These baby names are one-hit wonders in the U.S. baby name data. That is, they’ve only popped up once, ever, in the entire dataset of U.S. baby names (which accounts for all names given to at least 5 U.S. babies per year since 1880).
There are thousands of one-hit wonders in the dataset, but the names below have interesting stories behind their single appearance, so these are the one-hits I’m writing specific posts about. Just click on a name to read more.
The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, which commemorated the Louisiana Purchase, included “anthropological exhibits” — essentially, various groups of indigenous people put on display. These exhibits included Apaches, “Eskimos” (Tlingits), African Pygmies, and the Ainu of Japan.
One particularly popular exhibit was the 47-acre Philippine Exposition, which featured over 1,000 Filipinos from at least 10 different ethnic groups. (The fair was held soon after the Philippines had become an unincorporated territory of the U.S. following the Philippine-American War* (1899-1902), which itself followed the Spanish-American War.)
On July 6, a Filipino baby boy was born at the Philippine Exposition. When he was christened several weeks later, David R. Francis — the president of the fair (and the former governor of Missouri) — acted as godfather.
The boy’s full name? Louis Francis Silva, first and middle names “in honor of St. Louis and President Francis,” respectively.
The gritty TV police drama Toma, which starred actor Tony Musante as New Jersey police detective David Toma, started airing in 1973.
The year the show premiered, the baby name Toma, which had only ever appeared in the data as a girl name, started seeing usage as a boy name. It even cracked the boys’ top 1,000 briefly.
Baby girls named Toma
Baby boys named Toma
84 [rank: 884th]
But usage returned to pre-Toma levels after the series was canceled in 1974.
In 1975, a retooled version of Toma called Baretta came out. The new show, which starred Robert Blake as New York City police detective Tony Baretta, was less violent and included more comic relief than the original. (Baretta had a pet cockatoo named Fred, and one of his informants was a man called Rooster.)
In response, the name Baretta debuted in the baby name data, and it remained there for the same number of years the Emmy-winning series was on the air (1975-1978).
1978: 8 baby boys named Baretta
1977: 13 baby boys named Baretta
1976: 6 baby girls / 13 baby boys named Baretta
1975: 14 baby girls [debut] / 18 baby boys [debut] named Baretta
Notice how the name debuted on both sides of the list. Other dual-debut names from the 1970s include Chaffee, Chudney, Khaalis, Shilo, Sundown, and Tavares.
The influence wasn’t the movie that gave yesterday’s name Ilya a boost, but the Cold War-era spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which premiered on TV in 1964 and ran until 1968. (U.N.C.L.E. was an acronym for “United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.”)
The main characters were CIA agent Napoleon Solo (played by Robert Vaughn) and KGB agent Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin (played by David McCallum). Illya, a Slavic form of Elijah, was spelled out in the opening credits.
The name Napoleon may have also gotten a slight boost from the show, though it’s hard to tell.
Bottled water became increasingly trendy in the U.S. during the final decades of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the mid-to-late ’90s, though, that major players in the beverage industry finally hopped on the bandwagon: Pepsi launched Aquafina in 1994, and Coca-Cola followed with Dasani in 1999.
While I’ve never* seen “Aquafina” used as a human name, Dasani popped up in the U.S. baby name data right on cue in 1999. In fact, in was a rare dual-gender** debut that year:
People are having a lot of fun guessing the origin of the name DASANI. One Coca-Cola executive jokingly said it sounded like a “Roman god of water.” Actually, the name DASANI is an original creation. Consumer testing showed that the name is relaxing and suggests pureness and replenishment.
Similarly, an article from early 1999 explained that “the name Dasani isn’t derived from any existing word, English or foreign, but is meant to evoke the idea of freshness and purity.”
What are your thoughts on the baby name Dasani?
*I’ve seen Aquafina used as a stage name, though: Awkwafina (born Nora Lum).