What popularized the baby name Tammy in the late 1950s?

The character Tammy Tyree from the movie "Tammy and the Bachelor" (1957).
Tammy from “Tammy and the Bachelor

Last week, two women named Tammy won elections. One was Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, elected to the U.S. Senate. The other was Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Do you think this could be enough to revive the baby name Tammy?

The name started popping up on the SSA’s baby name list in the 1930s, was in the top 1,000 by the late 1940s, and was extremely popular by the late 1950s:

  • 1961: 15,527 baby girls named Tammy [rank: 28th]
  • 1960: 14,311 baby girls named Tammy [rank: 31st]
  • 1959: 13,707 baby girls named Tammy [rank: 31st]
  • 1958: 9,981 baby girls named Tammy [rank: 44th]
  • 1957: 4,361 baby girls named Tammy [rank: 107th]
  • 1956: 261 baby girls named Tammy [rank: 583rd]
  • 1955: 192 baby girls named Tammy [rank: 677th]

What caused the surge in popularity?

The 1957 movie Tammy and the Bachelor, and its memorable theme song “Tammy.”

The film and song popularized not just the name Tammy, but a slew of other Tam-names as well, including Tambra, Tamela, Tamera, Tami, Tamie, Tammi, Tammie, Tamra, Tamara, and Tambrey (the real name of the film’s main character).

The name Tamre, which debuted in 1958, was the top debut name for baby girls that year.

The name Tammy stayed popular through the ’60s, thanks to two more Tammy films (1961 & 1963) and a short-lived TV series (1965-1966). It was one of the top ten baby girl names in the nation in 1964 and from 1966 to 1971. (Tammy Baldwin was born in 1962, Tammy Duckworth in 1968.)

After that, Tammy began sinking. It dropped out of the top 100 in 1981, out of the top 1,000 in 1992, and continues to fall every year:

  • 2011: 58 baby girls named Tammy
  • 2010: 69 baby girls named Tammy
  • 2009: 96 baby girls named Tammy
  • 2008: 120 baby girls named Tammy

Do you think the national coverage of Tammy Baldwin and Tammy Duckworth in 2012 could reverse this trend? (Even if just for a year?)

P.S. The song “Tammy” was composed by the same songwriters who created “Que Sera, Sera.”

3 thoughts on “What popularized the baby name Tammy in the late 1950s?

  1. I can see a small surge in the Midwest where the Tammys were running. I think if there was an interesting long form of the name beyond Tamara it might see a bit more of a surge as a nn. (Thomasina nn Tammy?)

  2. Good point about location — we should monitor the specific states as well.

    These are the last few years Tammy was on the SSA’s list for Wisconsin:

    • 1995: 5 baby girls named Tammy in WI
    • 1994: 7 baby girls named Tammy in WI
    • 1993: 8 baby girls named Tammy in WI

    Same for Illinois:

    • 2008: 8 baby girls named Tammy in IL
    • 2003: 7 baby girls named Tammy in IL
    • 2002: 5 baby girls named Tammy in IL
  3. So, in 2012, Tammy stayed about the same nationally:

    -2012: 56 baby girls named Tammy (US)
    -2011: 58 baby girls named Tammy (US)

    Considering the name had been falling, this *might* be the sign of a tiny usage boost.

    It didn’t pop up again on the WI and IL lists, though.

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