It’s almost Halloween! So let’s look at the curious girl name Loey, which debuted in the U.S. baby name data at the start of the ’70s:
1970: 11 baby girls named Loey [debut]
What put it there?
A character from the TV horror movie Ritual of Evil, which premiered in February of 1970. It was a sequel to the 1969 TV movie Fear No Evil, and so it featured the same main character: psychiatrist David Sorrell.
In Ritual of Evil, Dr. Sorrell investigated the death of one of his patients, a young heiress. Turns out she was killed by a Satanic cult, and her little sister Loey (played by Belinda Montgomery) was now in danger as well.
In the film, the name “Loey” was pronounced to rhyme with Chloe and Zoe.
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 (asterisks denote debuts):
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.
Honorable mentions from the ’50s include:
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.
Honorable mentions from the ’60s include:
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.
Honorable mentions from the ’90s include:
Ireland, which became more popular after Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger named their daughter Ireland in 1995.
Seven, which became more popular after Erykah Badu named her son Seven in 1997.
Zion, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her son Zion in 1997.
Selah, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her daughter Selah in 1998.
Ronan, which became more popular after Daniel Day-Lewis named his son Ronan in 1998.
At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 2001, singer Shania Twain and her husband Robert welcomed a baby boy named Eja. The same year, the baby name Eja debuted in the data (as a girl name).
In August of 2001, actors Tisha Campbell-Martin and Duane Martin welcomed a baby boy named Xen. The same year, the baby name Xen debuted in the data.
In May of 2002, actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Rebecca Miller welcomed a baby boy named Cashel. The next year, the baby name Cashel debuted in the data.
In March of 2003, singer Toni Braxton and musician Keri Lewis welcomed a baby boy named Diezel. The same year, the baby name Diezel debuted in the data.
In June of 2005, magician Penn Jillette and his wife Emily welcomed a baby girl named Moxie (middle name CrimeFighter). The next year, the baby name Moxie debuted in the data.
In September of 2006, model Anna Nicole Smith and her partner Larry Birkhead welcomed a baby girl named Dannielynn. The next year, the baby name Dannielynn debuted in the data.
Honorable mentions from the ’00s include:
Massai, which became more popular after Nia Long named her son Massai in 2000.
Rocco, which became more popular after Madonna and Guy Ritchie named their son Rocco in 2000.
Denim, which became more popular after Toni Braxton named her son Denim in 2001.
Maddox, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted son Maddox in 2002.
Carys, which became more popular after Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas named their daughter Carys in 2003.
Stellan, which became more popular after Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their son Stellan in 2003.
Apple, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple in 2004.
Coco, which became more popular after Courtney Cox and David Arquette named their daughter Coco in 2004.
Zahara, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted daughter Zahara in 2005.
Moses, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their son Moses in 2006.
Kingston, which became more popular after Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale named their son Kingston in 2006.
Suri, which became more popular after Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their daughter Suri in 2006.
Shiloh, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter Shiloh in 2006.
Pax, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their adopted son Pax in 2007.
Harlow, which became more popular after Nicole Richie and Joel Madden named their daughter Harlow in 2008.
Knox & Vivienne, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their twins Knox and Vivienne in 2008.
Honor, which became more popular after Jessica Alba named her daughter Honor in 2008.
Nahla, which became more popular after Halle Berry named her daughter Nahla in 2008.
Bronx, which became more popular after Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son Bronx in 2008.
The most curious Christian name I ever came across was Adnil, given to a girl born in Aberdeen. Her mother’s name was Linda. At the time of her birth the child’s parents were not on very good terms, and the father, in a moment of freakishness, inverted the mother’s name with the above result. The child died in early childhood.
I’m going to try to use “moment of freakishness” in a sentence today. We’ll see how it goes.
Adnil is clunky, but it’s far better than Nevaehtnes.
Adnil has never been on an SSA list, but I’ve found a few doing records searches. Adnil Lorraine Bailey, for instance, was born in California circa 1907 to Charles and Linda Bailey. And Mary Adnil Killebrew was born in North Carolina in 1906 to W. H. and Linda B. Killebrew.
I even spotted an Adnileb — Belinda backwards — born in California in 1991.
What do you think of Adnil?
Source: “Curious Christian Names.” Notes and Queries 27 Feb. 1904: 171.
A pair of real-life “Danger is my middle name” babies have been featured in the news lately:
Rafferty Basil Danger Wills, born in January to Felicity and Sam Wills of England.
Stephen Danger James, born in January to Telita and Dean James of Australia.
But these aren’t the first dangerously named babies to make headlines. Here are some earlier examples:
Nash Edward Danger Gray, born in 2011 to Jon and Ruth Gray of Nevada.
Bodhi Danger Huxhagen, born in 2011 to Rowan and Belinda Huxhagen of Australia.
Billie Danger Lampard (girl) and Ridley Danger Lampard (boy), twins, born in 2010 to Amy and Glenn Lampard of Australia.
Radley Danger Chapple, born circa 2008 to Peppa and John Chapple (photographer) of California.
Maxwell Danger Rogers, born in 2006 to Chloe Maxwell and Mat Rogers (athlete) of Australia.
Broderick Danger Scott, born in 2006 to Sarah Wilner and Kevin Scott of California.
Jakob Danger Armstrong, born in 1998 to Adrienne and Billie Joe Armstrong (musician) of California.
And I’ve come across a few other examples that never made the news.
So, just how common is the middle name Danger?
The SSA doesn’t publish middle name data, so there’s no official set of numbers we can look at. Fellow baby name blogger Laura Wattenberg claimed last year that Danger was a “really popular middle name for boys right now.” I disagree — Danger is still uncommon/bizarre enough to be newsworthy, after all — but it does look like Danger has been picking up steam lately.
Would you ever consider (I mean seriously consider) giving your baby the middle name Danger?
I do. All the time. (Though I’m not nearly as bad as my husband.)
I ask because I believe today’s baby name(s) can be traced back to a specific set of lyrics misheard by dozens of parents a little more than 20 years ago.
Casara, Kasarah, Cassara, and Casarah all debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1987. The same year, Kasara returned to the data after popping up only once before (in the mid-1970s). And, in 1988, Cassarah made its first and only appearance.
At first I couldn’t figure them out. They didn’t look like alternative spellings of a more popular name. They all emerged at about the same time, pointing to a single pop culture source, but the origin wasn’t obvious (as it had been with names like Daughtry and Cheetara.)
Finally, months after discovering them, I came up with a decent theory.
Let’s set the scene. Artists on the radio back in 1987 included U2, George Michael, Whitney Houston, Tiffany, Billy Idol, Madonna, The Bangles, Bon Jovi, Kim Wilde, Los Lobos with “La Bamba,” Belinda Carlisle, Exposé, Atlantic Starr…and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam.
In fact, 1987 was a great year for Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. Their second album, Spanish Fly, went platinum in August. Two songs from the album ended up hitting #1 on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” chart — “Head to Toe” in June, and “Lost In Emotion” in October.
Below is the video for “Lost in Emotion.” Pay special attention to the following lines (starting at 1:27):
Que sera, que sera Baby, whatever will be Que sera, que sera Between you and me
(How awesome is all that ’80s fashion/styling, btw?)
That “que sera, que sera” in the chorus is a corruption of the phrase “que sera, sera,” which was created for the earlier song “Que Sera, Sera” (1956).
The phrase “que sera, sera” — commonly thought to mean “whatever will be, will be” — is an hispanicized form of “che sera, sera,” which itself is an an ungrammatical corruption of the Italian phrase quel che sarà, sarà, meaning “that which will be, will be.”
Anyway…to someone casually listening to “Lost in Emotion” on the radio, the words “que sera” blend together and sound just like Kasara, Casara, and the other names above.
Well, not “proof” exactly. But an enticing bit of evidence.
I did a search for anyone (a blogger, say) who’d written about mistaking “que sera” for a girl name. Just to see if anyone could back me up.
Check out this comment I found at song site Am I Right:
Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s, “Lost In Emotion”
The Misheard Lyrics: Kassarah, Kassarah
The Real Lyrics: Lost in emotion Que sera, que sera.
The Story: My sister named my niece Kassarah after this song. Ooops, oh well a beautifully unique name for a beautiful, unique girl! – Submitted by: Sandee
(Incidentally, the spelling Kassarah has never appeared in the U.S. baby name data.)
So that’s what I suspect — in the late ’80s, dozens of expectant parents heard Lisa Lisa’s “Lost in Emotion,” interpreted “que sera” as a female name, and used the mondegreen as a baby name, spelling it various ways (e.g. Kasara, Casara, Kasarah).
But I’d love to hear other theories if anyone out there has a better explanation.