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.

The Emergence of Marjoe

marjoe gortner, baby names, 1970s
Marjoe Gortner, preaching, 1971

The rare name Marjoe has appeared in the U.S. baby name just twice, both times in the mid-1970s:

  • 1976: unlisted
  • 1975: 6 baby boys named Marjoe
  • 1974: 6 baby boys named Marjoe [debut]
  • 1973: unlisted

This name is similar to Uldine in that both are associated with something rather unusual: child preachers.

In the case of Marjoe, the influence was child preacher-turned-actor Marjoe Gortner.

He was born Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner to parents to Vernon and Marge of California in 1944. According to an early source, the middle name “Marjoe” was based on the name of his mother Marge. (His younger siblings were named Vernoe and Starloe.) Later sources claim “Marjoe” was a combination of Mary and Joseph.

Marjoe Gortner was a precocious child, and his family was full of preachers, so his parents (putting two and two together) decided to turn Marjoe into a child preacher. By the age of four, he was an ordained minister and could deliver about 40 different sermons from memory. His entire childhood was spent evangelizing.

By the early 1970s, Marjoe Gortner was in his late 20s and only in it for the money. In the autobiographical documentary Marjoe (1972), he gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at “the lucrative business of Pentecostal preaching.” It earned critical acclaim and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in early 1973, but wasn’t screened in many theaters.

Following the success of the documentary, Marjoe pursued an acting career. He was most visible in the mid-1970s, appearing mainly on television. He could be seen on episodes of various TV shows (like Nakia, in 1974) and in several made-for-TV movies (like The Gun and the Pulpit, also in 1974).

What are your thoughts on the name Marjoe?

Sources:

The Arrival of Ayatollah

Ayatollah, TIME magazine
© 1979 Time
The Arabic word Ayatollah (ayatu-llah), which is a title for a Shiite religious leader in Iran, literally means “sign of god.”

Americans started hearing this word more often in the late ’70s, when Iran’s Ruhollah Khomeini, typically called “Ayatollah Khomeini” by the U.S. press, led the Iranian Revolution that overthrew the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (whose wives included Farah and Soraya).

From that point onward, Khomeini became the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The year the revolution ended and Ayatollah Khomeini took control of the country, we see the baby name Ayatollah appear in the U.S. baby name data for the first and only time:

  • 1981: unlisted
  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: 6 baby boys named Ayatollah
  • 1978: unlisted
  • 1977: unlisted

What are your thoughts on “Ayatollah” as a baby name?

Sources: Ayatollah – Online Etymology Dictionary, Ruhollah Khomeini – Wikipedia

The Baby Name “Season”

lolly madonna, season hubley, baby name, 1970sIn 1973, the name “Season” debuted in the U.S. baby name data rather impressively. (It wasn’t the top debut of the year, but it was in the top 10, just above Sacheen.)

  • 1976: 61 baby girls named Season
  • 1975: 66 baby girls named Season
  • 1974: 68 baby girls named Season
  • 1973: 28 baby girls named Season
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: unlisted

Word-based baby names like “Season” are notoriously hard to figure out, but I eventually stumbled upon the influence: actress Season Hubley, whose birth name was Susan.

Her first major role was as the title character in the movie Lolly-Madonna XXX, which was released in early 1973. The film depicted two feuding families in rural Tennessee. It was based on the Sue Grafton novel The Lolly-Madonna War (1969).

Usage of the name peaked in 1979 — the year Season played Priscilla Presley in the made-for-TV movie Elvis, for which she is best remembered. She married her Elvis co-star Kurt Russell that year as well.

Season and Kurt had a son in 1980 (before divorcing in 1983) and named him Boston. Their usage of the name gave it a slight boost in ’81, but didn’t kick off the high usage that was to come in the early 2000s.

And now for the question of the day: If you were having a baby girl and had to choose either Susan or Season for the first name, which one would you pick?

P.S. One of Season’s siblings was actor Whip Hubley (birth name: Grant Hubley), who played “Hollywood” in Top Gun. So far, “Whip” has never been in the SSA data.

Black Panther Baby Names: T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia

black panther, baby namesThe much-anticipated movie Black Panther, which comes out today, is already guaranteed to be a success (based on strong advance ticket sales).

Even better? The film features lots of great names, many of which are currently uncommon.

The one I’m really keeping my eye on is T’challa, which was a one-hit wonder in the mid-1970s:

  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: unlisted
  • 1975: 8 baby boys were named Tchalla
  • 1974: unlisted
  • 1973: unlisted

(This was around the time the comic book character, who had been introduced in the ’60s, started being featured in his own storylines.)

Other character names from the movie include Shuri, W’Kabi, Nakia and Okoye. And some of the actors have notable names as well (Chadwick, Danai, Letitia).

How much of an impact do you think Black Panther will have on baby names in 2018? Which BP name has the potential to see the greatest increase in usage?

Source: Black Panther (film) – Wikipedia