The Emergence of Miata

mazda miata, car, 1989, baby name, 1980s

The baby name Miata appeared in the U.S. data for a little more than a decade, 1989 to 1999, and saw peak usage in the early ’90s:

  • 1993: 19 baby girls named Miata
  • 1992: 17 baby girls named Miata
  • 1991: 25 baby girls named Miata [peak]
  • 1990: 25 baby girls named Miata [peak]
  • 1989: 23 baby girls named Miata [debut]
  • 1988: unlisted

The inspiration, of course, was the Mazda MX-5 Miata — a lightweight, two-seat, open-top roadster that was unveiled in February of 1989 and went on sale in the U.S. the following May.

The sporty car became popular right away, with the help of enthusiastic reviews like this one from Car and Driver (Sept. 1989):

With the new Miata, Mazda has brought back the simple, honest sports car we feared had vanished forever. No longer will we gaze in frustration at 1960s movies and their rakish Triumph TR4s and Lotus Elans and MGBs. Mazda has resurrected those barnstorming sports-car times in one spectacular, up-to-date package.

According to one source, the name of the car came from the Old High German word miata, meaning “a reward” or “due amount of praise.” Interestingly, the name was used only in the North American market.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Miata?

Sources:

Image: Adapted from Mazda MX-5 ND 2.0 SKYACTIV-G 160 i-ELOOP Side View by Kickaffe (Mario von Berg) under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Arrival of Axl

guns n roses, album, axl, baby name, 1980sWe’re well into November, and while I don’t typically experience “November Rain” — usually just November snow — now’s a good time to talk about Axl, the name of the guy who sang “November Rain.”

Axl debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1988:

  • 1992: 29 baby boys named Axl
  • 1991: 23 baby boys named Axl
  • 1990: 25 baby boys named Axl
  • 1989: 21 baby boys named Axl
  • 1988: 9 baby boys named Axl [debut]
  • 1987: unlisted

The next year, the names Axle and Aksel both debuted, while the already-in-use name Axel (which can be traced back to the biblical name Absalom) more than doubled in usage.

The influence? Axl Rose, lead singer of the rock band Guns N’ Roses.

The band’s debut album Appetite for Destruction was released in July of 1987. It became a commercial success the next year, after the band started touring and releasing singles such as “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (peaked at #1 in Sept. 1988), “Welcome to the Jungle” (#7 in Dec. ’88), and “Paradise City” (#5 in Mar. ’89).

Axl Rose grew up in Lafayette, Indiana, with the name William “Bill” Bailey. As a teen, he discovered that his surname at birth had been Rose, so he started using it. Not long after that, he adopted the first name Axl:

One of the short-lived local bands he’d sung with was called AXL, which then became his moniker. When the band broke up, he kept using the name, and styled himself “W. Axl Rose.”

And in early 1986, right before signing with Geffen Records, he legally changed his name to “W. Axl Rose.”

axl, name, music video, GNR
W. Axl Rose grave from the “Don’t Cry” music video (1991)

Unexpectedly, the name is more popular today than ever before:

  • 2017: 335 baby boys named Axl [rank: 716th]
  • 2016: 305 baby boys named Axl [rank: 778th]
  • 2015: 313 baby boys named Axl [rank: 760th]
  • 2014: 266 baby boys named Axl [rank: 842nd]
  • 2013: 111 baby boys named Axl
  • 2012: 102 baby boys named Axl

This is probably thanks to another singer, Fergie, who welcomed a baby boy in August of 2013 and named him Axl after Axl Rose. (Some ’80s trivia for you: Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson was on Kids Incorporated with Marta “Martika” Marrero.)

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

Sources:

P.S. How did the band name “Guns N’ Roses” come to be? It was created from the surnames of two of the founding members, Axl Rose and Tracii Guns (born Tracy Richard Irving Ulrich), essentially. More precisely, it came from the merger of the bands they were in at the time: Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns.

The One-Hit Wonder Teenamarie

teena marie, album, starchildSpeaking of Tinamarie…the very similar name Teenamarie first appeared in the U.S. baby name data exactly three decades later, in 1985:

  • 1986: unlisted
  • 1985: 7 baby girls named Tennamarie [debut]
  • 1984: unlisted

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.

The name Teena also saw a spike in usage in 1985.

(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 Baby Name Shalamar

shalamar, music

Last week we talked about the name Shalimar, so this week let’s look at the similar name Shalamar, which saw its highest usage in 1980:

  • 1982: 15 baby girls and 12 baby boys named Shalamar
  • 1981: 17 baby girls and 10 baby boys named Shalamar
  • 1980: 26 baby girls and 20 baby boys named Shalamar [debut for boys]
  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: unlisted
  • 1977: 5 baby girls named Shalamar
  • 1976: unlisted

American vocal/dance trio Shalamar — which included future solo star Jody Watley — started regularly churning out hits in 1979.

Over the next few years the group earned two Grammy nominations, but didn’t win the award either time (they lost once to Rufus & Chaka Khan).

Also, interestingly, Shalamar had a name before it had any members. It was put together by Dick Griffey, the booking agent for TV’s Soul Train.

Which spelling do you prefer, Shalimar or Shalamar?

Source: Shalamar – AllMusic

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