The Baby Name Tamantha

tamantha, 1960s, television, baby name

Two years after the premiere of the sitcom Bewitched, which featured a character named Samantha, the Samantha-like name Tamantha appeared in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1968: 16 baby girls named Tamantha
  • 1967: 17 baby girls named Tamantha
  • 1966: 16 baby girls named Tamantha [debut]
  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: unlisted

Bewitched could be a secondary influence here, but I think the main influence was another TV sitcom: The Tammy Grimes Show. This long-forgotten series was cancelled after just four episodes (all of which aired in September of 1966) but the main character, played by Broadway actress Tammy Grimes, was a young heiress named Tamantha “Tammy” Ward.

Even more impressive, though, is the upsurge in usage of the similar name Tamatha the same year:

  • 1968: 381 baby girls named Tamatha [rank: 381st]
  • 1967: 313 baby girls named Tamatha [rank: 532nd]
  • 1966: 222 baby girls named Tamatha [rank: 646th]
  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: unlisted

For this one, I think it’s the other way around: Bewitched was the primary influence, and Tammy Grimes was secondary.

Newspaper articles about The Tammy Grimes Show did indeed misspell the character’s name “Tamatha” occasionally, but that’s not enough to catapult a name into the top 1,000. It’s far more likely that this was one of the variant names that emerged in the shadow of Tabatha, which saw a dramatic rise in usage in 1966 thanks to the newborn baby Tabatha on Bewitched.

Do you like the names Tamantha and Tamatha? Do you like them more or less than the traditional names Samantha and Tabitha?

Source: The Tammy Grimes Show – Television Obscurities

P.S. Ironically, Tammy Grimes had been offered the role of Samantha Stephens on Bewitched in 1963 but turned it down.

P.P.S. The name Tammy also happened to enter the top 10 in 1966, but I’m guessing this had more to do with pre-existing momentum than with a 4-episode TV show.

The Emergence of Makeba

miriam makeba, singer, baby name, 1960s
Miriam Makeba

The baby name Makeba started appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1960s:

  • 1966: 8 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: 5 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1963: 5 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1962: 5 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: unlisted

It saw peak usage in the early 1970s.

What launched the name?

South African singer Miriam Makeba, who was born near Johannesburg in 1932 to a Xhosa father and a Swazi mother.

Her birth name was actually Zenzile, nickname Zenzi. (The English name Miriam was adopted later for career purposes.) According to Makeba, the name Zenzile means “you have no one to blame but yourself” or “you have done it to yourself.”

But “Zenzile Makeba” wasn’t her full name. Her full name was Zenzile Makeba Qgwashu Nguvama Yiketheli Nxgowa Bantana Balomzi Xa Ufun Ubajabulisa Ubaphekcli Mbiza Yotshwala Sithi Xa Saku Qgiba Ukutja Sithathe Izitsha Sizi Kkabe Singama Lawu Singama Qgwashu Singama Nqamla Nqgithi.

Why so long?

The reason for its length is that every child takes the first name of all his male ancestors. Often following the first name is a descriptive word or two, telling; about the character of the person, making a true African name somewhat like a story. This may sound most unusual to Americans, but it is the custom of my people.

Miriam Makeba began singing professionally in the early 1950s. In the late ’50s she met famous Jamaican-American singer Harry Belafonte, who introduced her to American audiences. Her fame grew (both in the U.S. and in Europe) during the ’60s, and she became “the first African artist to globally popularize African music.”

I haven’t had any luck tracking down the etymology of Makeba, but I know the name came from Miriam’s mother, Nomkomendelo Christina Makeba. The name Nomkomendelo means “the one whose father was commandeered” (as she was born on the day her father was forced to join the British army to help fight the Second Boer War).

Do you like the name Makeba?

Sources:

Image: from the movie Come Back, Africa (1959)

P.S. Here are a few more names inspired by the Second Boer War

The Debut of Joselito

The baby name Joselito debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1961.

The Spanish name Joselito first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1961:

  • 1967: 23 baby boys named Joselito (8 in NY)
  • 1966: 15 baby boys named Joselito
  • 1965: 14 baby boys named Joselito
  • 1964: 14 baby boys named Joselito (6 in NY)
  • 1963: 15 baby boys named Joselito (7 in NY)
  • 1962: 16 baby boys named Joselito (9 in NY)
  • 1961: 12 baby boys named Joselito [debut]
  • 1960: unlisted

Where did it come from?

A little boy with a lovely voice.

Spanish child star Joselito, known as “the little nightingale,” was born José Jiménez Fernández in Spain in 1943 (though the public was told that he was born years later than this). He starred in his first film in 1957, and followed that up with a string of successful movies and albums.

A few years into this career, he began crossing the Atlantic* — mainly to make movies in Mexico, but also to make several promotional appearances on U.S. television. Specifically, he performed on the The Ed Sullivan Show three times: in October of 1960, December of 1960, and January of 1961.

These TV appearances introduced American audiences to Joselito — and to his name — and no doubt brought about the debut of “Joselito” in the data.

Source: La ruina y el engaño que acabaron con Joselito

*During his time abroad, he met Fidel Castro, Ché Guevara, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Coming of Keir

The baby name Keir debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1963.

The compact name Keir first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1960s:

  • 1968: 28 baby boys named Keir
  • 1967: 6 baby boys named Keir
  • 1966: 12 baby boys named Keir
  • 1965: 6 baby boys named Keir
  • 1964: 21 baby boys named Keir
  • 1963: 13 baby boys named Keir [debut]
  • 1962: unlisted

The spelling Kier debuted as well.

What was the influence?

Actor Keir Dullea, whose first big movie role was the a lead part in the offbeat romance David and Lisa (1962). He ended up winning a Golden Globe for “Most Promising Newcomer – Male” in early 1963.

He went on to appear in other movies, none more successful than Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), in which he played another David: astronaut David Bowman, who spoke the classic line, “Open the pod bay doors please, HAL.”

His full name is pronounced KEER duh-LAY, which is easy to remember if you think of the Noel Coward witticism, “Keir Dullea, gone tomorrow.” I’m not sure how his parents came up with the name Keir, but it could be an Anglicized form of the Irish name Ciar, which means “black.”

(Keir was also on TV a lot, and once appeared in an episode of the short-lived show Channing — just like Joan Hackett, whose character Djuna Phrayne had a big impact on the baby name Djuna.)

Do you like the name Keir?

Source: Keir Dullea – Wikipedia

The Coming of Kerith

literature, 1960s, kerith, baby name

In 1967, the baby name Kerith debuted in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1970: 18 baby girls named Kerith
  • 1969: 15 baby girls named Kerith
  • 1968: 20 baby girls named Kerith
  • 1967: 12 baby girls named Kerith [debut]
  • 1966: unlisted

The source? The Source — a 1965 novel set in ancient Israel. It was written by James Michener, who had written Sayonara about a decade earlier.

Kerith was a character featured in the early chapter “Psalm of the Hoopoe Bird,” which was set during the reign of King David specifically. Kerith was the wife of the chapter’s central character, an engineer named Jabaal (but nicknamed Hoopoe, after the bird). Jabaal worshiped Baal, but Kerith, who was Hebrew, worshiped Yahweh. By the end of the chapter, she had given up her husband and children in order to live in Jerusalem.

“Kerith” is also found in the Hebrew Bible as a place name (sometimes spelled “Cherith”). It’s a wadi where the prophet Elijah hid during a drought. The word can be traced back to a Hebrew root meaning “cut.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Kerith?