Would You Bet on “Gamble”?

gamble, news, 1960s, baby name
Gamble on the cover of Life in April, 1960

Like the name Tirrell, the curious name Gamble appears regularly these days in the boys’ data, but it first popped up as a girl name — just once — in 1961:

  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: 5 baby girls named Gamble [debut]
  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Another runaway heiress! This one was New York debutante/heiress Gamble Benedict, the granddaughter of Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935), co-owner of the Remington Typewriter Company.

During the last days of 1959, 18-year-old Gamble ran away from home to be with her 35-year-old Romanian-born boyfriend, Andrei Porumbeanu (who already had a wife, Helma, and daughter, Gigi).

Gamble and Andrei first fled to Paris, where they stayed for most of January. (Gamble turned 19 mid-month.) At the end of the month, Gamble was apprehended by Paris police and “flown home to her stern dowager grandmother.”

The pair ran off again in April, after Andrei had obtained a Mexican divorce. This time they went south. They married in North Carolina on the 6th, then took a plane to Florida for a honeymoon.

The story was in the news for months on end during the first half of the year. (Several years later, in 1964, Time magazine summed it up as an “endlessly publicized…runaway marriage.”)

So what became of the couple? They ended up having two sons (George and Gregory) and spent most of their time in Switzerland…before Gamble initiated divorce proceedings in mid-1963.

Though I never found an explanation for Gamble’s unique first name, my guess is that it’s a surname that can be found somewhere in her family tree.

What are your thoughts on the name “Gamble” for a baby (male or female)? Would you use it?

Sources:

Image: © 1960 Life

What Influenced the Baby Name “Tiger”?

Tiger Woods

For the longest time, I was mystified by the popularity graph for the baby name Tiger. It shows two distinct spikes in usage: one in 1997/1998, the other in 2010.

The initial spike aligns with the rise of golfer Tiger Woods, who “shot to fame after winning the U.S. Masters at Augusta in 1997 — with a record score of 270 — at the age of 21.” He was both the youngest-ever winner and the first African American winner.

If we stick with the Tiger Woods theory, though, the 2010 spike aligns best with Tiger’s infidelity scandal, which was making headlines from late 2009 until mid-2010. And that certainly could be the explanation…though it seems like a disproportionately steep rise, given the nature of the news.

When I noticed recently that Dragon-related names were more popular during Dragon years, it occurred to me that another animal of the Chinese zodiac — the Tiger — might be influencing the baby name Tiger in a similar way.

The most recent Tiger years were 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, and 2010. Turns out that the two big spikes, plus the debut (in 1962), match up perfectly with Tiger years:

  • In 1962, 7 U.S. baby boys were named Tiger.
  • In 1998, 97 U.S. baby boys were named Tiger.
    • 23 [24%] were born in California, 8 in Texas, 6 in Pennsylvania, 5 in Illinois.
  • In 2010, 130 U.S. baby boys were named Tiger.
    • 39 [30%] in California, 10 in Texas, 9 in New York, 8 in Washington, 7 in Florida, 6 in Minnesota, 5 in Pennsylvania.

It’s intriguing that the name was absent from the data in 1974 and 1986. Perhaps Tiger Woods’ rise to fame in 1997 not only gave the name an early boost, but primed expectant parents to see “Tiger” as a feasible option — making those big spikes in 1998 and 2010 possible.

What do you think the usage of “Tiger” will look like in the next Tiger year, 2022?

Sources: Tiger Woods – Biography, Tiger (zodiac) – Wikipedia, Tiger’s dad gave us all some lessons to remember

P.S. Tiger Woods’ birth name is actually Eldrick. His mother invented it, starting it with an “E” because her husband’s name was Earl and ending it with a “K” because her own name is Kultida. Earl Woods nicknamed his son “Tiger” in honor of Col. Vuong Dang “Tiger” Phong, whom he’d known while serving in Vietnam. (The story of the search for Phong is fascinating…)

The Beginning of Bronco

bronco lane, western, television,
Ty Hardin as Bronco Layne

The unlikely baby name Bronco first popped up in the SSA data in 1960:

  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 5 baby boys named Bronco [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted

Around the same time, the streamlined name Ty became markedly more popular:

  • 1963: 372 baby boys named Ty [rank: 417th]
  • 1962: 357 baby boys named Ty [rank: 423rd]
  • 1961: 323 baby boys named Ty [rank: 452nd]
  • 1960: 254 baby boys named Ty [rank: 495th]
  • 1959: 188 baby boys named Ty [rank: 571st]
  • 1958: 82 baby boys named Ty [rank: 831st]
  • 1957: 64 baby boys named Ty [rank: 952nd]

Both names were influenced by the same thing: TV western Bronco (1958-1962), which starred actor Ty Hardin as former Confederate officer Bronco Layne.

(The names Layne and Lane also saw upticks in usage in 1959 specifically.)

Ty Hardin was initially hired to play Bronco Layne on the series Cheyenne while there was a contract dispute going on between Warner Brothers and Cheyenne star Clint Walker. After the dispute ended and Clint returned to Cheyenne, the company decided to create a spin-off series featuring Hardin’s character.

So why was the character called “Bronco”? Here’s what the show’s theme song said: “There ain’t a horse that he can’t handle, that’s how he got his name.”

And how did Ty Hardin get his name? It wasn’t from his parents; his birth name was Orison Whipple Hungerford. Here’s one explanation:

He took the name Ty Hardin — according to some news accounts, Ty was short for a childhood nickname, Typhoon, and Hardin was a reference to the western outlaw John Wesley Hardin — after signing with Warner Bros.

Another explanation is simply that his agent was Henry Willson, who had a knack for coining catchy stage names (e.g., Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter).

Sources: Bronco (TV series) – Wikipedia, Ty Hardin, rugged actor who played Bronco Layne in TV westerns, dies at 87

The Beginning of Bavan

The baby name Bavan debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1964.

The interesting name Bavan was a one-hit wonder in the baby name data in the mid-1960s:

  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: 5 baby girls named Bavan
  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Jazz singer Yolande Bavan.

She was born Yolande Woolf in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1942. She moved to London in the early ’60s to launch a career in entertainment. She was primarily acting in stage roles when a friend (Indian film director Waris Hussein) recommended she start going by “Yolande Bavan.”

Not long after that, she was asked to replace “Ross” in the famous jazz vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. (Annie Ross was leaving due to health issues.) Yolande joined in mid-1962, and thereafter the trio was known as Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan.

The trio performed at major jazz festivals, put out three albums, and made various TV appearances* together before disbanding in mid-1964.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Bavan? (Do you like it more or less than, say, the Irish name Bevin?)

*The trio performed on a late 1962 episode of To Tell the Truth — right after a segment in which Yolande was a contestant.

Sources: Singing the truth – The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), Yolande Bavan pines for home – The Island (Sri Lanka)

Was Kamala Harris Named After an Actress?

With the presidential inauguration just two days away, now is a good time to take a closer look at the baby name Kamala.

Most Americans already know that Kamala Devi Harris’ first name is pronounced KAH-mah-lah (or “comma-la“). And I bet some also know that the Sanskrit name Kamala means “lotus,” and is sometimes used to refer to the Hindu deity Lakshmi.

But here’s an intriguing fact that isn’t very well known: usage of the baby name Kamala peaked in 1964 — the year that Kamala Harris was born.

  • 1967: 46 baby girls named Kamala
  • 1966: 51 baby girls named Kamala
  • 1965: 91 baby girls named Kamala
  • 1964: 105 baby girls named Kamala [rank: 1,064th]
  • 1963: 44 baby girls named Kamala
  • 1962: 20 baby girls named Kamala
  • 1961: 10 baby girls named Kamala

Here’s the graph:

What caused the spike?

I believe the influence was half-Indian, half-English actress Kamala Devi (birth name: Kamala Devi Amesur). She came to the U.S. from India around 1960, and over the course of the decade appeared in two U.S. films and on about ten TV shows (including My Three Sons).

The thing that put her name in the papers, though, was her 1963 marriage to actor Chuck Connors, her co-star in the 1962 film Geronimo. (You can see several press photos of the pair at one Chuck Connors fan site.) Here’s what Louella Parsons wrote about the couple in mid-1963:

The Brooklyn-born Irishman and the Bombay-born East Indian, married in April, are as unlikely a combination as you could dream up, but they seem ideally mated. Chuck and Kamala met when both played in “Geronimo.” She was the last actress to be interviewed for the lead opposite him. “I took one look at her,” says Chuck, “and that was it.”

So, now, back to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

I have never seen anything that explicitly connects Kamala Devi Harris to Kamala Devi, but the fact that Harris’ middle name is Devi (which means “goddess”), and the fact that she was born in 1964, makes me think Harris’ parents were probably influenced by the actress — whether they were aware of it or not.

(Her parents, Donald Harris of Jamaica and Shyamala Gopalan of Tamil Nadu, met as graduate students in California in the fall of 1962. They married in July of 1963 and welcomed their first daughter, Kamala, the following year in October. Their second daughter, Maya Lakshmi, was born in early 1967.)

What are your thoughts on this?

Sources: