The Emergence of Margaux

margaux, baby name, model, 1970s
© 1975 Time

The name Margaux debuted in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1970s:

  • 1978: 33 baby girls named Margaux
  • 1977: 44 baby girls named Margaux
  • 1976: 35 baby girls named Margaux
  • 1975: 18 baby girls named Margaux [debut]
  • 1974: unlisted

The influence?

Margaux Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, who became famous as a fashion model in the mid-1970s. Notably, she was awarded the first-ever million-dollar modeling contract — from Fabergé. She was the spokesmodel for the company’s popular Babe perfume, launched in 1976.

Margaux was born “Margot,” but later changed the spelling of her name. According to her obituary in the New York Times, “[s]he was said to have changed her name from Margot when she learned that her parents drank Chateau Margaux on the night of her conception.”

Both “Margaux” and “Margot” can be traced back to the name Marguerite, the French form of Margaret (from the Ancient Greek word margarites, meaning “pearl”).

It’s interesting to note that the spelling of the French wine/winery/region has varied over time. One 17th-century map of Château Margaux, for instance, called it “Margaud.” And the wine has been labeled Margou, Margous, Margoo, Margoose, Margoux, etc.

Margaux Hemingway’s younger sister, actress Mariel Hemingway — named after the port town of Mariel in Cuba — starred in the 1979 Woody Allen film Manhattan and was likely the reason the name Mariel saw higher usage in 1980. (News about the Mariel boatlift that year may have been an influence as well, though.)

Which name would you be more likely to use for a baby girl, Margaux or Mariel?

Sources:

The Baby Name “Raven”

comic, terry and the pirates, 1941, raven sherman, baby name
The death of Raven Sherman (1941)

The name Raven has been given to babies of both genders for decades, but I find its female usage particularly interesting because girl-name Raven has gotten three distinct boosts from popular culture so far.

The first boost happened in 1941, when Raven debuted as a girl name in the data. (It had already popped up a few times as a boy name.)

Year Female usage Male usage
1943 5 babies 7 babies
1942 5 babies 5 babies
1941 6 babies [debut] .
1940 . .

In October of that year, in the comic strip Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff, a female character named Raven Sherman died in a dramatic and memorable sequence.

Raven, “a WASP clearly modeled on Katharine Hepburn” according to one source, was an American heiress who was working at a camp for war refugees in China. She was pushed off a moving truck, died of her injuries, and was buried on an isolated Chinese hillside. “Caniff was flooded with flower deliveries, mock memorial services, petitions of condolence signed by disparate groups as factory workers and entire colleges, as well as a lot of irate letters.”

(Terry and the Pirates also influenced the names Normandie and Merrily.)

The second pop culture boost happened in the 1970s:

Year Female usage Male usage
1978 342 babies
[rank: 533rd]
25 babies
1977 299 babies
[rank: 579th]
20 babies
1976 100 babies 10 babies
1975 17 babies 9 babies
1974 15 babies 12 babies

In 1976, the soap opera The Edge of Night introduced a female character named Raven Swift (first played by Juanin Clay, then played by Sharon Gabet). She was described as “the show’s delightful young vixen-heroine” in The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. The character remained on the show until it was canceled in 1984.

(The soap also influenced the names Teal and Laurieann.)

And the most recent (and biggest) pop culture boost happened in the early 1990s:

Year Female usage Male usage
1992 2,016 babies
[rank: 152nd]
89 babies
1991 2,026 babies
[rank: 150th]
53 babies
1990 1,758 babies
[rank: 166th]
62 babies
1989 476 babies
[rank: 495th]
27 babies
1988 327 babies
[rank: 612th]
19 babies

It went on to peak at 139th in 1993.

The reason? Actress Raven-Symoné, who first found fame as a four year old when she started playing Olivia (Denise’s step-daughter) on the The Cosby Show in 1989. The compound name Ravensymone debuted in the data in 1990, and the spelling variant Ravensimone followed in 1991. (Her Disney Channel show That’s So Raven didn’t come along until much later.)

What are your thoughts on the name Raven? Would you use it?

Sources:

Baby Names from “The Edge of Night”

edge of night, soap opera, teal ames, 1950s, 1960s
Sara, Laurie Ann, and Mike Karr
(characters on The Edge of Night)

The Edge of Night (1956-1984) was a television soap opera with heavy crime drama elements (e.g., courtroom scenes). It was based directly on the radio drama Perry Mason (1943-1955). In fact, the central character of EoN — a police officer/lawyer named Mike Karr — was played by actor John Larkin, who had been the voice of Perry during the last eight years of the radio show.

EoN was a popular soap, ranking anywhere from 2nd to 6th from its inception until the early 1970s. More importantly, though, several EoN characters/actors ended up influencing the U.S. baby name charts.

First we have Teal, which debuted in the data in 1957:

  • 1962: 24 baby girls named Teal
  • 1961: 35 baby girls named Teal
  • 1960: 28 baby girls named Teal
  • 1959: 21 baby girls named Teal
  • 1958: 28 baby girls named Teal
  • 1957: 14 baby girls named Teal [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

Teal was inspired by actress Teal Ames, who played Mike’s girlfriend/wife Sara Karr on the show from 1956 to 1961. When Teal decided to quit show business, the character was killed off Edge of Night in a car crash. “CBS received so many anxious and hysterical calls after this episode that actress Teal Ames had to go on the air the following day to assure her fans that she was still very much alive.”

(That said, another potential influence on the name was Japanese-American jazz singer Teal Joy — real name Elsie Itashiki — who put out an album and started appearing on TV in late 1957.)

Next is Laurieann, which debuted in 1959. (And, a year later, the similar name Laurieanne popped up.)

  • 1964: 25 baby girls named Laurieann
  • 1963: 39 baby girls named Laurieann
  • 1962: 35 baby girls named Laurieann
  • 1961: 23 baby girls named Laurieann
  • 1960: 21 baby girls named Laurieann
  • 1959: 5 baby girls named Laurieann [debut]
  • 1958: unlisted

No doubt Laurieann and Laurieanne were given a nudge by Laurie, which was at peak popularity in the early ’60s (perhaps thanks to Piper Laurie). But the more direct influence was fictional Laurie Ann Karr, Mike and Sara’s only daughter, who was born in the storyline in September of 1959.

Ratings for EoN weren’t as good from the mid-1970s onward, but by then the show was becoming known for something entirely different: unusual character names. These included Taffy, Lobo, Morlock, Cookie, Gunther, Didi, Smiley, Raven, and Schuyler. (Raven and Sky were a couple, of course.) And several of these unusual names got a boost in real life, thanks to the show.

For instance, character Draper Scott was featured in the storyline from 1975 to 1981. The baby name Draper re-emerged in the SSA data in 1976 and saw peak usage in 1980:

  • 1981: 40 baby boys named Draper
  • 1980: 46 baby boys named Draper
  • 1979: 39 baby boys named Draper
  • 1978: 36 baby boys named Draper
  • 1977: 35 baby boys named Draper
  • 1976: 15 baby boys named Draper
  • 1975: unlisted

And female character Winter Austin, who was on the show from 1978 to 1979, pushed the baby name Winter into the top 1,000 for the first time in the late ’70s:

  • 1980: 140 baby girls named Winter
  • 1979: 241 baby girls named Winter [rank: 705th]
  • 1978: 137 baby girls named Winter [rank: 1,000th]
  • 1977: 29 baby girls named Winter

Were you a regular viewer of The Edge of Night? Did you have any opinions on the character names?

Sources:

Image: from TV Radio Mirror, July 1961

P.S. Here’s a post with a bunch more soap opera-inspired baby names.

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.