The Entrance of Nicklaus

golf, 1960s, sports, baby name
Jack Nicklaus on the cover of SI

The Nicholas-like name Nicklaus debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1964:

  • 1969: unlisted
  • 1968: 7 baby boys named Nicklaus
  • 1967: 6 baby boys named Nicklaus
  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: 6 baby boys named Nicklaus
  • 1964: 5 baby boys named Nicklaus
  • 1963: unlisted

This was around the time now-legendary pro golfer Jack Nicklaus (b. 1940) was gaining fame.

By 1964, he’d already won the U.S. Open, the Masters Tournament, and the PGA Championship once each. He went on to win each of these, plus the Open Championship, multiple times.

The German surname Nicklaus is in the Nicholas family, so it has the same origin: the ancient Greek words nike, meaning “victory,” and laos, meaning “people.”

(BTW, the name Nicholas saw a big jump in popularity from 1977 to 1978, possibly thanks to the TV show Eight Is Enough, in which the eighth child of the family was named Nicholas.)

Sources:

Image: © 1964 Sports Illustrated

The Surfacing of Cepeda

sports, baseball, baby name, 1960s
Orlando Cepeda

The baby name Cepeda surfaced in the U.S. baby name data three times, all during the 1960s:

  • 1970: unlisted
  • 1969: 9 baby boys named Cepeda
  • 1968: 8 baby boys named Cepeda
  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: 7 baby boys named Cepeda
  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: unlisted

Where did it come from?

First baseman Orlando Cepeda, who played baseball professionally on six different teams from 1958 to 1974. He’s now part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

His surname first appeared in the data the year after he played in his first World Series. (His team, the Giants, lost to Yogi Berra‘s team, the Yankees.)

It returned to the data the year after his team (now the Cardinals) won the World Series (against the Red Sox) and he was voted National League MVP.

Orlando Cepeda was born and raised in Puerto Rico. His surname can be traced back to either of two locations in Spain that took their names from the Spanish word cepeda, which is based on cepa, meaning “tree stump.”

Sources:

The Arrival of Laryssa

laryssa, tv, the doctors, karen werner, baby name
Laryssa Lauret as Dr. Karen Werner

The name Laryssa debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1968, when it was suddenly given to nearly 70 baby girls:

  • 1971: 12 baby girls named Laryssa
  • 1970: 7 baby girls named Laryssa
  • 1969: 22 baby girls named Laryssa
  • 1968: 67 baby girls named Laryssa [debut]
  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: unlisted

It was the name that debuted most impressively that year, and it went on to rank as one of the biggest girl-name debuts of all time.

The less-common variant Lyrissa debuted the same year, and the more-common variants Larissa and Larisa both saw higher around the same time. (Larissa jumped into the top 1,000 for the first time in 1967, in fact.)

What’s the reason?

An actress featured on the popular TV soap opera The Doctors (1963-1982). Laryssa Lauret played character Dr. Karen Werner, who was introduced in 1967 and had a heavy German accent. One writer later described the character as “the resident Teutonic trouble-maker.”

Laryssa Lauret, an American actress of Ukrainian descent, was born Larysa Kukrycka in Warsaw in 1939. She was raised in Austria for a time, then finished her schooling in New York. She shares her name with a martyr, a nymph and various ancient Greek cities. According to this Greek-English Lexicon, the meaning of the name is “citadel.”

The Doctors also influenced the usage of at least two other baby names:

  • Carolee saw a jump in usage in 1968, the year after actress Carolee Campbell originated the role of like-named character Carolee Simpson, R.N.
  • Sindee re-entered the data in 1963, the year actress Sindee Ann Richards appeared on the show for 5 sequential episodes as “Jennie.”

But getting back to Laryssa…do you like the name? How do you prefer to spell it?

Source: “Ukrainian Actress to Appear in TV Show.” Ukrainian Weekly 15 Jan. 1978: 4.

P.S. Sindee was put on the onomastic map in the 1950s by a baby-related news story.

The Beginning of Billie Jean

billie jean horton, country music, baby names, 1960s
Advertisement in Billboard (July 1961)

When I think of the name Billie Jean, I think of the Michael Jackson song. Next, I think of the tennis player.

But the name Billiejean first appeared in the U.S. baby name data way back in 1962, decades before the song, and years before the tennis player was at the height of her fame.

  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: 5 baby girls named Billie Jean
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: unlisted

My guess on this one? Country singer Billie Jean Horton.

Today she’s best remembered for her relationships with various country singers: Faron Young, Hank Williams (married 1952-1953), Johnny Horton (married 1953-1960), and Johnny Cash.

But she was a recording artist in her own right, and her most successful single, “Ocean Of Tears,” peaked at #29 on the country chart in August of 1961. The next year, for one year only, Billiejean popped up in the data.

The name didn’t return until 1973, when tennis player Billie Jean King defeated male player Bobby Riggs in tennis’s most famous “Battle of the Sexes” match. This time it stuck around until the late ’70s.

billie jean, michael jackson, song, 1980s, baby name,

It emerged a third time with the help of Michael Jackson, whose song “Billie Jean” was the #1 song in the nation for seven weeks straight in March and April of 1983.

What are your thoughts on the name Billie Jean? What’s your strongest association with the name?

Source: Billie Jean Horton – Wikipedia

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.