The curious name Aeris first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1998:
2001: 26 baby girls named Aeris
2000: 26 baby girls named Aeris
1999: 22 baby girls named Aeris
1998: 23 baby girls named Aeris [debut]
Where did it come from?
The role-playing video game Final Fantasy VII, which was released in early 1997 for PlayStation and later for other platforms.
The game was set on a nameless planet whose future was up for grabs. The antagonist, Sephiroth, was out to destroy the planet, whereas the protagonist, Cloud Strife, sought to save the planet from destruction.
Aeris was one of Cloud’s friends. (In fact, he had a bit of a crush on her.) She was the last surviving member of one of the planet’s oldest races, the Cetra, and thereby had access to planet-protecting magical powers.
In a now-infamous plot twist, Aeris was unexpectedly killed by Sephiroth. (Aeris was kneeling and praying, eyes closed, when Sephiroth descended from the sky and ran her through from behind with a sword — all right in front of Cloud.)
And here’s another twist: the character’s English name was never supposed to be “Aeris” — even if it does sound like the word “heiress,” which is fitting, given her racial status.
FFVII was created in Japan, and the character’s Japanese name is Earisu. The official English transliteration of her name is Aerith, based on the English words “air” and “earth.” But, somehow, Aeris is what ended up in the game.
The transliteration was corrected in later Final Fantasy games and in the Kingdom Hearts series (which combined FF characters with Disney characters). In fact, the first Kingdom Hearts game was released in 2002, and official spelling Aerith debuted in the U.S. baby name data the very next year:
2007: 11 baby girls named Aerith
2006: 10 baby girls named Aerith
2003: 5 baby girls named Aerith [debut]
What are your thoughts on the baby names Aeris and Aerith? I’d especially love to hear the opinions of any gamers out there!
These days, when you say the name Shakira, most people think of the Colombian singer (“Hips Don’t Lie”) who became famous in the U.S. in the early 2000s. In fact, the name saw peak usage in 2002 thanks to her.
But the name Shakirafirst caught the attention of America’s expectant parents decades earlier:
1973: 74 baby girls named Shakira
1972: 20 baby girls named Shakira
1971: 7 baby girls named Shakira
1970: 12 baby girls named Shakira [debut]
Because of Shakira Baksh (later known as Shakira Caine).
She was born and raised in British Guiana to Muslim Indian parents who had relocated from the Kashmir region of British India.
In 1967, she won the Miss Guyana contest and placed third in the Miss World contest in London. Following that, she became a London-based model and actress.
In early 1970, she was mentioned (and pictured) in a short article in the “Youth Notes” section of Parade magazine (the Sunday newspaper magazine distributed in U.S. papers nationwide). Here’s the piece in full:
Ever since Diahann Carroll hit it big in the “Julia” TV series, television producers the world ever have been scouting for other talented black beauties to star in a weekly program.
In England, Shakira Baksh, 22, who came to London from Guyana in 1967 as contender in the Miss World beauty contest, has just been signed in a new and as yet unfilled weekly series.
The objective in starring Shakira is to attract a large share of the non-white TV audience.
And, right on cue, we see her name debut in the data.
Shakira Baksh married Michael Caine, star of Alfie, in early 1973. (He first spotted her in a Maxwell House commercial, believe it or not. Here’s the story of how they met [vid].) They appeared together in the 1975 movie The Man Who Would Be King together (along with Sean Connery, whose eyebrow is in the photo above) and on the cover of People together in 1976.
The name Shakira is Arabic and means “thankful” or “grateful.”
The baby name Carmindy debuted in the SSA data in 2006 and hung around until 2011:
2011: 6 baby girls named Carmindy
2010: 12 baby girls named Carmindy
2009: 7 baby girls named Carmindy
2008: 8 baby girls named Carmindy
2007: 9 baby girls named Carmindy
2006: 8 baby girls named Carmindy [debut]
TLC’s What Not to Wear (2003-2013) is one of the few reality TV shows that I’ve ever watched with any sort of regularity, so I knew the source of this one right away: Carmindy, WNTW’s on-air make-up artist.
I don’t know the story behind Carmindy Bowyer’s first name, but I do know that the stress is on the first syllable (CAR-min-dee).
The variant Karmindy also appeared in the data (just once) while the popular makeover show was on the air.
What are your thoughts on the name Carmindy?
P.S. On the show, Carmindy turned her first name into a verb: carmindize. Here’s how she described carmindizing in a blog post: “Next, you will want to Carmindize your face by applying a cream highlighter on the brow bone, on the inner corners of the eyes and on tops of your cheekbones.”
In November of 1999, a 5-year-old Cuban boy named Elián González and his mother Elizabeth (along with others) attempted to escape Cuba and reach the U.S. The boat capsized and most of the group drowned, including Elizabeth. But Elián survived — he was found adrift several miles off the coast of Florida by a pair fishermen.
A battle for custody ensued between Elián’s maternal relatives in the U.S. and his father in Cuba. Elián essentially “became a metaphor for the passionate 40-year struggle over Cuba.”
In April of 2000, INS agents raided the house in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood where Elián, now 6, was staying. (The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo above was taken during the raid.) Elián was successfully retrieved and returned to Cuba.
The baby name Elian had been rare in the U.S. up to this point, but watch what happened in 1999 and 2000:
2002: 206 baby boys named Elian [rank: 816th]
2001: 271 baby boys named Elian [rank: 670th]
2000: 578 baby boys named Elian [rank: 426th]
1999: 23 baby boys named Elian
1998: unlisted (fewer than 5)
1997: unlisted (fewer than 5)
Very few of these Elians were born in Florida, which I found surprising, given the number of Cubans in Florida. Of the Elians born in 2000, 27% were born in Texas and 20% were born in California, but just 3% were born in Florida.
And let’s not forget about 21-year-old Marisleysis González, the family member who acted as Elián’s caretaker while he was in the U.S. Her name became a two-hit wonder on the charts around the same time:
2001: 10 baby girls named Marisleysis
2000: 34 baby girls named Marisleysis [debut]
Recent interviews with Elián indicate that he and Marisleysis are no longer on speaking terms, unfortunately. But the same interviews also reveal that Elián now has a fiance with a similarly intriguing name: Ilianet.
Have you ever met an Elian who was born circa 1999/2000? If so, was he aware of the story of Elián González?
Last week, Becca commented with some interesting Jeopardy! contestant names (e.g., Hobie, Dorcas) and mentioned J! Archive, which lists tens of thousands of Jeopardy! contestants going back to 1984, when the show premiered.
I skimmed through all the contestants from 1984 to 2015 (as we don’t have baby name data for 2016 yet) and spotted hundreds of unusual names. And it looks like at least two of them got a boost thanks to the show:
One-time player Alancia Wynn, a family practice physician from Virginia, was on Jeopardy! in October of 1999.
The name Brannon saw an increase in usage in 1998:
1999: 118 baby boys named Brannon
1998: 158 baby boys named Brannon
1997: 113 baby boys named Brannon
One-time player Brannon Denning, a graduate student from Connecticut, was on Jeopardy! in September of 1998. (Looks like Brannon Denning is now a law professor at Samford University.)
Alaric & Ezgi …?
These two names may have gotten a slight boost as well, though it’s hard to tell.
Alaric, in 2005. One-time player Alaric Smith was on the show in October of 2005.
Ezgi, in 2015. One-time player Ezgi Ustundag was on the show in October of 2015.
Ezgi is a female name that means “melody” in Turkish.
Anjali (false positive)
“Kids Week” contestant Anjali Tripathi was on the show in September of 1999. The same year, the baby name Anjali more than doubled in usage:
2001: 222 baby girls named Anjali
2000: 230 baby girls named Anjali
1999: 202 baby girls named Anjali
1998: 93 baby girls named Anjali
1997: 80 baby girls named Anjali
But this was a suspiciously steep rise. And it was accompanied by the debut of an alternate spelling (Anjalie). And usage didn’t drop back to normal levels the next year, as one would expect. These facts pointed me to something more high-profile than a Jeopardy! contestant.
Turns out the very successful Hindi coming-of-age romantic comedy Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had been released in 1998. The movie featured not one but two main characters named Anjali.
Here are the rest of the names that caught my eye, sorted by year: