How did “Card Sharks” influence baby names in 1979?

Contestant Dilanjan on "Card Sharks" in January of 1979.
Dilanjan on “Card Sharks

Does anyone remember the NBC game show Card Sharks?

The original version — which involved a pair of contestants guessing survey results (à la Family Feud) and then playing the card game High Low for prize money — ran from 1978 to 1981. During that period, two uniquely named contestants had a small influence on American baby names:


A contestant named Dilanjan (pronounced dee-lahn-jahn) was on the show for five episodes in January of 1979. That year, the baby name Dilanjan debuted on the SSA’s baby name list with 13 baby boys. It was never on the list again, though, making it a one-hit wonder.

  • 1981: unlisted
  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: 13 baby boys named Dilanjan [debut]
  • 1978: unlisted
  • 1977: unlisted

Dilanjan noted that he was from Sri Lanka. The name is apparently Sinhalese (the Sinhalese people make up 75% of the population of Sri Lanka) but so far I can’t figure out the meaning.

Contestant Risha on "Card Sharks" in July of 1979.
Risha on “Card Sharks


A contestant named Risha (pronounced REE-sha) was on the show for six episodes in July of 1979. The baby name Risha had already been on the SSA’s list for several decades by then, but in 1979 usage of the name more than tripled:

  • 1981: 17 baby girls named Risha
  • 1980: 24 baby girls named Risha
  • 1979: 56 baby girls named Risha
  • 1978: 17 baby girls named Risha
  • 1977: 17 baby girls named Risha

I have a feeling that repeat contestants on other long-gone game shows have also affected the charts…but it’s hard to do research on this sort of thing, as there isn’t some master-list of game show contestant names I can refer to (I wish!).

For all the game show junkies out there: What memorable contestant names have you spotted over the years?

5 thoughts on “How did “Card Sharks” influence baby names in 1979?

  1. Recently on Jeopardy there was a woman named Pidge…other unusual names this season have been Georjean, Wren, Hobie, Sala, and Dorcas. The “J! Archive” looks like it has all the contestants listed going back 20 years, and some before that:

  2. Dilanjan mentioned on one of his episodes of Card Sharks that his parents made up the name. So you’re not likely to find an etymology behind it. :-)

  3. Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for the comment!

    I haven’t seen all the Dilanjan episodes, but in this one [vid] he gives his full name (Dilanjan Soysa) and says that he’s originally from Colombo, Sri Lanka.

    I’ve found several other Sri Lankan men with the name via the internet — like this filmmaker — so Dilanjan’s parents didn’t make it up. (If that’s what he said, maybe it was just a way to avoid having to give a detailed explanation on a game show…?)

    So far I still haven’t had any luck tracking down an etymology, but I’m pretty sure one exists. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.