close to the top 1,000.

The origin of the island name “Capri” isn’t known for certain, but it could be derived from the Ancient Greek word kapros, meaning “wild boar,” or from the Latin word capreae, meaning “goats.”

Do you like the name Capri? Would you use it for a baby girl?

The One-Hit Wonder Baby Name Kitza

kitza kazacos, 1959, baby name
Kitza Kazacos
© 1959 Billboard
Like Gogi, the name Kitza debuted in the U.S. baby name data in the late ’50s but never returned.

  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: 5 baby girls named Kitza [debut]
  • 1958: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Greek singer Kitza Kazacos. During the ’50s she became famous in England, and at the end of the decade she decided to try her luck with American audiences.

As the mononymous “Kitza” she appeared (along with Paul Anka) on the Perry Como Show in February of 1959. The press coverage leading up to the appearance was a bit weird, focusing on how she maintained her figure with the help of a hypnotist (“who hypnotizes her into disliking foods that make her gain weight”).

Ultimately, Kitza didn’t have much luck getting attention in the U.S. Here’s what she said later the same year:

“Since the Perry Como show, I have made just one other appearance and that was on daytime show ‘The Jimmy Dean Show.’ They say they want fresh new talent here, but when fresh, new talent comes to them, they say, “The public doesn’t know you.””

I’m not sure what became of Kitza Kazacos, but I can tell you that her first name is a variant of Kitsa, which is a nickname for Kyriaki. Kyriaki is both the Greek word for Sunday and the feminine form of the name Kyriakos, which means “of the lord.” (The Latin equivalent of Kyriakos is Dominicus, the root names like of Dominic and Dominique.)

What do you think of the name Kitza?

Source: Torre, Marie. “New Face Gets Second Look.” Lawrence Journal-World 15 Jun. 1959: 4.

The Baby Names Jubilee and Marian

jubilee, 1975Within the next few years, the baby name Jubilee will likely enter the girls’ top 1,000:

  • 2015: 227 baby girls named Jubilee [1,118th]
  • 2014: 164 baby girls named Jubilee [1,397th]
  • 2013: 153 baby girls named Jubilee [1,453rd]

But it debuted on the charts only recently, in 1975:

  • 1977: 6 baby girls named Jubilee
  • 1976: 8 baby girls named Jubilee
  • 1975: 9 baby girls named Jubilee [debut]
    • 5 born in California
  • 1974: unlisted

I don’t think the year is a coincidence, as it lines up with one of the Roman Catholic Church’s more recent jubilee years.

Speaking of special Roman Catholic years…the church has also celebrated a total of two Marian years, the first of which was in 1954. That year, the baby name Marian saw a sharp rise in usage:

  • 1956: 1,249 baby girls named Marian [232nd]
  • 1955: 1,497 baby girls named Marian [208th]
  • 1954: 4,014 baby girls named Marian [104th]
  • 1953: 1,366 baby girls named Marian [217th]
  • 1952: 1,246 baby girls named Marian [221st]

The name nearly landed in the top 100 for baby girls that year. (The last time it was in the top 100 was the mid-1930s.)

Which name do you prefer for a baby girl, Jubilee or Marian?

Which name do you prefer?

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