Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played with the Milwaukee Bucks from 1969 to 1974 and with the Los Angeles Lakers from 1975 to 1989. And, like player Hakeem Olajuwon, he underwent a name change during his career.
Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis “Lew” Alcindor, Jr., in New York City in 1947. Twenty years later he was a standout player on the UCLA varsity basketball team (1967-1969). During this time period, the name Alcindor started appearing in the U.S. baby name data:
1970: 9 baby boys named Alcindor
1969: 7 baby boys named Alcindor
1968: 7 baby boys named Alcindor [debut]
It stuck around for four consecutive years, and might have stuck around even longer had Lew not changed his name upon converting to Islam in 1971.
In an essay about his conversion, he mentioned that “Alcindor was a French planter in the West Indies who owned my ancestors. […] Keeping the name of my family’s slave master seemed somehow to dishonor them.” So he “became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (meaning “the noble one, servant of the Almighty”).”
His name change had an immediate effect upon U.S. boy names:
The following baby names add up to 144, which reduces to nine (1+4+4=9).
“144” girl names: Yuritzy, Harleyquinn
“144” boy names: Constantino, Johnanthony, Oluwalonimi
9 via 153
The boy name Quintavius adds up to 153, which reduces to nine (1+5+3=9).
9 via 171
The following baby names add up to 171, which reduces to nine (1+7+1=9).
“171” girl names: Oluwatomisin
“171” boy names: Konstantinos, Oluwatimilehin
9 via 180
The unisex name Kamsiyochukwu adds up to 180, which reduces to nine (1+8+0=9).
What Does “9” Mean?
First, we’ll look at the significance assigned to “9” by two different numerological sources. Second, and more importantly, ask yourself if “9” or any of the intermediate numbers above have any special significance to you.
“9” (the ennead) according to the Pythagoreans:
“It is by no means possible for there to subsist any number beyond the nine elementary numbers. Hence they called it ‘Oceanus’ and ‘horizon,’ because it encompasses both of these locations and has them within itself.”
“Because it does not allow the harmony of number to be dissipated beyond itself, but brings numbers together and makes them play in concert, it is called ‘concord’ and ‘limitation,’ and also ‘sun,’ in the sense that it gathers things together.”
“They also called it ‘Hyperion,’ because it has gone beyond all the other numbers as regards magnitude”
“The ennead is the first square based on an odd number. It too is called ‘that which brings completion,’ and it completes nine-month children, moreover, it is called ‘perfect,’ because it arises out of 3, which is a perfect number.”
“It was called ‘assimilation,’ perhaps because it is the first odd square”
“They used to call it […] ‘banisher’ because it prevents the voluntary progress of number; and ‘finishing-post’ because it has been organized as the goal and, as it were, turning-point of advancement.”
“9” according to Edgar Cayce:
“Nine – the change” (reading 261-14).
“Nine indicates strength and power, with a change” (reading 261-15).
“Nine making for the completeness in numbers; […] making for that termination in the forces in natural order of things that come as a change imminent in the life” (reading 5751-1).
“As to numbers, or numerology: We find that the number nine becomes as the entity’s force or influence, which may be seen in that whatever the entity begins it desires to finish. Everything must be in order. It is manifested in those tendencies for the expressions of orderliness, neatness. To be sure, nine – in its completeness, then – is a portion” (reading 1035-1).
Does “9” — or do any of the other numbers above (e.g., 18, 63, 99, 144) — have any special significance to you?
Think about your own preferences and personal experiences: lucky numbers, birth dates, music, sports, and so on. For example, maybe your favorite sport is golf, which has 18 holes per game.
Also think about associations you may have picked up from your culture, your religion, or society in general.
If you have any interesting insights about the number 9, or any of the other numbers above, please leave a comment!
Source: Theologumena Arithmeticae, attributed to Iamblichus (c.250-c.330).
When a major celebrity chooses an uncommon baby name, there’s a good chance that name will become trendy.
Seems like this might be a modern phenomenon, right? Maybe tied to the rise of the Internet?
Nope. In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised at just how far back it goes.
Let’s take a look at celebrity baby names through the decades, focusing on those that inspired debuts in the U.S. baby name data. (To debut, a rare names needs to be given to at least 5 babies of one gender or the other in a single year.)
Which name was the very first to debut in the U.S. baby name data thanks to a celebrity baby?
The answer depends on how strict you want to be about spelling.
If exact-spelling debuts are what you want, the first I know of doesn’t appear until the late ’40s.
If variant-spelling debuts are okay, though, there’s a celebrity baby name from the early ’40s that inspired a whopping six of them:
In October of 1941, actor/comedian George Jessel (43 years old) and showgirl Lois Andrews (17) welcomed a baby girl named Jerilyn.
The name Jerilyn itself had already been in the data for a few years, but usage rose significantly in both 1941 and 1942:
1943: 182 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 558th]
1942: 325 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 397th]
1941: 135 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 608th]
1940: 10 baby girls named Jerilyn
The popularity of similar names like Jerrilyn and Jerelyn also increased, and six other variants appeared on the national list for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942:
I was skeptical about this one for a while, as I’d never heard of George Jessel before. Was he really high-profile enough for his baby to have that sort influence? Turns out he was indeed a popular entertainer from the ’20s until at least the ’50s. He’s the one responsible for the “Garland” part of Judy Garland’s stage name, and some sources even claim he invented the Bloody Mary.
Even more variants of Jerilyn (e.g., Gerilynn) debuted during the ’40s and early ’50s, when young Jerilyn was being mentioned in newspaper articles and appearing on TV and in films with her father. Here’s a fundraising film from 1953, for instance, featuring both George and Jerilyn.
Jerilyn Jessel’s influence on U.S baby names was impressive, but, technically speaking, she didn’t put “Jerilyn” on the map.
The first exact-spelling celebrity baby name debut was Yasmin, which appeared in the data in 1949.
In December of 1949, actor Rita Hayworth and her husband Prince Aly Khan welcomed a baby girl named Yasmin. The same year, the baby name Yasmin appeared in the U.S. data for the very first time.
(The name Yasmin was late addition to the post. Thank you, Becca!)
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In October of 1951, actors Tyrone Power and Linda Christian welcomed their first baby, Romina, who was named after the church in Italy (Santa Francesca Romana) where they had married in 1949. The same year, the baby name Romina appeared in the SSA’s data for the very first time.
In September of 1953, Power and Christian welcomed their second baby girl, Taryn, whose name was likely inspired by “Tyrone.” The same year, the baby name Taryn debuted in the data.
In November of 1956, boxer Floyd Patterson and his wife Sandra welcomed a baby girl named Seneca. The same year, the traditionally male name Seneca debuted in the data as a female name. Patterson said the name was inspired by a street in Brooklyn.
In October of 1958, singer/actor Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer welcomed a baby girl named Monsita — their fourth child. The same year, Monsita debuted. It fell off the list the very next year, though, making it a one-hit wonder.
Some honorable mentions from the 1950s:
Liza, which became more popular after Liz Taylor named her daughter Liza in 1957.
Tyrone, which became more popular after Tyrone Power named his third child Tyrone in 1959. The increased usage could also have been influenced by the death of the actor himself the same year, though.
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In September of 1961, singer of Nat King Cole and his wife Maria welcomed identical twin baby girls named Timolin and Casey. The same year, the baby name Timolin debuted in the data.
In September of 1965, actor/director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands welcomed a baby girl named Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes. The same year, the baby name Xan debuted in the data.
In October of 1967, singer Eddie Fisher and actress Connie Stevens welcomed a baby girl named Joely. The same year, the baby name Joely debuted in the data.
In June of 1968, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed a baby girl named Maryum. The same year, the baby name Maryum debuted in the data.
In March of 1969, singers Cher and Sonny Bono, welcomed a baby girl named Chastity. The same year, the baby name Chastity debuted in the data. In May of 2010, Chastity legally changed genders and adopted the name Chaz.
Some honorable mentions from the 1960s:
Devera, which became more popular after actor Vince Edwards and his wife Kathy named their daughter Devera in late 1965.
Dodd, which became more popular after Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee named their son Dodd in late 1961.
At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 1970, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed twin baby girls named Rasheda and Jamillah. The same year, the baby name Rasheda debuted in the data.
(Both Jet magazine (in 1970) and Ebony magazine (in 1971) misspelled her name “Reeshemah.” The misspelling debuted in 1970 and saw peak usage in 1971.)
In 1971, comedian/activist Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian welcomed a baby girl named Ayanna. The same year, the baby name Ayanna debuted in the data.
In July of 1973, Dick Gregory and Lillian welcomed a baby boy named Yohance. The same year, the baby name Yohance debuted in the data.
In March of 1974, musician/producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton welcomed a baby girl named Kidada. The same year, the baby name Kidada debuted in the data.
In August of 1975, singer Tito Jackson (of The Jackson 5) and his wife Dee Dee welcomed a baby boy named Taryll. The same year, the baby name Taryll debuted in the data.
In April of 1975, singer Mary Wilson (of The Supremes) and her husband Pedro welcomed a baby girl named Turkessa. The same year, the baby name Turkessa debuted in the data. Turkessa was just 3 babies away from being the top baby name debut of the year. Here’s how Mary came up with the name:
Pedro brought me a beautiful plant. I asked him was it was called. “Turquesa,” he replied, “Spanish for turquoise.” So we named our daughter Turkessa.
In November of 1975, singer Diana Ross (also of The Supremes) and her husband Robert welcomed a baby girl named Chudney. The next year, the baby name Chudney debuted in the data. Here’s how Diana came up with the name:
Friends kept suggesting popular names like Courtney, but so many girl babies were getting that. I suddenly thought of something I liked very much — chutney. Only I didn’t know how to spell it — I put a ‘d’ where the ‘t’ should have been on the birth certificate. And that’s how my little girl became Chudney!
In 1978, Puerto Rican dancer/singer Iris Chacón and her husband Junno welcomed a baby girl named Katiria. The same year, the baby name Katiria debuted in the data. Most of these babies were born in New York.
At least three of the baby names that debuted during the 1980s were inspired by celebrity babies, and at least one was inspired by a celebrity grandbaby:
In September of 1984, singer Gladys Knight didn’t have a baby, but her son James (b. 1962) and his wife Michelene did. They welcomed a boy named Rishawn. The next year, the baby name Rishawn debuted in the data. It was one of the top debut names of 1985, in fact.
In November of 1986, football player Willie Gault and his wife Dainnese welcomed a baby girl named Shakari. The next year, the baby name Shakari debuted in the data.
I wrote about Condola a few months ago, but here’s a recap: In December of 1986, actress Phylicia Rashad and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad welcomed a baby girl named Condola. The next year, the baby name Condola debuted in the data.
In December of 1987, filmmaker/actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow welcomed a baby boy named Satchel. The next year, the baby name Satchel debuted in the data. He now goes by Ronan, and rumor has it that he is *possibly* the biological son of Frank Sinatra.
Kady, which became more popular after Pia Zadora named her daughter Kady in early 1985.
At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In July of 1991, actors Demi Moore and Bruce Willis welcomed a baby girl named Scout. (And in August, that famous image of 7-months-pregnant Demi ran on the cover of Vanity Fair.) The next year, the baby name Scout debuted in the data, for both genders.
In February of 1995, actor Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy welcomed twin baby girls named Aquinnah and Schuyler. The same year, the baby name Aquinnah debuted in the data. (I wrote more about the name Aquinnah a few years ago.)
In July of 1998, model Christie Brinkley and her husband Peter welcomed a baby girl named Sailor. The same year, the baby name Sailor debuted in the data as a girl name. It had debuted as a boy name the year before.
Some honorable mentions from the 1990s:
Ireland, which became more popular after Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger named their daughter Ireland in 1995.