Sorsha & Elora: Baby Names from “Willow”

The baby name Sorsha debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1989.

The movie Willow was released in May of 1988 — exactly 30 years ago this month. It didn’t do a thing for the baby name Willow, which hadn’t become trendy yet, but it did affect a couple of other character names: Sorsha and Elora.

Sorsha

The character Sorsha (played by Joanne Whalley) was the red-haired princess/soldier who was the daughter of the evil queen. She was also the love interest of Madmartigan (played by Val Kilmer). She started out as a bad guy, but changed sides mid-movie and was a good guy by the end.

The baby name Sorsha debuted in the U.S. data right on cue in 1989:

Year Usage of Sorsha Usage of Sorcha
1992 5 baby girls 5 baby girls
1991 5 baby girls 5 baby girls
1990 . 6 baby girls
1989 5 baby girls [debut] 5 baby girls [debut]
1988 . .
1987 . .

Curiously, parents opted for the spelling Sorcha as often as they opted for Sorsha. Why?

I couldn’t find any typos in contemporary sources — newspapers all used the more logical “Sorsha” — so my best guess is the baby name books.

Expectant parents wanting to know the definition of Sorsha would have instead encountered the Irish name Sorcha in those books. They would have learned the meaning (“bright”), but probably not the pronunciation, which is unfortunate because Sorcha isn’t pronounced SOR-sha. It’s more like SUR-kha. (Irish names that sound more like Sorsha include Saoirse, SEER-sha, or even the male name Seoirse, SHOR-sha.)

Elora

The character Elora Danan was the adorable read-haired baby at the center of the action. Her birthmark identified her as the one destined to depose Queen Bavmorda, so of course the queen wanted her found and destroyed. It was Willow’s job to deliver Elora Danan safely to those who would raise her.

The baby was given a good amount of screen time. Film critic Roger Ebert even complained about it: “One of the crucial problems…is that we see so much of this baby.”

As a result, the baby name Elora re-emerged in the data in 1988 and saw a distinct jump in usage in 1989/1990. The rise of Alora was even greater.

Year Usage of Elora Usage of Alora
1992 34 baby girls 72 baby girls
1991 63 baby girls 84 baby girls
1990 91 baby girls 108 baby girls
1989 87 baby girls 103 baby girls
1988 30 baby girls 11 baby girls
1987 . .

Many similar-sounding names (like Ellora) also got a boost, and several (like Alaura and Allora) appeared for the first time in the data in the late ’80s. And I spotted even more spelling variants when I did records searches.

Speaking of the records…they revealed (unsurprisingly?) that many of the babies with these various Elora-like first names also had Danan-like middles. “Danan” was the most common spelling, but another I saw repeatedly was “Dannon” — possibly influenced by the yogurt brand being advertised on TV during those years.

…What are your thoughts on the baby names Sorsha and Elora? Which one would you be more likely to use for a baby girl?

Sources: Willow (film) – Wikipedia, “Willow” Review by Roger Ebert

Tyger: ’80s Soap Opera Baby Name

genie francis, tyger, bare essence, 1983, soap operaIn 1983, the top newbie name on the U.S. baby name charts was Mallori, a derivative of Mallory, popularized that year by the hit TV show Family Ties.

Just below Mallori, tied for 2nd place, was the particularly ’80s-looking name Tyger:

  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: 9 baby girls named Tyger
  • 1985: unlisted
  • 1984: 11 baby girls named Tyger
  • 1983: 29 baby girls named Tyger [debut]
  • 1982: unlisted

So where did Tyger come from?

Patricia “Tyger” Hayes, the main character of two identically-named programs: Bare Essence, a CBS mini-series that aired in October of 1982, and Bare Essence, an NBC soap opera (based on the mini-series) that aired from February to June of 1983.

Tyger Hayes was a “spunky young spitfire” who married into a wealthy family. She had to “fight for her share of the family perfume empire when her husband Chase [was] murdered in the premiere episode” of the soap, which — despite heavy promotion — was ultimately a flop.

bare essence, tyger hayes, 1983, soap opera
“Everyone wants a piece of Tyger Hayes.”
(TV Guide, 1983)

Here’s what a WaPo reviewer said:

NBC blunders in where everyone has already exhaustingly trod with “Bare Essence,” yet another glossy prime-time soap about the conniving and conjugating rich. This one, derived from a two-part CBS movie that aired last fall, comes up lacking on almost all counts. A better title would be “Bare Minimum.”

In the final episode, the identity of Chase’s murderer was finally revealed. The culprit? His amazingly named sister-in-law, Muffin.

What do you think of the name Tyger? (Do you like it more or less than Muffin?)

Sources:

  • Shales, Tom. “Such Gloss! Such Dross! It’s ‘Bare Essence’!” Washington Post 15 Feb. 1983.
  • Bare Essence – TV.com

“Press Your Luck” Baby Names: Thawann, Mayuri, Shequita

thawann, press your luck, 1984
Thawann on Press Your Luck, late 1983

The game show Press Your Luck (“Big bucks! No whammies!”) was on the air from mid-1983 to mid-1986. So far, I’ve found five baby names that were influenced by the show.

Thawann

The name Thawann was a one-hit wonder that popped up in 1984:

  • 1985: unlisted
  • 1984: 5 baby girls named Thawann [debut]
  • 1983: unlisted

Two-time contestant Thawann was on the show in December of 1983. She won the first game she played (PYL episode 54) but not the second (PYL episode 55). At the start of the first show, she told the host her name was Indian.

Geron

The name Geron more than doubled in usage in 1984:

  • 1986: 6 baby boys named Geron
  • 1985: 5 baby boys named Geron
  • 1984: 12 baby boys named Geron
  • 1983: 5 baby boys named Geron
  • 1982: 5 baby boys named Geron

One-time contestant Geron was on the show in May of 1984 (PYL episode 175). A slightly similar soap opera-inspired name, Mergeron, happened to debut the same year.

LaDina

The name LaDina also more than doubled in usage in 1984:

  • 1986: 6 baby girls named LaDina
  • 1985: 8 baby girls named LaDina
  • 1984: 10 baby girls named LaDina
  • 1983: unlisted
  • 1982: 5 baby girls named LaDina

Two-time contestant LaDina was on the show in December of 1984 — the same two dates as Thawann, ironically. She won the first game she played, but not the second. (I can’t find the episodes online anywhere.)

Shequita

The name Shequita saw a significant increase in usage in 1985:

  • 1987: 42 baby girls named Shequita
  • 1986: 51 baby girls named Shequita
  • 1985: 128 baby girls named Shequita
  • 1984: 36 baby girls named Shequita
  • 1983: 27 baby girls named Shequita

Two-time contestant Shequita was on the show in May of 1985. She won the first game she played (PYL episode 422) but not the second (PYL episode 423). At the start of the first show, she told the host her name was Spanish and meant “small.”

Mayuri

The name Mayuri debuted in 1986:

  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: 6 baby girls named Mayuri [debut]
  • 1985: unlisted

One-time contestant Mayuri (pronounced mah-yoo-dee) was on the show in January of 1986 (PYL episode 599). At the start of the show she mentioned that she’s from Hawaii, but she didn’t say anything about her name, which I’m assuming is Japanese.

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These were the only unique PYL contestant names I spotted on the U.S. charts, but there were plenty of other PYL contestants with unique names, such as: Adoris, Ayne, Beverlyn, Cookie, Donarae, Feargus, Fredda, Guillermo, Hercules, Hillie, Linnea, Llewellyn, Maari, Maytee, Menard, Menett, Meri Lea, Mordecai, Ondreia, Queta, Ramin, Romey, Sancy, Smittay, Thorne, Tinker, Tissa, and Yogi.

Source: Press Your Luck (fanpage)

More “Star Search” Baby Names

symba smith, star search, spokesmodel, 1991
Symba on Star Search, 1991
When I wrote about the name Tareva a couple of years ago, I said it was the only Star Search-inspired debut name I’d ever come across. Well, I’ve since discovered one more!

Symba

The name Symba was a 2-hit wonder that only appeared in the SSA data in 1991 and 1992:

  • 1993: unlisted
  • 1992: 5 baby girls named Symba
  • 1991: 30 baby girls named Symba [debut]
  • 1990: unlisted

The cause? Not Disney’s animated baby lion, which didn’t come along until a few years later, but Star Search spokesmodel competitor Symba Smith, who appeared on multiple episodes of the show during the 1991 season and ultimately won the 1991 championship (which included $100,000 in prize money).

Two years earlier, in 1989, Mississippi-born Symba had won the “Miss Teen All-American” pageant. (Four years before that, the pageant winner had been Halle Berry.)

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But that’s not all. Here are two more names that saw a boost in usage thanks to Star Search:

Durell

The name Durell spiked in popularity in 1985 thanks to singer Durell Coleman, winner of the 1985 season.

  • 1987: 50 baby boys named Durell
  • 1986: 123 baby boys named Durell
  • 1985: 208 baby boys named Durell
  • 1984: 46 baby boys named Durell

Countess

The name Countess jumped back onto the charts in 1988 thanks to Countess Vaughn, who sang on the show as a 9-year-old.

  • 1990: unlisted
  • 1989: 6 baby girls named Countess
  • 1988: 15 baby girls named Countess
  • 1987: unlisted

Vaughn went on to join the cast of Moesha in 1996 as a teenager.

Two more names that may have been influenced by Star Search — it’s hard to tell — are Garcelle and Jordis. Garcelle Beauvais competed as a spokesmodel in 1986, and Jordis Unga competed as a vocalist in 2004. (Unga’s 2005 appearance on Rock Star: INXS was probably a bigger influence on overall usage.)

The Star Wars Baby Name You Forgot About: Cindel

Cindel, 1984
Cindel Towani and an Ewok

Various websites have been echoing BabyCenter.com’s claim that Star Wars names like Rey and Kylo are now trendy baby names. The problem? It’s all conjecture. So far, real-world data does not indicate that these names are being bestowed often enough to qualify as “trendy” (à la Nevaeh). We might have to wait a year or two (or ten) for that data, if we ever get it at all.

In the meanwhile, let’s check out the name Cindel — a Star Wars name that everyone seems to have forgotten about.

Cindel debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1984 and saw peak usage in 1986:

  • 1988: 10 baby girls named Cindel
  • 1987: 11 baby girls named Cindel
  • 1986: 25 baby girls named Cindel
  • 1985: 18 baby girls named Cindel
  • 1984: 7 baby girls named Cindel [debut]
  • 1983: unlisted

Variants Cyndel and Cyndal debuted in 1985, and the one-hit wonders Cindal, Cyndil, and Cindell appeared over the next couple of years.

Where did these names come from?

A pair of made-for-TV movies based on stories by George Lucas.

Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure aired on ABC in November of 1984, and the sequel, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, aired on the same channel one year later.

Both films feature a young human character named Cindel Towani (played by actress Aubree Miller).

In the first film, a family of humans is shipwrecked on the forest moon of Endor, home of the Ewoks. Parents Jeremitt and Catrine Towani are promptly kidnapped, and their children — brother Mace and sister Cindel — locate and rescue them, with the help of the Ewoks.

In the second film, a group of marauders kills everyone in the Towani family except for Cindel. She and several friends fight the marauders, and in doing so obtain the star cruiser energy cell that Cindel needs to finally leave Endor.

In the book A Brief Guide to Star Wars, author Brian J. Robb notes that Mace is “a name from Lucas’s earliest Star Wars drafts later used for Samuel L. Jackson’s Jedi character in the prequels.” I can’t find any clues about how George Lucas came up with Cindel, though.

What are your thoughts on the name Cindel?

Sources: