What turned Mona Lisa into a baby name in 1950?

Many of us probably don’t know anything about the 1950 movie Captain Carey, U.S.A.

But I bet most of us could hum a few bars of the film’s theme song, “Mona Lisa” [vid].

The song, performed by Nat “King” Cole, was the #1 song in the nation for several weeks straight in the summer of 1950. It went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song in early 1951.

Not surprisingly, the song inspired dozens of expectant parents to name their baby girls Monalisa in 1950:

  • 1952: 7 baby girls named Monalisa
  • 1951: 15 baby girls named Monalisa
  • 1950: 35 baby girls named Monalisa [debut]
  • 1949: unlisted
  • 1948: unlisted

Monalisa became the top baby name debut that year, and it’s been on the list ever since.

Even more impressive? The jump in the number of babies named Mona that year:

  • 1952: 950 baby girls named Mona
  • 1951: 1,106 baby girls named Mona
  • 1950: 1,087 baby girls named Mona
  • 1949: 513 baby girls named Mona
  • 1948: 455 baby girls named Mona

You can bet many of those babies were given the middle name Lisa. :)

The song refers to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Mona Lisa, a 16th-century portrait of Lisa Gherardini. Mona is a contraction of Madonna, or ma donna, Italian for “my lady,” and Lisa is a short form of Elisabetta, the Italian form of Elizabeth.

Source: SSA
Image: Adapted from Nat King Cole Mona Lisa 1957

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