Where did the baby name Ronreaco come from?

Actor RonReaco Lee, in 1988.
RonReaco Lee, in 1988

The unusual name Ronreaco has been in the U.S. baby name data a total of twice:

  • 1991: unlisted
  • 1990: 6 baby boys named Ronreaco
  • 1989: unlisted
  • 1988: 5 baby boys named Ronreaco [debut]
  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: unlisted

What put it there?

Young actor RonReaco (pronounced ron-ree-ko) Lee. In the late ’80s, he was appearing on several children’s television shows, such as Kid’s Beat. The 1990 reappearance of his name could be linked to Lee’s role as the mute drummer boy in the 1989 film Glory.

What’s the story behind RonReaco Lee’s unique first name? Here’s what he told a reporter in 2015:

There was a popular rum back in the day called Ronrico, and my mother loved the name but wanted to change the spelling. She was always adamant about the second “R” being capitalized. So when I started acting, that was the big thing: The second “R” has to be capitalized, and there’s no space. My mother was adamant about how my name was spelled.

People are curious about where it came from. I’ve gotten the question: “Are you Latin?” No, not at all. “Are your parents black?” I get that question a lot when people see my name. My mother just wanted to do something different.

It’s funny, when my wife and I found out we were having a little boy, my mother wanted him to be RonReaco Jr. and I was like, “Ma, listen: I went through all of school and then as a performer constantly having to tell people how my name is spelled. I don’t want my son to have those problems.” I think there’s still some disappointment there from her that the name won’t live on!

So there’s just going to be the one RonReaco. I don’t think you’ll ever meet another.

About a decade later, as an adult, RonReaco Lee played the part of Tyreke Scott — Tia’s boyfriend — on the last two seasons of the sitcom Sister, Sister (1994-1999). This boosted the usage of the baby name Tyreke into the top 1,000 for the first and only time:

  • 2000: 141 baby boys named Tyreke
  • 1999: 220 baby boys named Tyreke [rank: 738th]
  • 1998: 120 baby boys named Tyreke
  • 1997: 41 baby boys named Tyreke
  • 1996: 29 baby boys named Tyreke
  • 1995: 8 baby boys named Tyreke

Other spellings of the name that similarly saw peak usage in the late ’90s include Tyreek, Tyreak, Tyreik, Tyriek, Tyrique, Tyreque, Tyrik, Tyrek, Tyriq, Tyreq, Tyric, Tyrec, and Tyrick. And in 1998 specifically we see the debuts of Tirek and one-hit wonders Tiriq and Tirik.

Sources:

P.S. Ronrico rum was originally made by the Ron Rico company of Puerto Rico. Ron is the Spanish word for rum, and rico, Spanish for “rich,” probably referred to the location.

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