Ad campaigns don’t just popularize products — they also popularize baby names.
And ads for certain types of products (like perfumes) are much more likely to influence baby names than ads for other types of products. But nothing is off limits, really, if the exposure is wide enough and the product name looks/sounds enough like a human name (e.g., Corelle dishes, Finesse shampoo).
One type of product I never expected to find in my ongoing hunt for pop culture baby names, though, was bleaching creams — used to lighten/whiten/even-out skin tone.
These days, ads for bleaching creams ignite controversy. But decades ago, these ads ran regularly in magazines with African-American audiences, and, as a result, at least two bleaching cream brand names ended up on the baby name charts.
The baby name Artra, inspired by Artra Skin Tone Cream, was a one-hit wonder in the data that appeared in the early 1960s:
1962: 5 baby girls named Artra [debut]
The baby name Ambi, inspired by Ambi Skin Cream, stuck around a little longer — three years in the late ’70s and early ’80s:
1981: 12 baby girls named Ambi
1980: 6 baby girls named Ambi
1978: 5 baby girls named Ambi [debut]
…Another bleaching cream that was advertised during the ’60s and ’70s (as well as decades earlier) was Nadinola. The name Nadinola never appeared in the U.S. baby name data, but records reveal that it was given to a handful of U.S baby girls during the 20th century.
The popular TV show The Bionic Woman (1976-1978), which featured a main character named Jaime Sommers (played by Lindsay Wagner).
The character originated on an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man* called “The Bionic Woman.” In that episode, Jaime was severely injured in a skydiving accident. She ended up with bionic legs, a bionic right arm, and a bionic right ear that gave her superhuman speed, strength, and hearing.
In the spin-off series, she put her new abilities to use by going on dangerous missions for the government.
The more common names Jaime and Lindsay (and sound-alikes Jamie, Lindsey, etc.) also saw much higher usage while the show was on the air. The rise of Jaime (as a girl name) was particularly dramatic:
1978: 4,002 baby girls named Jaime [rank: 71st]
1977: 5,906 baby girls named Jaime [rank: 46th]
1976: 7,836 baby girls named Jaime [rank: 29th]
1975: 915 baby girls named Jaime [rank: 263rd]
1974: 260 baby girls named Jaime [rank: 606th]
In fact, I remember quoting a person named after Jaime Sommers in name quote post a few years ago.
So what are your thoughts on the rare name Sommers? Would you use it? (How about the slightly more common Summers?)
On the short-lived TV series Delvecchio, Los Angeles police detective Dominick Delvecchio (played by Judd Hirsch) was a cop who aspired to be a lawyer. (He’d graduated from law school, but hadn’t managed to pass the bar exam yet.) This made him more complex than the average TV detective of the era:
“What you have in Delvecchio is basically a schizoid personality. A cop is trained to assume guilt. A lawyer is trained to assume innocence and we have both of those things in the same guy. […] For that reason we have always built situations for Delvecchio where he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. […] So he lies to his bosses, he occasionally bends police procedure. He gets personally involved.”
Though the show was only on the air for a single season (1976-1977), it had a relatively strong impact on baby names.
And the surname of Delvecchio’s partner/sidekick, detective Paul Shonski (played by Charles Haid), was a one-hit wonder in the data the next year:
1977: 5 baby boys named Shonski [debut]
I haven’t been able to figure out the etymology of Shonski, but the Italian surname Delvecchio is easy: del means “of the” or “from the,” and vecchio means “old” or “mature.” So one original usage would have been to denote the son or servant of an older man. The name was also “taken by various Jewish families long established in Italy (allegedly since the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70) to distinguish themselves from later arrivals who migrated there on being expelled from the Iberian Peninsula after 1492.”
What are your thoughts on Delvecchio and Shonski as first names?
The pretty name Amoreena debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1971 and was used most often during the 1970s:
1974: 10 baby girls named Amoreena
1973: 17 baby girls named Amoreena
1972: 15 baby girls named Amoreena
1971: 14 baby girls named Amoreena
Where did it come from?
The Elton John song “Amoreena.” It was never released as a single, but was featured on the album Tumbleweed Connection, “a loose concept record about the Old West written by two people [composer Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin] who had never even been to America.” The record came out in October of 1970.
According to one source, the song was a nod to Joe Cocker’s “Delta Lady” (1969). “Both songs paint lyrical images of a lusty country girl in a pastoral setting.”
So how did Bernie Taupin come up with the name?
No one knows. One theory is that it’s based on amor, which means “love” in several Latin-based languages (including Spanish).
But we do know that the wife of Ray Williams (Elton John’s first manager) was pregnant at the time, and that Taupin suggested “Amoreena” as a potential baby name. Amoreena Joanne Williams was born during the first half of 1970, months before the album was released.
What are your thoughts on the baby name Amoreena?
Bernardin, Claude and Tom Stanton. Rocket Man: Elton John from A-Z. CT, Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1996.
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.)