The Coming of Karenina

anna karenina, 1978, television, baby name
Nicola Pagett as Anna Karenina

The literary surname Karenina debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1978:

  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: 7 baby girls named Karenina
  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: unlisted

But the Leo Tolstoy tome Anna Karenina was first published as a standalone book way back in 1878…so how did “Karenina” end up in the U.S. baby name data 100 years later?

Television. Specifically, the 10-episode mini-series Anna Karenina that originally aired on British television in 1977, then aired on American television (as part of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre) in early 1978. The mini-series starred British actress Nicola Pagett as Countess Anna Karenina.

How did Tolstoy come up with the surname Karenin(a) in the first place? He based it on the ancient Greek word káranon, meaning “head.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Karenina?


  • Anna Karenina (1978) – Masterpiece Theatre
  • Bartless, Rosamund. “Principal Characters and Guide to Pronunciation.” Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Rosamund Bartless. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

The Takeoff of Turi

turi, baby name, news, pilot
Turi Widerøe © 1970 AP

The simple name Turi has appeared just twice so far (as a girl name) in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: 10 baby girls named Turi
  • 1970: 9 baby girls named Turi [debut]
  • 1969: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Norwegian pilot Turi Widerøe, who was billed as the first female pilot for a major commercial airline in the western world. (Women were already piloting planes in communist countries like the USSR and Bulgaria.) She had joined Scandinavian Airlines System in May of 1969 and her assignment at that time was co-piloting a 56-passenger Convair 440 Metropolitan on SAS’s Lapland route above the Arctic Circle.

Her achievement was significant enough that SAS sent her on a whirlwind PR tour of North America in February of 1970. She came for three weeks and visited New York City, Toronto, Chicago, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The newspapers described Turi as “a 32-year-old blonde fro Oslo who has the height (just under 6 feet), the cheekbones and the long, shapely legs of a fashion model.” She was the daughter of Viggo Wideroe, co-founder of the regional airline Widerøes Flyveselskap AS, and she’d flown seaplanes for her father’s company for eight years before joining SAS.

She told U.S. interviewers that she wore pants (not a skirt) in the cockpit, that she’d only encountered a single instance of male chauvinism so far, and that she once had to swerve during a landing to avoid a fox on the runway.

During the week she spent in New York, she made several television appearances — mainly on news programs, but also on at least one game show (To Tell the Truth on CBS).

Speaking of TV, in September of 1971 — long after Turi had returned home — a documentary called What Makes Turi Fly? premiered on U.S. television. According to SAS, a total of 200 million people watched the program. This easily accounts for the name’s second appearance in the data.

The name Turi can be traced back to the Old Norse name Þórfríðr, which is made up of elements meaning “thunder” and “beautiful.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Turi?


“Tattletales” Baby Names

scoey, baby name, 1970s, television
Scoey & Claire on Tattletales in Aug. 1974

So far we’ve looked at baby names associated with the game shows What’s My Line?, Card Sharks, and Press Your Luck, so today let’s check out names given a boost by Tattletales, which originally aired from 1974 to 1978.

Tattletales featured three celebrity couples competing against each another for a full week, which is notable. The couples were split up, and either the men or the women were asked a question — often a provocative one — while their partners were offstage. The partners were then brought in via TV camera and asked the same question. Each couple’s objective was to come up with as many matching answers as possible.

As one source put it: “Famous celebrities revealing their intimate secrets on national television made Tattletales a success.” And with all those people watching, it’s not surprising that the show had an influence on baby names…

Dareth Rich and her husband, actor Anthony Newley, were on 10 episodes in 1975, starting in May. The name Dareth debuted in the baby data the same year.

Chevi Colton and her husband, actor Joe Silver, were on 5 episodes in November of 1975. The name Chevi debuted in the data the same year.

Actor Scoey (SKOH-ee) Mitchell and his wife Claire Thomas were on the show dozens of times, including 15 episodes in 1974, starting in June. Mitchell had been appearing elsewhere on TV since the late ’60s, but the name Scoey didn’t debut in the data until 1974. (One source noted that “Scoey” was short for “Roscoe.”)

Actress BernNadette Stanis and her then-husband Tom Fauntleroy were on 5 episodes in November of 1975 (the week before Chevi, in fact). Stanis had been playing the role of Thelma on Good Times since early 1974, but the name Bernnadette didn’t debut in the data until 1976.

I also think there are connections between the appearances of Altovise Davis (wife of singer Sammy Davis Jr.), Nalani Kele (wife of comedian Shecky Greene), Reiko Douglas (wife of comedy writer Jack Douglas), and Tiana Alexandra (wife of screenwriter Stirling Silliphant) and the respective rises in usage of Altovise, Nalani, Reiko, and Tiana in the mid-’70s.

Speaking of rises…

The show was rebooted in the early ’80s, and it looks like one of those ’80s contestants triggered that steep rise in usage of the name Jere in 1982:

  • 1984: 18 baby girls named Jere
  • 1983: 33 baby girls named Jere
  • 1982: 66 baby girls named Jere [peak]
  • 1981: 6 baby girls named Jere
  • 1980: 8 baby girls named Jere

In February of 1982, actress Jerelyn “Jere” Fields appeared on Tattletales with actor/comedian Jimmie Walker (who’d played Thelma’s brother J.J. on Good Times). They weren’t romantically involved — just paired up for the show — but their appearance together sparked rumors that they were dating.

…So which game show should I tackle next? Suggestions welcome!

Source: Baber, David. Television Game Show Hosts. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008.

The One-Hit Wonder Name Loleatta

Loleatta Holloway album
It’s pronounced “Lolita.”

The baby name Loleatta appeared just once in the U.S. data, in the late 1970s:

  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: unlisted
  • 1977: 5 baby girls named Loleatta
  • 1976: unlisted
  • 1975: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Disco singer Loleatta Holloway (whose first name is pronounced “Lolita”). She’d been putting out music since the early ’70s, but her first big hits — “Dreamin’,” “Hit and Run,” and “Ripped Off” — each reached the #3 position on the U.S. dance charts during 1977.

She scored her first #1 dance hit a few years later with “Love Sensation” (1980), which was later memorably sampled on another #1 hit, “Good Vibrations” (1991) by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

What are your thoughts on the name Loleatta?

Source: Loleatta Holloway – Wikipedia