How did “I Love Lucy” influence baby names?

Arnaz family on the cover of LIFE magazine (Apr. 6, 1953)
Arnaz family on the cover of LIFE, 1953

The sitcom I Love Lucy (1951-1957) was TV’s first mega-hit. It won five Emmys and was ranked the #1 TV show in America four out of its six seasons.

The central characters were Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, played by real-life couple Lucille Ball (b. 1911 in New York) and Desiderio “Desi” Arnaz (b. 1917 in Cuba).

Ricky worked as a singer and bandleader at the Tropicana nightclub, while Lucy was a housewife on a quest for show business fame who “concocted hilarious (and ultimately doomed) schemes to finagle her way out of the kitchen and into the limelight.”

Though the show ended in 1957, and a modified version called The Ford Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show kept the characters on the air for several more years.

So did I Love Lucy affect U.S. baby names? Yes, though not as much as one might expect, given its popularity.

Lucy & Lucille
Old-fashioned Lucy and Lucille spent most of the 20th century declining in usage. But Lucy saw an increase in 1952, and both names saw increases in 1953. (The most fashionable L-name at that time was #1 Linda.)

Ricky & Ricardo
Ricky and Ricardo had been on the rise since the ’40s, but those rises accelerated during the ’50s. One event that certainly helped Ricky was the birth of Little Ricky on a particularly popular episode that aired in January of 1953.

Little Ricky’s birth coincided with the birth of Lucy and Desi’s second child, Desi Arnaz, Jr. In fact, the cover of the very first issue of TV Guide (April, 1953) featured a photo of baby Desi:

Baby Desi Arnaz, Jr., on the cover of the very first issue of "TV Guide" (April, 1953).
First issue of “TV Guide

(Another Ricky who was on TV in the ’50s was Ricky Nelson, son of Ozzie and Harriet.)

Desi & Arnaz
The ’50s is the first decade we see the regular appearance of Desi (pronounced DEH-zee) in the data. Similarly, we first see the surname Arnaz (pronounced ahr-NEZ) in 1958 specifically. Variant spelling Arnez showed up in 1960.

Now it’s your turn: Do you love the name Lucy? Or do you prefer Lucille?

Source: I Love Lucy – Britannica.com
Top image: © 1953 LIFE

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