Speaking of Tinamarie…the very similar name Teenamarie first appeared in the U.S. baby name data exactly three decades later, in 1985:
1985: 7 baby girls named Tennamarie [debut]
That was the year the song “Lovergirl” [vid] by R&B singer Teena Marie (born Mary Christine Brockert) peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
While the name Teenamarie was a one-hit wonder on the baby name charts, Teena Marie herself was not a one-hit wonder on the music charts; she released dozens of successful singles over the course of her career.
(Teena saw its highest usage in the mid-1950s, perhaps thanks to both the comic strip Teena and the fashion label Teena Paige. In both of those cases, the name Teena was based on the relatively new term “teenager.” The usage was also no doubt influenced by the rise of Tina.)
Which spelling do you like better, Tinamarie or Teenamarie?
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.
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:
Usage of Sorsha
Usage of Sorcha
5 baby girls
5 baby girls
5 baby girls
5 baby girls
6 baby girls
5 baby girls [debut]
5 baby girls [debut]
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.)
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.
Usage of Elora
Usage of Alora
34 baby girls
72 baby girls
63 baby girls
84 baby girls
91 baby girls
108 baby girls
87 baby girls
103 baby girls
30 baby girls
11 baby girls
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?
In 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:
1986: 9 baby girls named Tyger
1984: 11 baby girls named Tyger
1983: 29 baby girls named Tyger [debut]
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.
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?)
Shales, Tom. “Such Gloss! Such Dross! It’s ‘Bare Essence’!” Washington Post 15 Feb. 1983.
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.
The name Geron more than doubled in usage in 1984:
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
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.)
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.”
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.
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.