Where did the baby name Sossity come from in 1972?

Jethro Tull's album "Benefit" (1970)
Jethro Tull album

While researching -ity names (like Felicity and Serenity) at one point, I happened upon the odd name Sossity, which was in the U.S. baby name data a total of twice, both times in the 1970s:

  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: 7 baby girls named Sossity
  • 1975: unlisted
  • 1974: unlisted
  • 1973: unlisted
  • 1972: 5 baby girls named Sossity [debut]
  • 1971: unlisted
  • 1970: unlisted

Where did it come from?

The Jethro Tull song “Sossity: You’re a Woman,” which was the last track on their third album, Benefit (1970).

As made clear by the lyrics, the fictitious female Sossity is meant to be symbolic of society at large:

Sossity: You’re a woman.
Society: You’re a woman.

According to Jethro Tull singer Ian Anderson, the song “obviously [was] written as a double-meaning where I’m notionally talking about an imaginary girl in frankly a rather thin and embarrassing pun.” He also said the song was “kind of okay musically…but lyrically I was never really comfortable with it. And it’s mainly that one word, Sossity, an invented word that seemed like a rather prissy girl’s name.”

So how did the British band come to be named after a 18th-century British agriculturist/inventor?

In the late ’60s, when the group was playing small clubs, they changed their name frequently. “Jethro Tull” was a name they tried in February of 1968 at the suggestion of a booking agent, and that’s the one that stuck.

Ian has said that he since regrets choosing that name, specifically disliking the fact that it came from a real historical person: “I can’t help but feel more and more as I get older that I’m guilty of identity theft and I ought to go to prison for it, really.”

(Jethro Tull’s next and more successful album, Aqualung, featured a song about a character named Aqualung. I’m happy to report that “Aqualung” has never popped up in the SSA data.)

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