Mystery baby name: Spanky

Graph of the usage of the baby name Spanky in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Spanky

In 1979, 6 baby boys got the name Spanky. This has been Spanky’s only appearance on the SSA’s baby name list so far.

What inspired it? I have no idea.

The only famous Spanky I know of, George “Spanky” McFarland of Our Gang, was popular long before 1979.

Do you have any theories about why the number of babies named Spanky went up (slightly) in 1979?

P.S. Two unfortunate Spanky combos I’ve come across: Spanky Bumgartner (b. 1936) and Spanky Bimbo (b. 1978).

7 thoughts on “Mystery baby name: Spanky

  1. There was a tv movie released in 1977 called The Little Rascals with Gary Coleman? Maybe?

    Oh! Cheech and Chong’s last live comedy was at a place called Spanky’s in San Diego in 1978:

    Do you know where the Spanky’s were located? WI?

    “Spanky” Crawford was a linebacker in college football in 1978 and went on to play for Texas and Arizona.

    In Savannah, Spanky’s (restaurant) opened in 1976 and opened another in 1978.

    Jim Beebe’s Chicago Jazz released an album in 1978 that featured trumpeter Spanky Davis.

    Folk Rock group, “Spanky and Our Gang” had a revival tour in 1978.

    You’ve probably looked at all those already.

  2. Thanks Sharalyn and jaime!

    There was an attempt at an Our Gang revival in 1977. According to Wikipedia, three pilot episodes were taped. But apparently they were never bought (and also never aired, I’m guessing). I have seen the *news* of a show coming out affect the baby name charts in a few cases, and this could be one of those cases if there was enough pre-show press…but are the years too far off?

    Popular music is also usually a good bet, but vocalist Spanky McFarlane was female and the baby Spankys are male, so I’m not sure if that could be it. Typically when a famous person is involved the genders match up.

    I’m thinking the other things on Sharalyn’s list — the restaurant, the trumpeter, the comedy show, the college football player — were probably not widely known enough to have much influence. They’re all great guesses, though. (Thanks so much for doing all that research, Sharalyn!)

    I should also mention that I’ve managed to find out where 3 of the 6 Spankys were born — 2 in CA, 1 in NC. Quite a spread. So, whatever it was, it wasn’t a local event.

  3. Hi,

    So one more results similar to those of Sharalyn:

    Another female Spanky:

    And a coincidence – a wrestler who went by the nickname “Spanky” just happened to be born in 1979:

    BUT. I think the issue here is statistical. Am I right that the name only shows with at least 5 births? So it is possible that in any other year there are say 3 or 4 baby boys given the name. In which case it is questionable if this is a spike at all.

  4. @Rachel – Thanks! Another possibility.

    Yes, you’re right — there may be no cause at all. It’s just such a weird name that I thought there might be a specific reason why 6 Spankys suddenly appeared one year.

  5. I was going to say the same thing as Rachel – that with several Spanky references around at the time, there was just enough to make its presence felt one year.

    I looked in birth records, and there were a few Spankys born in the 1970s (maybe 20 or so): to me it looked as if there was a slight upturn in the late 1970s, around 1977 onwards, although with such low numbers it’s hard to say.

    I noticed that of these 1970s Spankys, most of them were from California and Texas, if that’s any help.

    One of the Spankys was a Junior, so presumably it was a family name in his case and not part of a trend.

    All the Spankys were male – females named Spanky in that era seemed to use it as a nickname, such as Stacey “Spanky” Jones.

    My favourite name was Spanky Bimbo.

    Sorry I could not solve the mystery, or even shed much light on it, but thought I would share my meagre findings.

  6. Thanks Anna! Yeah, perhaps if none of us can figure it out it’s like you say — the culmination of several small influences instead of a single big one.

    I liked Spanky Bimbo as well! Spanky Bumgartner was another good one.

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