Mystery baby name: Sumiko

Welcome to mystery week! This is the first of 5 posts featuring baby names that saw sudden popularity increases that I can’t quite figure out. Maybe you guys can help?


In 1980, over 100 baby girls were suddenly given the name Sumiko (or some variant thereof):

Name1979198019811982
Sumiko53175
Semiko**238
Samika7222014
Sameka1221129
Sumeka**14
Sumika**11
Semeka876
Sameko**7
Samica7
Semico**7
Simeko**7
Sumeko**7
Semeko**6
Semika677
Sameika**5

**Debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1980.

What prompted the Sumiko spike? I’m not sure.

The various spellings suggest that people were hearing the name, but not seeing it written down (as with Kasara and Deirdre). So the source is likely to be a song, a movie, or a TV show.

The only possibility I’ve come up with so far is a minor character from The Young and The Restless named Sumiko. According to various soap opera websites, Sumiko was a cult leader (!) who began appearing on the show in early 1980.

Do you have any other ideas?

6 thoughts on “Mystery baby name: Sumiko

  1. There was a “pink film” actress Sumiko Koni (Junko Mabuki) with a film of this particular genre in 1980.

    Also, Sumiko Kitada won the japanese Badminton Championship in 1980.

    I don’t think that BAdminton is relevant here: Sumiko Kitada won that championship in the following years, too. But who names their daughter after a pink film actress?

  2. Were Japanese animated series popular in America at the time? It’s possible that it was the name of some fictional character.

  3. That’s a possibility. Though my hunch is that the English voice-overs would have included a new set of Westernized names, at least back in the ’80s. Could be wrong, though. Anyone know?

  4. Like the rest of you, I’m somewhat puzzled as to what caused the rise of Sumiko + variants, but I have found a couple of clues to make things a tad easier to determine the cause:
    – Looking at state data for 1980, Sumiko appears in the Texas data while Semiko appears in the Louisiana data
    – A lot of the bearers I’ve found on FamilySearch are black
    – Based on the Texas birth index, it seems that the rise may have started to occur around the end of August

    By the way, I’ve come across two other names which I cannot figure out its cause and deserve its own ‘Mystery baby name’ posts: Zenja and Kitzie. I’ve provided clues (however minute) below:
    Kitzie: One-hit wonder for 1979; doesn’t appear in any state data (seems to be spread out nationwide), bearers predominantly white, Kitzi is one variant
    Zenja: First appeared in 1968, left in 1969, came back and peaked in 1970 and left again in 1972; appears in New York state data for 1970 with 10 bearers (38%), bearers predominantly black, pattern not replicated for Zenia

  5. Thank you for the extra clues!

    Kitzie and Zenja are two that I haven’t been able to figure out yet either. I keep wanting to connect Kitzie to Kizzy, but Kizzy’s extreme rise happened in 1977. (Here are the graphs for Kitzie and Zenja, in case anyone wants to see visuals.)

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