What gave the baby name Alethea a boost in 1973?

The character Alethea Ingram (played by actress Jodie Foster) from an episode of the TV show "Kung Fu" (Mar. 1973).
Alethea Ingram from “Kung Fu

Aletheia — the ancient Greek word for “truth” (literally, “unforgetfulness”) — debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1973.

The related names Alethea and Alethia also saw spikes in usage that year. In fact, the usage of the spelling “Alethea” increased so much that the name entered the girls’ top 1,000 for the very first time in 1973.

Girls named
Girls named
Girls named
1974746201 [rank: 716th]
19735*74†322† [rank: 522nd]
*Debut, †Peak usage

So, what caused the sudden interest in these three names?

A young Jodie Foster.

In March of 1973, a 10-year-old Foster guest-starred as a character named Alethea on an episode of the TV series Kung Fu (1972-1975).

Early in the episode, she introduces herself to the show’s main character, Caine (played by David Carradine), by saying: “They call me Lethe, but my real name is Miss Alethea Patricia Ingram.”

Not long after that, she accuses Caine of murder.

Witness to a stagecoach robbery, the young girl, hiding behind a well, believes she sees Caine taking part in the crime and shooting one of the stagecoach drivers. Encouraged by everyone, including Caine, to ‘tell the truth,’ that is, the truth about what she believes she saw, the young girl … concludes … that, contrary to what she believes in her heart, her new found friend did indeed shoot the stagecoach driver.

While Caine is being led to the gallows, Alethea has a change of heart. Just before Caine is hung, she recants her testimony — saving his life by telling (what is, in her eyes) a lie.

As you can see, the theme of truthfulness is prevalent throughout the episode (which itself is called “Alethea”).

What are your thoughts on the baby name Alethea? (Which spelling do you prefer?)

P.S. The character’s nickname, Lethe (pronounced lee-thee), is the ancient Greek word for “forgetfulness.”


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