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:
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?
Bogle, Donald. Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.
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…
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.
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).
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]
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:
947 [rank: 295th]
543 [rank: 398th]
1,050 [rank: 279th]
585 [rank: 401st]
944 [rank: 297th]
658 [rank: 355th]
549 [rank: 391st]
701 [rank: 328th]
444 [rank: 451st]
581 [rank: 378th]
327 [rank: 524th]
500 [rank: 419th]
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?
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.
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]
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.
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.)