Several months ago, the cast of the inaugural season of MTV’s The Real World held a 6-day reunion in the very same NYC loft they shared back in 1992. The reunion — which was filmed, of course — is now airing as a series on the Paramount+ platform. (Here’s the trailer.)
When I was a teenager, I loved watching The Real World. (And I appreciated that the names of the cast members were always prominently displayed in the opening credits!) So I think now would be a great time to go back and see if any Real World cast member names had an influence on U.S. baby names.
First, let’s start with a comprehensive list of all the cast member names from each of RW‘s 33 (!) seasons…
The Real World: New York (1992): Andre, Becky, Eric, Heather, Julie, Kevin, Norman
The Real World: California (1993): Aaron, Beth (x2), David, Dominic, Glen, Irene, Jon, Tami
The Real World: San Francisco (1994): Cory, Jo, Judd, Mohammed, Pam, Pedro, Puck, Rachel
The Real World: London (1995): Jacinda, Jay, Kat, Lars, Mike, Neil, Sharon
The Real World: Miami (1996): Cynthia, Dan, Flora, Joe, Melissa, Mike, Sarah
The Real World: Boston (1997): Elka, Genesis, Jason, Kameelah, Montana, Sean, Syrus
The Real World: Seattle (1998): David, Irene, Janet, Lindsay, Nathan, Rebecca, Stephen
The Real World: Hawaii (1999): Amaya, Colin, Justin, Kaia, Matt, Ruthie, Teck
The Real World: New Orleans (2000): Danny, David, Jamie, Julie, Kelley, Matt, Melissa
The Real World: Back to New York (2001): Coral, Kevin, Lori, Malik, Mike, Nicole, Rachel
The Real World: Chicago (2002): Aneesa, Cara, Chris, Keri, Kyle, Theo, Tonya
The Real World: Las Vegas (2002-2003): Alton, Arissa, Brynn, Frank, Irulan, Steven, Trishelle
The Real World: Paris (2003): Ace, Adam, Chris, Christina, Leah, Mallory, Simon
The Real World: San Diego (2004): Brad, Cameran, Charlie, Frankie, Jacquese, Jamie, Randy, Robin
The Real World: Philadelphia (2004-2005): Karamo, Landon, Melanie, M.J., Sarah, Shavonda, Willie
The Real World: Austin (2005): Danny, Johanna, Lacey, Melinda, Nehemiah, Rachel, Wes
The Real World: Key West (2006): Janelle, John, Jose, Paula, Svetlana, Tyler, Zach
The Real World: Denver (2006-2007): Alex, Brooke, Colie, Davis, Jenn, Stephen, Tyrie
The Real World: Sydney (2007-2008): Ashli, Cohutta, Dunbar, Isaac, KellyAnne, Parisa, Shauvon, Trisha
The Real World: Hollywood (2008): Brianna, Brittini, Dave, Greg, Joey, Kimberly, Nick, Sarah, Will
The Real World: Brooklyn (2009): Baya, Chet, Devyn, J.D., Katelynn, Ryan, Sarah, Scott
The Real World: Cancun (2009): Ayiiia, Bronne, CJ, Derek, Emilee, Jasmine, Joey, Jonna
The Real World: D.C. (2009-2010): Andrew, Ashley, Callie, Emily, Erika, Josh, Mike, Ty
The Real World: New Orleans (2010): Ashlee, Eric, Jemmye, McKenzie, Preston, Ryan (x2), Sahar
The Real World: Las Vegas (2011): Adam, Dustin, Heather (x2), Leroy, Michael, Nany, Naomi
The Real World: San Diego (2011): Alexandra, Ashley, Frank, Nate, Priscilla, Sam, Zach
The Real World: St. Thomas (2012): Brandon (x2), LaToya, Laura, Marie, Robb, Trey
The Real World: Portland (2013): Anastasia, Averey, Jessica, Johnny, Joi, Jordan, Marlon, Nia
Real World: Ex-Plosion (2014): Arielle, Ashley (x2), Brian, Cory, Hailey, Jamie, Jay, Jenna, Jenny, Lauren, Thomas
Real World: Go Big or Go Home (2016): CeeJai, Chris, Dean, Dione, Dylan, Jenna, Kailah, Sabrina
Real World Seattle: Bad Blood (2016-2017): Anika, Anna, Jennifer, Jordan, Kassius, Katrina, Kimberly, Mike, Orlana, Peter, Robbie, Theo, Tyara, Will
The Real World: Atlanta (2019): Arely, Clint, Dondre, Justin, Meagan, Tovah, Yasmin
The names in boldface line up with a discernible increase in baby name usage. (Other Real World names may have affected baby names as well, but it can be hard to tell when, say, a name is already common, or already on the rise.)
Here are details on all the boldfaced names, plus two more influential RW names (from seasons 6 and 18) that didn’t even belong to primary cast members.
The name Jacinda (from season 4; 1995) saw peak usage in 1996.
The name Flora (5; 1996) saw increased usage in 1997.
The name Kameelah (6; 1997) saw increased usage in 1998.
The name Syrus (6; 1997) saw increased usage in 1997.
The name Jason (6; 1997) was probably not affected, but the name of Jason’s girlfriend, Timber, saw increased usage in 1998.
The name Amaya (8; 1999) saw sharply increased usage in 1999 and 2000.
The name Kaia (8; 1999) saw increased usage in 1999.
The name Ruthie (8; 1999) saw increased usage in 1999.
The name Aneesa (11; 2002) saw peak usage in 2002.
The name Arissa (12; 2002-3) saw peak usage in 2003.
The name Brynn (12; 2002-3) saw sharply increased usage in 2003.
The name Irulan (12; 2002-3) debuted in the data in 2003.
It looks like she was named after the fictional character Princess Irulan from Frank Herbert’s Dune books…?
The name Trishelle (12; 2002-3) saw peak usage in 2004.
The name Mallory (13; 2003) saw increased usage in 2003 and 2004.
The name Cameran (14; 2004) saw peak usage in 2004.
The name Jacquese (14; 2004) both returned to the data and saw peak usage in 2004.
The name Johanna (16; 2005) saw increased usage in 2005.
The name Nehemiah (16; 2005) saw increased usage in 2005 and 2006.
The name Janelle (17; 2006) saw increased usage in 2006.
The name Svetlana (17; 2006) saw peak usage in 2007.
The name Colie (18; 2006-7) both returned to the data and saw peak usage in 2007.
The name Tyrie (18; 2006-7) saw peak usage in 2007.
Girl-crazy teenager Dobie Gillis was a character created by writer Max Shulman in the 1940s. He was first brought to life in the movie The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953, but the most memorable portrayal of Dobie was by Dwayne Hickman in the four-season TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which premiered in September of 1959.
Dobie Gillis is notable for being “the first prime-time series to consistently privilege teenage characters, activities, and spaces over those associated with family shows.”
It was also known for the unusual character names. Dobie (pronounced doh-bee, rhymes with Toby) had friends with names like:
Maynard (a beatnik played by Bob Denver, who later portrayed Gilligan)
Zelda (a brainiac played by Sheila James Kuehl, sister of Jeri Lou)
Thalia Menninger (a rich girl played by Tuesday Weld)
These “uncommon first names [were] evidently meant to seem vaguely silly in their failure to conform with ’50s norms.”
The show ended up influencing the usage of several baby names. First of all, it was behind the debut of the name Dobie in 1960:
1964: 9 baby boys named Dobie
1962: 6 baby boys named Dobie
1961: 8 baby boys named Dobie
1960: 9 baby boys named Dobie [debut]
The name Thalia also saw a spike in usage in 1960, which makes sense because all but two of the episodes featuring Thalia Menninger were first-season (1959-1960) episodes. Dobie pronounced Thalia’s name thale-ya.
1964: 46 baby girls named Thalia
1963: 42 baby girls named Thalia
1962: 42 baby girls named Thalia
1961: 46 baby girls named Thalia
1960: 90 baby girls named Thalia
1959: 30 baby girls named Thalia
1958: 24 baby girls named Thalia
Finally, the name Zelda saw elevated usage in the early ’60s:
1964: 133 baby girls named Zelda
1963: 171 baby girls named Zelda
1962: 178 baby girls named Zelda
1961: 168 baby girls named Zelda
1960: 136 baby girls named Zelda
1959: 142 baby girls named Zelda
1958: 131 baby girls named Zelda
Fun fact: Zelda — who pursued Dobie as ardently as Dobie pursued all other females — once convinced a girl named Phyllis to break it off with Dobie by warning her that her married name would be “Phyllis Gillis.”
Many of the secondary and single-episode characters had unusual names as well. Here are some examples:
Aphrodite Arabella Aristede Blossom Bruno Bubbles Chatsworth
Do you like any of the above Dobie Gillis names? How about the name “Dobie” itself?
Kearney, Mary C. “Teenagers and Television in the United States.” Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television, ed. by Horace Newcomb, 2nd ed., New York: Routledge, 2013, pp. 2276-2281.
Sterritt, David. Mad to be Saved: The Beats, the ’50s, and Film. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.
Looking for a surname-inspired baby name with a connection to Catholicism?
Here are more than 200 options, most of which come from Catholic Englishmen martyred during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Because the goal was to include as many realistic baby names as possible, I interpreted “surname” and “saint” liberally in some cases. Xavier is not technically a surname, for instance, and many of the folks below are not yet full-fledged saints.
The hyperlinked names will take you to popularity graphs.
In 1872, The Burlington Free Press printed a story about a 98-year-old widow in Vermont who’d given birth to 23 children.
Marie Abert was born in Quebec in 1773 and married her late husband, Francois Peppin, at the age of 17. They left Canada for Vermont in 1838.
It was noticeable, in conversation with the old lady, that while her memory of the names and ages of her elder children was quite distinct, her recollection of the latter ones who have died grew indistinct, after the fifteenth or sixteenth, and the names of four she was unable to give us.
Here are the names of most of her children:
1. Francois 2. Antoine 3. Marie 4. Jean Baptise 5. Pierre 6. Joseph 7. Oliver 8. Pauline (twin) 9. Clemence (twin) 10. Julia 11. Andrew 12. Timothy 13. Hortense 14. Clemence 15. Zoe 16. “After Zoe came four children, two boys and two girls, all of whom died young.” 17. ? 18. ? 19. ? 20. Bruno 21. Paul 22. Seth 23. ? (boy)
Marie and Francois also had at least 99 grandchildren and 98 great-grandchildren.
Which of the 23 names — the ones that are known, anyway — is your favorite?
But I’m writing them up a bit differently this year — I’m only focusing on 20 big winners.
How did I choose these 20? First, I eliminated all the names that didn’t see increased usage in 2013. Then I eliminated the names that saw relatively small increases in usage. Then I eliminated the names that saw more or less expected increases in usage, given their trajectories.
That left me with about 20 names that became more popular in 2013 due mainly (in some cases entirely) to pop culture influence.