The Hindu name Narada first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the late ’70s:
1983: 19 baby boys named Narada
1982: 18 baby boys named Narada
1981: 29 baby boys named Narada
1980: 48 baby boys and 7 baby girls [debut] named Narada
1979: 19 baby boys [debut] named Narada
Where did it come from?
Musician and producer Narada Michael Walden, whose songs “I Don’t Want Nobody Else (To Dance with You)” and “I Shoulda Loved Ya” both reached the top 10 on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1979.
He went on to have a successful career, being nominated for a total of eight Grammys and winning three (two in the ’80s, one in the ’90s). He produced music for people like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, Gladys Knight, Shanice Wilson, Tevin Campbell, etc.
He was born Michael Walden in Michigan in 1952. In the early ’70s, he became a devotee of Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy gave him the spiritual name Narada, and Walden chose to use Narada as part of his stage name. (Carlos Santana, another follower, went by “Devadip Carlos Santana” for a time.)
In Hindu tradition, the character Narada is a sage and musician. He is portrayed “as both wise and mischievous, creating some of Vedic literature’s more humorous tales.”
Do you like Narada as a baby name? Would you use it?
The intriguing name Shindana appeared in the U.S. baby name data for a total of three years:
1974: 6 baby girls named Shindana
1971: 6 baby girls named Shindana
1970: 5 baby girls named Shindana [debut] – all 5 in California
Where did it come from?
Shindana dolls, which were manufactured by Shindana Toys.
Shindana Toys was founded in 1968 as a division of Operation Bootstrap, located in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Operation Bootstrap was a job training center formed in the wake of the Watts riots (mid-August, 1965).
Black-owned and -operated, Shindana Toys was one of the first companies to make black dolls with ethnically correct features. The name of the company means “compete” in Swahili.
Though their very first doll was called Baby Nancy (introduced in 1968), many of their other dolls — such as Malaika (1969), Talking Tamu (1970), and Baby Zuri (1972) — had Swahili names. These Swahili names were “defined on the doll’s boxes or accompanying literature.” Malaika* means “angel,” Tamu means “sweet,” and Zuri means “beautiful.”
59 baby girls (11 in CA, 11 in NY, 6 in MI, 5 in DC)
26 baby girls (5 in NY)
10 baby girls + 5 baby boys
72 baby girls (11 in CA, 5 in NY, 5 in NJ, 5 in MI, 5 in OH)
55 baby girls (9 in CA, in 9 NY)
56 baby girls (9 in CA, 7 in IL, 6 in DC, 6 in NY, 5 in MI)
46 baby girls (12 in CA, 5 in IL)
5 baby girls [debut]
37 baby girls (7 in CA)
13 baby girls
7 baby girls
7 baby girls [debut]
8 baby girls [debut]
[It’s curious to me that each of these names debuted a year before the corresponding dolls were introduced. Haven’t been able to figure that one out yet…]
Shindana Toys ended up producing over 30 black dolls (along with other types of toys and games). The company reached peak productivity in the mid-1970s, but slowed down after that, and finally ceased operations in 1983. Today, Shindana dolls are sought-after collectibles.
What are your thoughts on the baby name Shindana?
P.S. If you know of any of the other Swahili names used for Shindana dolls, please comment! I couldn’t find a definitive list online.
The name Keena has had a dueling dual-gender history.
Keena (and Kina) started surfacing in the girls’ data in the early 1950s, perhaps influenced by the usage of Tina, which was creeping upward at that time. (Tina wouldn’t become massively trendy until the late ’50s and early ’60s.)
Then came the single-season TV series Brave Eagle (1955-1956), which was TV’s first attempt at a western told from a Native American point of view. A main character on the show was Brave Eagle’s adopted son Keena, played by Hopi/Karuk child actor Anthony “Tony” Numkena (stage name Keena Numkena). This character boosted the name Keena into the boys’ data for the first time:
1958: 41 girls and 11 boys named Keena
1957: 34 girls and 5 boys named Keena
1956: 21 girls and 11 boys named Keena
1955: 7 girls named Keena
1954: 6 girls named Keena
A decade and a half later, female Olympic swimmer Keena Rothhammer (born in 1957) won both a gold and a bronze medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. She also twice set a new world record in the women’s 800-meter freestyle (on successive days).
The same year, usage of the name spiked for girls:
1974: 64 baby girls named Keena
1973: 99 baby girls named Keena
1972: 152 baby girls named Keena [peak usage for girls]
1971: 29 baby girls named Keena
1970: 34 baby girls named Keena
Here’s what Keena told Sports Illustrated about her name: “My mother says it’s Hawaiian. She says she heard it on the radio.”
Then, more than a decade after that, male linebacker Keena Turner (born in 1958), who played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1980 to 1990, had some particularly good seasons in the mid-1980s
And in 1985, usage of the name spiked for boys (as well as girls):
1987: 47 girls and 9 boys named Keena
1986: 57 girls and 15 boys named Keena
1985: 105 girls and 46 boys named Keena [peak usage for boys]
1984: 66 girls and 12 boys named Keena
1983: 53 girls named Keena
Now it’s your turn: Do you like the name Keena? Do you prefer it as a boy name or as a girl name? Why?
I’ve known for a while that the baby name Passion debuted impressively in 1974. Not as high as Nakia, but higher than Savalas.
1976: 30 baby girls named Passion
1975: 34 baby girls named Passion
1974: 34 baby girls named Passion [debut]
I occasionally looked for a reason, but never spent too much time on it because word-names are notoriously tricky to research.
Then I happened to discover something about the like-sounding name Pashen — which also debuted in ’74, and which I thought was merely a variant of Passion.
1975: 6 baby girls named Pashen
1974: 9 baby girls named Pashen [debut & peak]
As it turns out, the blaxploitation movie Willie Dynamite, which was released nationally in early 1974, featured a female character named Pashen (played by Joyce Walker). Willie was a New York City pimp, and Pashen was one of his call girls. Here’s how Pashen’s name appears in the end credits:
So: “Pashen” was the main form of the name, while “Passion” — despite being correctly spelled — was the variant form. (Other variant forms that also debuted in 1974 were Pashion and the one-hit wonderPashun.)
Since then, though, “Passion” has emerged as the preferred spelling among expectant parents. Well over 2,000 baby girls have been named Passion since the mid-1970s, whereas only about two dozen baby girls have been named Pashen.
What are your thoughts on these names? Which spelling do you prefer?