How popular is the baby name Charisse in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Use the popularity graph and data table below to find out! Plus, see all the blog posts that mention the name Charisse.
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Kenyan middle- and long-distance runner Kipchoge Keino (pronounced kip-CHOH-gay KAY-noh) won a total of four medals at two different Summer Olympics: the 1968 Games in Mexico City and the 1972 Games in Munich.
Kip Keino’s most memorable race was his unlikely win in the 1,500 metre in ’68, but KipchogeKeino‘s names — both first and last — didn’t enter the U.S. baby name data until ’72:
Boys named Kipchoge
Boys named Keino
He won a gold and a silver in ’72, but a more important factor (in terms of baby names) may have been the naming climate in the U.S. in the early ’70s. A growing number of African-Americans were actively looking for African baby names at that time. (Check out this “Names from Africa” post for more.)
The name Kipchoge, a one-hit wonder in the data, means “born near the store for maize” in the Nandi language.
After retiring from competition, Kip Keino — whose full name is actually Hezekiah Kipchoge Keino — continued to work in sports. In the meanwhile, he and his wife Phyllis took in more than 100 orphaned children (and had seven of their own).
Each child has been given a name in English and Nandi, Kip’s native tongue. They include Claire/Cherop (“born when it’s raining”), Angela/Chepngetrik (“born when the cows go grazing”) and Susan/Chepchirchir (“born in a big hurry”).
For this and other humanitarian work, Keino has been honored in various ways, such as by winning the (very first) Olympic Laurel in 2016.
In 1948, the baby name Darina first appeared in the U.S. baby name data:
1950: 5 baby girls named Darina
1948: 7 baby girls named Darina [debut]
Where did it come from?
My guess is the movie The Unfinished Dance (1947).
The main character was a young girl in ballet school named Meg. She idolized the head of the school, Ariane Bouchet (played by Cyd Charisse), so when she learned that Ariane would not be dancing the lead in the upcoming production of Swan Lake — that the part would instead go to visiting prima ballerina Anna La Darina — she was not pleased. In fact, she set out to sabotage “La Darina.”
But things went too far: while La Darina was dancing a solo sequence on opening night, Meg went for the light switch…but ended up pulling the trap door lever instead. La Darina fell through the stage, injured her spine, and was told that she would never dance again.
By the end of the movie, Meg discovered that she’d been idolizing the wrong person all along. Ariane was revealed to be self-absorbed, whereas La Darina proved to be generous and forgiving.
But she wasn’t just becoming a familiar face in the movie theaters — she was also having a strong influence on baby names. In 2000, the name Jolie broke into the U.S. top 1,000 for the first time, and, a year later, the name Angelina entered the top 100 for the first time:
Girls named Angelina
Girls named Jolie
4,271 (rank: 71st)
377 (rank: 691st)
3,979 (rank: 74th)
412 (rank: 620th)
3,368 (rank: 93rd)
385 (rank: 655th)
2,140 (rank: 157th)
275 (rank: 820th)
1,327 (rank: 237th)
152 (rank: 1,241st)
1,167 (rank: 268th)
109 (rank: 1,536th)
Best of all, though, are the debuts of Anjolina and Anjolie — names that cleverly blend “Angelina” with “Jolie” — in 2000. I know of other actresses (e.g., Cyd Charisse, Pier Angeli) who popularized both their first and last names, but Angie is the only one I know of to inspire mash-ups like this.
Which name do you like better for a baby girl, Angelina or Jolie? (Or do you prefer one of the portmanteaus?)
The name Chemise first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1958:
1958: 7 baby girls named Chemise [debut]
At first I didn’t think much of it, as chemise is an old French word (originally for a woman’s undergarment) that happens to have a pleasant sound: sheh-MEEZ or sheh-MEES (similar to Charisse). Seeing it pop up in the ’50s data didn’t really surprise me.
But then I did some research…and discovered a fascinating bit of fashion history.
For most of the ’50s, the dominant silhouette in ladies’ fashion was an hourglass shape that included defined waists and full skirts.
But in 1957 specifically, several high-fashion designers (including Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Laroche) shook things up by presenting dresses that hung loose from the shoulder and were not cinched at the waist.
These shapeless “chemise” dresses — sometimes called “bag” or “sack” dresses — ended up being a hot topic in the American press during the last months of 1957 and throughout 1958. Supporters praised chemises for being modern and simple; detractors called them ungainly and ugly.
Perhaps even more importantly, the controversy inspired the novelty song “No Chemise, Please” [vid] by Gerry Granahan. It was popular over the summer of 1958.
After a while, the debate died down and the silhouette became accepted (and eventually mainstream). But not before it had given the French word chemise lots of extra exposure. And this extra exposure ended up having a (slight) effect on American baby names, resulting in that 1958 debut in the data.
So what do you think of Chemise as a baby name? (How about as a dress style?)