What gave the baby name Kalene a boost in 1993?

A couple of months ago, I got an email from someone who wanted to know why the baby name Kalene saw so much usage all of a sudden in 1993:

  • 1995: 41 baby girls named Kia
  • 1994: 85 baby girls named Kia
  • 1993: 204 baby girls named Kia [rank: 929th] – peak usage
  • 1992: 24 baby girls named Kia
  • 1991: 7 baby girls named Kia

Here’s a visual:

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

In 1993, the name reached the top 1,000 for the first and only time. So did Kaylene.

Other Kalene-like names also saw higher usage in 1993, and at least one of them (Kaylean) was a newbie in the data.

*Peak usage

I’d figured out the causes of similar spikes for similar names (Kaleena, Kaelin, Katina), but hadn’t gotten around to Kalene yet.

So I did some research. And I didn’t come up with anything useful until I found myself on the Kalene page of a random baby name site where several people happened to mention the same Hooked on Phonics commercial:

  • “…I seen a Hooked on Phonics Commercial…”
  • “…my mom got it off of the hooked on phonics commercial…”
  • “…I too saw the name on the Hooked On Phonics commercial…”
  • “…My mom got it off the commercial in the 1990’s…”
  • …”My mom named me Kalene because she saw it on tv…”
  • “…my name was originally Christie but my mom saw a ‘hooked on phonics’ commercial about a month after i was born and she changed my name…”

One of my favorite things ever is discovering cheesy pop culture enshrined in the baby name data (excellent example: Kebrina), so finding out that a Hooked on Phonics commercial influenced U.S. baby names was pretty epic for me.

Since that point, I’ve been searching for that specific Hooked on Phonics commercial featuring Kalene.

On YouTube I found a segment of a Hooked on Phonics commercial with a Cindy Brady-esque little girl. She seemed promising…but the segment didn’t include her name on-screen.

Little girl in a Hooked on Phonics commercial
Could this be Kalene?

That said, I did find a discussion thread from the 1990s — a cool piece of internet history in and of itself — that independently verified the existence of a Hooked on Phonics commercial featuring a girl named Kalene. So that was helpful.

(The search for a decades-old commercial is reminding me of our adventures with Deneen.)

So I’m not sure whether or not we’ve found Kalene yet, but one of the other Hooked on Phonics commercials I saw spotlighted a girl named Kia:

Little girl named Kia in a Hooked on Phonics commercial
Kia, age 9, in a Hooked on Phonics commercial

And, just like Kalene, the name Kia saw its highest-ever usage in 1993:

  • 1995: 211 baby girls named Kia [rank: 899th]
  • 1994: 229 baby girls named Kia [rank: 859th]
  • 1993: 344 baby girls named Kia [rank: 649th] – peak usage
  • 1992: 247 baby girls named Kia [rank: 813th]
  • 1991: 253 baby girls named Kia [rank: 809th]

(South Korean company Kia Motors began selling cars in the U.S. during the final months of 1993, but I doubt this had much impact on the name.)

…So now we have two Hooked on Phonics-influenced baby names. Amazing.

Question of the Day: Do you remember any other names from old Hooked on Phonics commercials? The company was advertising heavily on TV back in the 1990s — that much I remember — but I can’t recall any specific names from the commercials. Please leave a comment if you can think of any!

UPDATE, Nov. 2022: Kalene has been identified! (Thank you to reader Ellyn for the help!)

We’ve unearthed a Hooked on Phonics commercial featuring several different children, including the little blonde girl with pigtails. Turns out that her name is indeed Kalene!

Little girl named Kalene in a Hooked on Phonics commercial
Kalene, age 5, in a Hooked on Phonics commercial

Kia was also in the commercial:

Little girl named Kia in a Hooked on Phonics commercial
Kia again!

The other children were three boys named Blake, Billy, and Adam.

3 thoughts on “What gave the baby name Kalene a boost in 1993?

  1. I think it was me that e-mailed you about the name Kalene! I had a coworker with the name and when I looked up the popularity, I was surprised to see the spike. I’m glad you could solve the mystery for me as I had never been able to figure it out. Hope we find that commercial eventually!

  2. Got to this page because I saw a current ad on FB where grown up kalene starts out with her old clip, then pitches the new hooked on phonics!

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