Here are some extra details on the woman behind the name Perian, which came up in last week’s post about What’s My Line? names.
- 1963: unlisted
- 1962: 8 baby girls named Perian
- 1961: 5 baby girls named Perian
- plus 11 named Perianm
- 1960: 53 baby girls named Perian
- plus 21 named Periann, 12 named Perriann*, and 5 named Perianne*
- 1959: 7 baby girls named Perian [debut]
- 1958: unlisted
Mississippi-born sportswriter Perian Conerly appeared on the panel show in late 1959, but — unlike most contestants — Perian wasn’t a complete unknown at that point.
She’d been writing a syndicated sports column since 1956 (at a time when female sports writers were unheard of). Her writing appeared in publications as prestigious as Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, and the New York Times. In fact, a few months before she was on WML?, she was profiled in the “Events & Discoveries” section of Sports Illustrated.
As the wife of Charlie Conerly, quarterback of the New York Giants from 1948 to 1961, Perian had the inside scoop on football. Perian and Charlie lived in New York for four months (September through December) every year, and even though Charlie was always the focus, “Perian was almost as big a star in New York as Charlie.”
Together, they were for years the toast of New York – he the ruggedly handsome quarterback and the original Marlboro man, she the Southern belle with movie star glamour and all that charm and wit.
Perian was the first female member of the Football Writers Association of America, likely thanks to her name. A male sportswriter suggested that she join and, assuming that the group wouldn’t offer membership to women, opined that “they will never know” she’s a woman because of her name. Perian did indeed get in and, from then on, mail from the organization was “addressed to Mr. Perian Conerly.”
Here’s what she said about her name in her 1963 book Backseat Quarterback:
Confusion about the gender of my first name is understandable. The spelling does not indicate that it is pronounced Perry Ann, being a contraction of two family names.
Ironically, 1963 — the year her two books (the second being Football Fundamentals for Feminine Fans) were published — was also the year her name dropped off the baby name charts. By that time, though, Charlie had retired from football, Perian had stopped writing her sports column, and the couple had returned to Mississippi.
What are your thoughts on the name Perian?
*Both Perriann and Perianne were one-hit wonders that year.
- Backseat Quarterback – University Press of Mississippi
- Conerly, Perian. Backseat Quarterback. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003.
- The ‘First Lady’ of Mississippi Sports – Mississippi Sports Magazine
- “Events & Discoveries.” Sports Illustrated 19 Oct. 1959: 42-47.
- Lloyd, James B. (Ed.) Lives of Mississippi Authors, 1817-1967. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1981.
- Perian Conerly: The original Backseat QB
2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Perian come from in 1959?”
The name sounds very much like the unrelated Turkish name Perihan (that means “queen of fairies”).
I’m glad you included her comment from Perian about how to pronounce her name. I was mentally pronouncing it to rhyme with Marian instead of Maryann. It’s rather pretty and I’m surprised it didn’t have more staying power.