I’ve been trying to piece together the stories behind the baby names Karil and Caril lately. Both of them saw increased usage in 1958:
Usage of Karil
Usage of Caril
8 baby girls
15 baby girls
7 baby girls
19 baby girls [debut]
10 baby girls
The similar names Carol and Karen were popular in the late ’50s, but I think something more specific would have caused both Karil and Caril to pop up all of a sudden like that.
Right now I have two working theories, and both involve murders (how uplifting!).
The first theory is Caril Ann Fugate, the 14-year-old from Nebraska who went on a killing spree with her boyfriend, 19-year-old Charles Starkweather, in January of 1958. The story stayed in the news for months: Starkweather was sentenced to death in May, Fugate received a life sentence in November, and Starkweather’s execution took place in mid-1959.
The second theory is Karil Graham, a Los Angeles woman who was murdered in ’55 and whose story was recounted (with a lot of embellishment) in the 1958 nonfiction book The Badge by Jack Webb, the creator of Dragnet. In late 1958, many newspapers ran Jim Bishop’s positive review of the book, which included the following excerpt highlighting Karil:
The way it is with so many women who live alone, life had held back on Karil Graham. She was likable and attractive, still a year on the sunny side of 40, sandy-haired, blue-eyed, trim-figured. But there was no husband — a marriage hadn’t worked out — no children, no other man in her lonely life.
Karil hid the hurt and filled the emptiness as best she could. Every day she went to work, on time, to her job as receptionist at a downtown Los Angeles art school. Nights, in her quiet apartment, she listened to music and dabbled in painting. She was just a dilettante, she know resignedly, but records and easel were gracious cover-ups for emptiness.
Do either of these theories seem like the primary answer to you? Do you think the answer could be a bit of both? Or something else entirely…?
Bishop, Jim. “Jack Webb: Drama in the Prowl Car.” Salt Lake Tribune 26 Nov. 1958: 24.
Egyptian politician Gamal Abdel Nasser became one of the primary leaders of Egypt following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.* He was elected president of the country on June 23, 1956.
A little more than a month after the election, on July 26, Nasser nationalized the 120-mile Suez Canal. Up to that point, the canal had been controlled jointly by Britain and France. Nasser did this in response to the U.S. and Britain withdrawing their offers to help finance the construction of the Aswan Dam, which was part of Nasser’s plan to improve Egypt’s economy and thereby modernize the country.
In late October and early November, forces from Israel, France, and Great Britain invaded Egypt. But the aggression was opposed by much of the rest of the world, including both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and the three invading countries were pressured to withdraw from Egypt over the following weeks and months.
So, Gamal Nasser emerged victorious from the Suez Crisis. (It was now “clear that the old colonial powers, Great Britain and France, had been supplanted as the world’s preeminent geopolitical forces by the United States and Soviet Union.”) And in 1957, both Gamal and Nasser saw enough usage as baby names to debut on the U.S. baby name charts:
Usage of Gamal
Usage of Nasser
13 baby boys
6 baby boys
8 baby boys
7 baby boys
9 baby boys [debut]
7 baby boys [debut]
Many of these early Gamals and Nassers were born in New York and Illinois — likely New York City and Chicago specifically — and could therefore be babies born into Egyptian-American families.
plus 21 named Periann, 12 named Perriann*, and 5 named Perianne*
1959: 7 baby girls named Perian [debut]
Mississippi-born sportswriter Perian Conerly appeared on the panel show in late 1959, but — unlike most contestants — Perian wasn’t a complete unknown at that point.
She’d been writing a syndicated sports column since 1956 (at a time when female sports writers were unheard of). Her writing appeared in publications as prestigious as Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, and the New York Times. In fact, a few months before she was on WML?, she was profiled in the “Events & Discoveries” section of Sports Illustrated.
As the wife of Charlie Conerly, quarterback of the New York Giants from 1948 to 1961, Perian had the inside scoop on football. Perian and Charlie lived in New York for four months (September through December) every year, and even though Charlie was always the focus, “Perian was almost as big a star in New York as Charlie.”
Together, they were for years the toast of New York – he the ruggedly handsome quarterback and the original Marlboro man, she the Southern belle with movie star glamour and all that charm and wit.
Perian was the first female member of the Football Writers Association of America, likely thanks to her name. A male sportswriter suggested that she join and, assuming that the group wouldn’t offer membership to women, opined that “they will never know” she’s a woman because of her name. Perian did indeed get in and, from then on, mail from the organization was “addressed to Mr. Perian Conerly.”
Here’s what she said about her name in her 1963 book Backseat Quarterback:
Confusion about the gender of my first name is understandable. The spelling does not indicate that it is pronounced Perry Ann, being a contraction of two family names.
Ironically, 1963 — the year her two books (the second being Football Fundamentals for Feminine Fans) were published — was also the year her name dropped off the baby name charts. By that time, though, Charlie had retired from football, Perian had stopped writing her sports column, and the couple had returned to Mississippi.
What’s My Line? (1950-1967) was one of the longest-running game shows on television — not to mention one of the earliest.
The word “line” in the title didn’t refer to a line of script, but to a line of work. Essentially, the show consisted of four celebrity panelists trying to guess a contestant’s occupation — typically something unexpected, e.g., “lipstick demonstrator,” “makes kilts,” “vaccinates chickens.”
Given the popularity of the show, and the fact that contestants’ names were emphasized (each one signed in on a chalkboard at the start of his/her segment), it’s not surprising that some of the more unusual contestant names ended up influencing U.S. baby names. For example…
Contestant Rondi Stratton, whose job was demonstrating mattresses in store windows, was on the show in October of 1952. The baby name Rondi saw increased usage in 1952-1953.
Contestant Barbi Nierenberg, who was a maternity dress buyer, was on the show in November of 1952. The baby name Barbi debuted in the data in 1953. (Barbie dolls weren’t launched until 1959.)
Contestant Wynelle Davis, who was a fireworks seller, was on the show in June of 1953. The baby name Wynelle saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Contestant Sunee Parker, who was a men’s barber, was on the show in October of 1953. The baby name Sunee debuted in the data the same year.
Contestant Rozana Ruehrmund, who was a bill collector, was on the show in August of 1954. The baby name Rozana debuted in the data the same year.
Contestant Zana Stanley, who handled bad checks at a District Attorney’s office, was on the show in November of 1954. The baby name Zana saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Contestant Lili Lisande Wieland, who was a Christmas shopper at Saks Fifth Avenue, was on the show in December of 1954. The baby name Lili saw increased usage the same year.
Contestant Thor Thors, who was the Icelandic ambassador to the United States, was on the show in November of 1955. The baby name Thor saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Contestant Evonne Gaines, who owned a dog grooming salon, was on the show in March of 1957. The baby name Evonne saw increased usage the same year.
Contestant Bunny Yeager, who was a “cheesecake photographer,” was on the show in July of 1957. The baby name Bunny saw increased usage the same year. (Bunny, born Linnea Eleanor Yeager, was a former pin-up model herself.)
Contestant Darris Miller (f), who made one-piece pajamas for dogs, was on the show in August of 1959. The baby name Darris saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Contestant Perian Conerly, who wrote a football column for newspapers, was on the show in December of 1959. The baby name Perian debuted in the data the next year. (Her growing visibility as a columnist may have been an influence here as well.)
Contestant Sherrylyn Patecell, who was a Rockette — not to mention the recently elected Miss New York City — was on the show in July of 1960. The baby name Sherrylyn debuted in the data the same year. (Her pageant win may be a confounding factor here.)
Contestant LaVelda Rowe and her identical twin sister LaVona Rowe, both news photographers, were on the show in July of 1960. The baby name LaVelda was a one-hit wonder in the data the same year.
Contestant Sita Arora, who was a high school English teacher originally from Bombay, was on the show in September of 1960. The baby name Sita debuted in the data the same year.
Contestant Dorinda Nicholson, who taught hula dancing, was on the show in August of 1962. The baby name Dorinda saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Contestant Candi Brasovan, who was a salami seller, was on the show in January of 1963. The baby name Candi saw increased usage the same year.
Contestant Sheva Rapoport, who was a dentist, was on the show in February of 1966. The baby name Sheva debuted in the data the same year.
…And here are some other interesting What’s My Line? contestant names. These didn’t influence the data, but they caught my eye nonetheless.
Here’s a good mystery name to post in September: September.
The name September — just like the name Staria from a couple of weeks ago — debuted in 1955 with 20 baby girls:
1958: 7 baby girls named September
1957: 24 baby girls named September
1956: 15 baby girls named September
1955: 20 baby girls named September [debut]
Where did it come from? I don’t know.
At first I thought the movie September Affair (or the associated song, “September Song”) might have something to do with it, but the timeline is off. Plus, I feel like September would need to be used as a character name (or a stage name?) to recast it as a potential baby name in the eyes of expectant parents.
But, as usual, word-names are particularly hard to figure out. The origins of Memory and Treasure are still obscure, for instance. (They’re not impossible to solve, though! Check out Rise, or Strange.)
Any ideas about what happened in 1955 (or late 1954) to make people see September as more than month name?