The Emergence of Jemal

The baby name Jemal debuted in the US baby name data in 1968.

The name Jemal debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1968:

  • 1972: 24 baby boys named Jemal
  • 1971: 30 baby boys named Jemal
  • 1970: 52 baby boys named Jemal
  • 1969: 204 baby boys named Jemal [rank: 549th]
  • 1968: 47 baby boys named Jemal [debut]
  • 1967: unlisted

In fact, it was the top debut name of 1968. The next year, it became one of the highest-hitting one-hit wonders in the top 1,000 — the very highest for boys, if you ignore the glitch-name Christop.

So what was the influence?

Jemal David, an African-American character played by actor Otis Young on the single-season TV western The Outcasts (1968-1969).

The series was set in the decade following the Civil War, when “people of all creeds and colors were part of the West” (according to the narrated introduction). The two protagonists, both bounty hunters, were an unlikely pair: Jemal, an ex-slave freed by the Proclamation, and Earl Corey, a former slave owner from Virginia.

Young’s Jemal David was possibly television’s angriest African American protagonist; a defiant man who refused to forget the indignities and humiliations of slavery. He also never let his partner’s racism go unchallenged.

There was even an episode called “My name is Jemal” that drew extra attention to the name:

my name is jemal, the outsiders, television, 1960s

The similar name Jamal also saw a big boost in usage thanks to the character. But, unlike Jemal, which quickly petered out, Jamal’s usage continued to increase for several decades.

What are your thoughts on the name Jemal? Which spelling do you prefer?

Sources:

  • Bogle, Donald. Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.
  • The Outcasts (TV series) – Wikipedia
  • Terrace, Vincent. Television Introductions: Narrated TV Program Openings since 1949. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2014.

Baby Names from Bewitched

bewitched, baby names, 1960s

Bewitched, the sitcom about a witch who marries a mere mortal, premiered on ABC in September of 1964 and ran all the way until 1972. Like many popular TV shows, it had a noticeable influence on U.S. baby names. For instance…

Samantha

The name Samantha, which had ranked far outside the top 1,000 for most of the 20th century, skyrocketed in popularity in the mid-1960s thanks to main character (and witch!) Samantha Stephens, played by Elizabeth Montgomery.

  • 1968: 2,339 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 136th]
  • 1967: 1,806 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 176th]
  • 1966: 1,794 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 182nd]
  • 1965: 1,963 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 179th]
  • 1964: 421 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 473rd]
  • 1963: 73 baby girls named Samantha

The name reached and maintained top-5 status during most of the 1990s (with a lot of help from another fictional Samantha: Samantha Micelli from ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss?).

Montgomery also played the part of Samantha’s cousin Serena, who was a recurring character during later seasons of the show. The name Serena saw higher usage in the late ’60s and early ’70s as a result.

Darrin

The name Darrin was boosted up to its highest-ever usage in 1965 thanks to Samantha’s husband Darrin Stephens, originally played by Dick York.

  • 1968: 2,078 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 138th]
  • 1967: 2,029 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 141st]
  • 1966: 2,568 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 119th]
  • 1965: 3,257 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 102nd] <- peak usage
  • 1964: 801 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 272nd]
  • 1963: 310 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 450th]

In fact, all the spelling variants of Darrin saw peak usage in 1965. The most common spelling of the name, Darren, reached 52nd place in the rankings that year. Also in the top 1,000 were Darin (123th), Daren (271st), Darron (408th), Daron (494th) Daryn (717th), and Darryn (818th).

Endora

The rare name Endora debuted in 1965, thanks to Samantha’s flamboyant and moderately villainous witch-mother Endora, played by Agnes Moorehead (who, several years earlier, played another TV witch).

  • 1968: 7 baby girls named Endora
  • 1967: 17 baby girls named Endora
  • 1966: 19 baby girls named Endora
  • 1965: 28 baby girls named Endora [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted

Endora was so dismissive of Darrin that she nearly never bothered to say his name correctly, calling him things like Derwood, Dagwood, Darwick, Dumpkin, and so forth.

Endora’s own name was inspired by the biblical Witch of Endor; “Endor” was an ancient Canaanite city.

Tabatha & Tabitha

The names Tabatha and Tabitha were both featured on Bewitched, confusingly.

Samantha and Darrin’s first child was a baby girl born in January of 1966. They named her Tabitha, a name first strongly suggested in the storyline by Endora (“Whatever you call her, I shall call her Tabitha”).

Behind the scenes, it was Elizabeth Montgomery who suggested the character name Tabitha — spelled the traditional way, with an i.

But, for some unknown reason, the name was spelled Tabatha — with an a — on the credit role. Montgomery was later quoted as saying: “Honestly, I shudder every time I see it. It’s like a squeaky piece of chalk scratching on my nerves.” The spelling wasn’t corrected until season 5 (1968-1969).

Accordingly, the usage of both baby names rose during the ’60s, with Tabatha ranking higher than Tabitha for a three-year stretch before the spelling mistake in the credits was corrected:

Year Tabitha usage Tabatha usage
1971 947 [rank: 295th] 543 [rank: 398th]
1970 1,050 [rank: 279th] 585 [rank: 401st]
1969 944 [rank: 297th] 658 [rank: 355th]
1968 549 [rank: 391st] 701 [rank: 328th]
1967 444 [rank: 451st] 581 [rank: 378th]
1966 327 [rank: 524th] 500 [rank: 419th]
1965 34 5 [debut]
1964 22 unlisted
1963 21 unlisted

Adam

The name Adam more than doubled in usage over a two-year stretch thanks to Samantha and Darrin’s second child, Adam, who was born in October of 1969.

  • 1972: 5,748 baby boys named Adam [rank: 51st]
  • 1971: 5,855 baby boys named Adam [rank: 57th]
  • 1970: 4,320 baby boys named Adam [rank: 71st]
  • 1969: 2,869 baby boys named Adam [rank: 113th]
  • 1968: 2,546 baby boys named Adam [rank: 119th]
  • 1967: 2,528 baby boys named Adam [rank: 118th]

The name reached and maintained top-20 status for several years during the early 1980s.

…So are you a fan of Bewitched? Which names from the show do you like the best?

Sources:

The Introduction of Indira

indira gandhi, politics, 1960s
Indira Gandhi in 1966

The baby name Indira not only first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1966, but it was the top debut name of of the year.

  • 1970: 20 baby girls named Indira
  • 1969: 14 baby girls named Indira
  • 1968: 16 baby girls named Indira
  • 1967: 17 baby girls named Indira
  • 1966: 43 baby girls named Indira [debut]
  • 1965: unlisted

Why? Because in January of 1966, Indira Gandhi — no relation to Mahatma Gandhi — became the third Prime Minister of India.

She succeeded the former Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, who had died suddenly on January 11 while overseas in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She was elected on January 19th and assumed office on January 24th.

Indira was the only child of India’s very first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. She was named after her great-grandmother Indrani (a.k.a. Jeorani) and was called “Indu” by family members. The name Indira means “beauty” in Sanskrit.

So far, Indira Gandhi has been the only female Prime Minister of India. She served from 1966 to 1977, then again from 1980 until 1984, when she was assassinated.

Source: Two Alone, Two Together: Between Indira Gandhi & Jawaharlal Nehru, 1922-1964. Ed. Sonia Gandhi. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2004.

Mystery Monday – Chevette

So here’s an interesting case. The baby name Chevette debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1965:

  • 1969: 5 baby girls named Chevette
  • 1967: 8 baby girls named Chevette
  • 1966: 6 baby girls named Chevette
  • 1965: 6 baby girls named Chevette [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted

You’d think it’d be the car, right? The Chevrolet Chevette? Except, the car didn’t arrive until 1975. You can see the corresponding spike in usage in 1976:

  • 1977: 7 baby girls named Chevette
  • 1976: 17 baby girls named Chevette [peak]
  • 1975: 6 baby girls named Chevette

The only pop culture reference I can find for the mid-1960s is, weirdly, another car: a custom-build race car. Created by engineer Bob McKee, it was called the “Chevette” because it was made out of parts from the Chevelle and the Corvette. It was driven in various American road races in 1964 and 1965, but I can’t find any press coverage.

Another (more likely) possibility is that the name emerged naturally, given the stylishness of -vette names during the ’60s. The name Yvette saw peak usage (125th) in 1967, for instance, and the Chevette-like names Charvette and Jevette popped up in the data just before Chevette did.

What are your thoughts on this one?

Source: Pace, Harold and Mark Brinker. Vintage American Road Racing Cars 1950-1969. St. Paul, MN: Motorbooks International, 2004.

African Nations as Baby Names

biafra
Flag of Biafra

During the ’60s and ’70s, a slew of Africa-inspired baby names debuted in the U.S. baby name data. These included traditional African names (e.g., Abayomi, Ayanna), names taken from African and African-American public figures (e.g., Lumumba, Levar), and — the focus of today’s post — African place names, particularly country names.

Here are all the African country/region/kingdom names I’ve spotted in the SSA data so far. (I didn’t omit Chad, even though it coincides with the English name Chad.)

Name Debut year Peak usage
Chad 1914 13,400 baby boys in 1972
Tunisia 1943 (due to WWII) 39 baby girls in 1974
Rwanda 1951 5 baby girls in both 1951 & 1973
Kenya 1952 894 baby girls in 1973
Sahara 1964 248 baby girls in both 2006 & 2007
Rhodesia 1966 12 baby girls in 1977
Mali 1967 65 baby girls in 2008
Tanzania 1968 38 baby girls in 1992
Africa 1969 76 baby girls in 1972
Biafra 1969 (due to Biafra being in the news; the Biafran War lasted from 1967 to 1970) 5 baby girls in 1969; one-hit wonder
Ghana 1969 7 baby girls in 1969
Tanganyika 1969 16 baby girls in 1972
Nubia 1969 83 baby girls in 1969
Ashanti 1970 2,945 baby girls in 2002 (due to the singer)
Uganda 1973 12 baby girls in 1973
Algeria 1974 6 baby girls in both 1993 & 1995
Libya 1974 8 baby girls in 2011
Zaire 1974 316 baby boys in 2017
Egypt 1975 266 baby girls in 2017
Nigeria 1975 58 baby girls in 2000
Niger 1976 9 baby girls in both 1976 & 1977
Somalia 1977 43 baby girls in 1993
Zimbabwe 1981 5 baby boys in 1981; one-hit wonder
Sudan 1982 5 baby boys in both 1982 & 1995
Eritrea 1991 (due to Eritrea being in the news; the Eritrean War of Independence ended in 1991) 5 baby girls in 1991; one-hit wonder
Asmara 1993 (due to Asmara being in the news; it became the capital of independent Eritrea in 1993) 13 baby girls in 2013
Morocco 2005 19 baby boys in 2017

Only five of the above did not either debut or see peak usage during the 1960s/1970s.