The Coming of Kalimba

kalimba, baby name, music, 1970sThe curious name Kalimba has popped up in the U.S. baby name data just twice, the first time in 1974:

  • 1976: unlisted
  • 1975: unlisted
  • 1974: 7 baby girls named Kalimba
  • 1973: unlisted
  • 1972: unlisted

Where did it come from?

An Earth, Wind & Fire song called “Kalimba Story,” which was included on the 1974 album Open Our Eyes. The song was released as a single the same year, and in August peaked on two different Billboard charts: the Hot 100 (at #55) and R&B/Hip-Hop (at #6).

From the refrain:

Kalimba, ooh kalimba
Play me a tune
Kalimba, ooh kalimba
I’m glad I found you

In the song, “Kalimba” doesn’t refer to a person — it refers to a musical instrument. A kalimba is an African thumb piano played by plucking metal tines attached to a wooden board. One contemporary reviewer described the instrument as “a hand-held whatzit that looks like a TV remote control device and sounds like an electric piano.”

Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White favored the kalimba and featured it in multiple songs. In the liner notes to EWF’s Eternal Dance compilation album, White explained that “the kalimba represented my link to Africa. It was my way of taking part of that culture and spreading it all over the world.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Kalimba?

Sources:

Sheena: Jungle Queen & Baby Name

sheena, queen of the jungle, comic, 1940s, baby nameIf you meet someone in the U.S. named Sheena, chances are she was born in the 1980s. That’s when the usage of baby name Sheena spiked impressively thanks to Scottish singer Sheena Easton, whose first big hit was “9 to 5 (Morning Train)” and whose name was no doubt based on Sìne, the Scottish form of Jeanne.

But the name Sheena has been on the onomastic map (here in the U.S.) a lot longer than that. And I think the initial influence was a comic book character.

“Queen of the Jungle” Sheena, who always wore a skimpy, leopard-print outfit, started appearing in the adventure anthology comic book Jumbo Comics in 1938. She’d been created by artist Will Eisner as a female counterpart to Tarzan, and her name was inspired by H. Rider Haggard’s novel She: A History of Adventure.

By the second half of 1940, Sheena was being featured on the cover of Jumbo Comics regularly. And in the spring of 1942, Sheena became the first female character to star in her own comic book in the spin-off series Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. (The first issue of Wonder Woman didn’t appear until later in 1942.)

Around the same time, the baby name Sheena debuted in the SSA’s baby name data:

  • 1945: 14 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1944: 11 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1943: 9 baby girls named Sheena [debut]
  • 1942: unlisted
  • 1941: unlisted

The next decade, Sheena got her own TV series. Sheena, Queen of the Jungle first aired from 1955 to 1956 and the title character was played by Nellie Elizabeth “Irish” McCalla. The show gave the name a boost in the mid-1950s:

  • 1958: 121 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1957: 163 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1956: 136 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1955: 34 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1954: 20 baby girls named Sheena

The name got another (lesser) boost in the late ’70s with the release of the Ramones song “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” (1977), but it was nothing like the rise that was to come a few years later thanks to Sheena Easton.

What are your thoughts on the name Sheena?

Sources: Sìne – Behind the Name, Eisner and Iger – WillEisner.com, First female character to star in her own comic book | Guinness World Records
Image from the Digital Comic Museum.

Toma & Baretta: Crime Drama Baby Names

toma, television, baby name, 1970s

The gritty TV police drama Toma, which starred actor Tony Musante as New Jersey police detective David Toma, started airing in 1973.

The year the show premiered, the baby name Toma, which had only ever appeared in the data as a girl name, started seeing usage as a boy name. It even cracked the boys’ top 1,000 briefly.

  • 1975: 6 baby girls / 26 baby boys named Toma
  • 1974: 21 baby girls / 84 baby boys [rank: 884th] named Toma
  • 1973: 21 baby girls / 43 baby boys [debut] named Toma
  • 1972: 9 baby girls / x baby boys named Toma
  • 1971: 5 baby girls / x baby boys named Toma

But usage petered out after Toma was canceled in 1974.

baretta, television, baby name, 1970s

In 1975, a retooled version of Toma called Baretta came out. The new show, which starred Robert Blake as New York City police detective Tony Baretta, was less violent and included more comic relief than the original. (Baretta had a pet cockatoo named Fred, and one of his informants was a man called Rooster.)

In response, the name Baretta debuted in the baby name data, and it remained there for the same number of years the Emmy-winning series was on the air (1975-1978).

  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: 8 baby boys named Baretta
  • 1977: 13 baby boys named Baretta
  • 1976: 6 baby girls / 13 baby boys named Baretta
  • 1975: 14 baby girls [debut] / 18 baby boys [debut] named Baretta
  • 1974: unlisted

Notice how the name debuted on both sides of the list. Other dual-debut names from the 1970s include Chaffee, Chudney, Khaalis, Shilo, Sundown, and Tavares.

Which name do you like more, Toma or Baretta?

Which of the two do you prefer?

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The Source of Shakira

shakira, baby name, movies, 1970s
Shakira in Dec. 1975

These days, when you say the name Shakira, most people think of the Colombian singer (“Hips Don’t Lie”) who became famous in the U.S. in the early 2000s. In fact, the name saw peak usage in 2002 thanks to her.

But the name Shakira first caught the attention of America’s expectant parents decades earlier:

  • 1973: 74 baby girls named Shakira
  • 1972: 20 baby girls named Shakira
  • 1971: 7 baby girls named Shakira
  • 1970: 12 baby girls named Shakira [debut]
  • 1969: unlisted

Why?

Because of Shakira Baksh (later known as Shakira Caine).

She was born and raised in British Guiana to Muslim Indian parents who had relocated from the Kashmir region of British India.

In 1967, she won the Miss Guyana contest and placed third in the Miss World contest in London. Following that, she became a London-based model and actress.

In early 1970, she was mentioned (and pictured) in a short article in the “Youth Notes” section of Parade magazine (the Sunday newspaper magazine distributed in U.S. papers nationwide). Here’s the piece in full:

Ever since Diahann Carroll hit it big in the “Julia” TV series, television producers the world ever have been scouting for other talented black beauties to star in a weekly program.

In England, Shakira Baksh, 22, who came to London from Guyana in 1967 as contender in the Miss World beauty contest, has just been signed in a new and as yet unfilled weekly series.

The objective in starring Shakira is to attract a large share of the non-white TV audience.

And, right on cue, we see her name debut in the data.

Shakira Baksh married Michael Caine, star of Alfie, in early 1973. (He first spotted her in a Maxwell House commercial, believe it or not. Here’s the story of how they met [vid].) They appeared together in the 1975 movie The Man Who Would Be King together (along with Sean Connery, whose eyebrow is in the photo above) and on the cover of People together in 1976.

The name Shakira is Arabic and means “thankful” or “grateful.”

Sources:

More Names from Star Trek

Sybo, from a 1967 episode

Yesterday, we looked at three Star Trek characters that influenced U.S. baby names back in the late 1960s.

But those three were just a handful of the many interestingly-named characters from the original Star Trek. Here are some of the others.

For those with names that have appeared in the SSA data before, I’ve included links to the graphs.

Female charactersMale characters
Areel
Aurelan*
Daras
Deela
Drea
Droxine
Elaan
Eleen
Gem
Losira
Luma
Miramanee
Miri
Natira
Nona
Odona
Rayna
Sayana
Sirah
Sybo
Tamoon
Tamula
Thalassa
T’Pau
T’Pring
Tula
Vanna
Zarabeth
Abrom
Akaar
Akuta
Anka
Apella
Ayelborne
Balok
Bela
Bele
Bilar
Claymare
Cloud
Decius
Dionyd
Duur
Egen
Ekor
Eraclitus
Goro
Hacom
Hanar
Hengist
Henoch
Jahn
Jaris
Kahless
Kalo
Kang
Kartan
Keel
Khan
Kloog
Korax
Korob
Krako
Kras
Krell
Krodak
Kryton
Lal
Landru
Lokai
Maab
Makora
Marplon
Melakon
Merik
Midro
Mirt
Morla
Nilz
Parmen
Plasus
Rael
Reger
Rojan
Salish
Sargon
Shras
Stonn
Tamar
Tark
Tepo
Thann
Thelev
Tomar
Tongo
Trefayne
Trelane
Tyree
Wu
Yutan
Zabo
Zefram

*Aurelan is from Aurelan Kirk, Captain Kirk’s sister-in-law.

Do you like any of the names above? Are any usable, in your opinion?

Source: Star Trek (1966-1969) – IMDb

P.S. The word “Trek” itself started appearing in the data in the early 1970s, also likely due to the show.