Last week, Becca commented with some interesting Jeopardy! contestant names (e.g., Hobie, Dorcas) and mentioned J! Archive, which lists tens of thousands of Jeopardy! contestants going back to 1984, when the show premiered.
I skimmed through all the contestants from 1984 to 2015 (as we don’t have baby name data for 2016 yet) and spotted hundreds of unusual names. And it looks like at least two of them got a boost thanks to the show:
The name Alancia was a one-hit wonder that popped up in the U.S. baby name data in 2000:
- 2002: unlisted
- 2001: unlisted
- 2000: 9 baby girls named Alancia [debut]
- 1999: unlisted
- 1998: unlisted
One-time player Alancia Wynn, a family practice physician from Virginia, was on Jeopardy! in October of 1999.
The name Brannon saw an increase in usage in 1998:
- 2000: 116 baby boys named Brannon
- 1999: 118 baby boys named Brannon
- 1998: 158 baby boys named Brannon [peak]
- 1997: 113 baby boys named Brannon
- 1996: 114 baby boys named Brannon
One-time player Brannon Denning, a graduate student from Connecticut, was on Jeopardy! in September of 1998. (Looks like Brannon Denning is now a law professor at Samford University.)
Alaric & Ezgi …?
These two names may have gotten a slight boost as well, though it’s hard to tell.
- Alaric, in 2005. One-time player Alaric Smith was on the show in October of 2005.
- Ezgi, in 2015. One-time player Ezgi Ustundag was on the show in October of 2015.
Ezgi is a female name that means “melody” in Turkish.
Anjali (false positive)
“Kids Week” contestant Anjali Tripathi was on the show in September of 1999. The same year, the baby name Anjali more than doubled in usage:
- 2001: 222 baby girls named Anjali
- 2000: 230 baby girls named Anjali
- 1999: 202 baby girls named Anjali
- 1998: 93 baby girls named Anjali
- 1997: 80 baby girls named Anjali
But this was a suspiciously steep rise. And it was accompanied by the debut of an alternate spelling (Anjalie). And usage didn’t drop back to normal levels the next year, as one would expect. These facts pointed me to something more high-profile than a Jeopardy! contestant.
Turns out the very successful Hindi coming-of-age romantic comedy Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had been released in 1998. The movie featured not one but two main characters named Anjali.
Here are the rest of the names that caught my eye, sorted by year:
- 2015: Chandreyi, Dava-Leigh, Desta, Ezgi, Kynan, Mags, Praggya, Rook, Tiombi
- 2014: Ben-Hur, Dinu, FeiFei, Gudrun, Ilissa, Kenesha, LaWanda, Leszek, Mariusz, Myfanwy, Osei, Shloka, Sirena
- 2013: Arne, Berek, Diva, Kelton, Kinu, Nilai, Nishanth, Ramsin, Rhea, Salvo, Shuli, Sonrisa, Tahne, Twyla, Waymond, Xan, Yellowlees
- J. Yellowlees Douglas is an academic.
- 2012: Anshika, Benton, Bing, Deniz, Injee, Jessamine, Jia-Rui, Mithun, Pian, Shaanti,
- 2011: Bhibha, Boomie, Cosi, Gabor, Gitta, Idrees, Karawan, LuEllen, Milind, Raphie
- 2010: Huat, Kemi, Marianthe, Raghuveer, Shaama, Surabhi
- 2009: Ariella, Claxton, Cyn, Daphna, Drusha, Hayes, Henok, Jove, Lysette, Nirav, Ranjan, Seyi, Shyra, Tui (TOO-ee), Wright
- Tui Sutherland is a fiction writer. She was named after the tui bird of New Zealand.
- 2008: Anurag, Babatope, Delano, Elza, Gilah, Kew, Murtaza, Naren, Srinivas, Vibin, Zia
- 2007: Arlynda, Bethlehem, Clé, Haritha, Khoa, Kai-Ning, Kizzle, Lateefah, Lenzy, Marvene, Mehrun, Ssezi, Tigger, Toho, Tope
- 2006: Dianisbeth, Iddoshe, Karmie, Lizard, Nemanja, Nissan, Oz, Ozgun, Papa, Pinki, Raena, Reda, Sioux, Tawney
- 2005: Alaric, Corinth, Jayanth, Kem, Kingslea, LeeAundra, Ruchi, Ruvani, Vanamali
- 2004: Denele, Kermin, M’Liss, Nithya
- 2003: Alicen, Amasa, Eok, Freya, Nulty, Snowden, Vane
- 2002: Anagha, Dileep, Gadi, Hikma, Jara, Kirik, Kunle, Manoj, Muzy (MYOO-zee), Omid, Quyen, Rafi, Seveen, Shasa, Tana, Umiko
- 2001: Aki, Babu, Gosia, Marek, Mittie, Neha, Ulhas, Vinita
- 2000: Akshai, Arrington, Celiane, Cinnamon, Iyesatu, Jeeks, Manx, Meri-Jane, Mitali, Sabin, Tarun
- 1999: Ajuan, Alancia, Anjali, Chacko, Davine, Happy, Mihee, Seale, Wellington, Yancy, Yoni
- Chacko George is an economist with the FDIC.
- 1998: Ardys, Brannon, Creswell, Kemp, Melizza, Sinan
- 1998: Boze, Jolyn, Rokshana
- 1997: Akiva, Atish, Breck, Brick, Davia, Girish, Mita, Murat, Pooja, Sahir, Tanis, Vartan, Zinie
- 1996: Myretta, Rima, Ulf, Vandana
- 1995: Albina
- 1994: Graydon
- 1993: Bronwyn, Ferris, Leif
- 1991: India, Kareem
- 1990: Ardwight, Avrom, Murdock, Peji
- Ardwight Chamberlain is a voice actor and screen writer.
- 1989: Darbi, Ouida
- 1988: Blaze, Cigus, Doak, Scooter
- 1987: JoFrannye
- 1986: Chub, Zanete
Which of the above names do you like best?
P.S. Thanks again, Becca!
2 thoughts on “How did “Jeopardy!” influence baby names?”
There were three Turkish names and one Circassian name – I believe – Ezgi, Deniz and Özgün/Ozgun are Turkish names while Albina is Circassian if I remember it correctly.