Mystery baby name: Derl

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

Today’s mystery name, Derl, is one I’ve been trying to figure out for years.

It debuted modestly in the SSA data in 1929, then skyrocketed in usage the very next year. In fact, Derl was the fastest-rising baby name of 1930.

  • 1933: 19 baby boys named Derl
  • 1932: 27 baby boys named Derl
  • 1931: 36 baby boys named Derl
    • 5 born in TX, 5 in VA
  • 1930: 58 baby boys named Derl [peak usage]
    • 7 born in TX, 7 in OK, 5 in NC
  • 1929: 5 baby boys named Derl [debut]
  • 1928: unlisted
  • 1927: unlisted

The spelling Derle both debuted and saw peak usage in 1930 as well.

Despite my best efforts, I still don’t have any theories about this one. But I can offer a couple of clues:

  • The state-by-state SSA data suggests that Derl was used most often in the South.
  • The 1929 debut might mean that the event we’re looking for occurred in the later months of 1929 instead of in 1930.

Have any ideas about Derl?

P.S. Just for context, the somewhat similar names Dale and Darrell were both on the rise during the ’20s and ’30s.

Update, Nov. 2020: Just noticed that the fastest-rising girl name of 1930, Dorla, is strangely similar to Derl. Could this be a clue…?

Update, Mar. 2024: The highest-returning girl-name of 1929 was Darla. Another potential clue?

4 thoughts on “Mystery baby name: Derl

  1. Just a couple of days ago I noticed the name Derland. It was the first name of a former football player who had recently died. I don’t remember anything else except the name because I’d never heard of it before. Perhaps Derl and Derland have similar points of origin?

    Of the two I like Derland better, but I’m not a big fan of either.

  2. I think where these names were used is key to this mystery. I believe that both Derl and Dorla are spellings of names heard, but not seen. With a southern accent Darrell becomes Derl, and Darla becomes Dorla. I am fairly confident that these spellings at least began this way, and then other began using the spellings later.

  3. That could certainly be part of it.

    Given the time period, I wonder if the influence wasn’t some radio show that was being broadcast in the South…? That would have left the spellings of any names open to interpretation.

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Your email address will not be published.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.