So today let’s check out another fun set of “top” names: the top rises. The names below are those that increased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next according to the SSA data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year jumps in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Isa grew 240% and usage of the boy name Noble grew 333%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot more accurate starting in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
(Did you catch all the doubles? Tula, Delano, Tammy, Jermaine, and Davey/Davy.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about many of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it! Leave a comment and let us know what popularized Dorla in 1929, or Lauren in 1945, or Dustin in 1968, or Kayleigh in 1985, or Talan in 2005…
In the middle of the ’50s, the rare name Corby — typically given to baby boys — was given to dozens of baby girls all of a sudden. In fact, Corby was the top debut name of 1954.
Girls named Corby
Boys named Corby
Because of the 1954 movie She Couldn’t Say No, which starred Jean Simmons as English oil heiress Corby Lane. (Her co-star was Robert Mitchum, who played the doctor in the rural Arkansas town where the story was set.)
The baby name Corby never took off, though — for either gender. It returned to male-majority usage by the end of the ’50s, and these days it’s so rare that it doesn’t even appear in the SSA data every year (there’s a 5-baby cutoff).
I’m not sure if there was a story behind Corby Lane’s unusual name in the film, but I can tell you that the surname Corby has several possible derivations. The English version, for instance, can be traced back to any of various English place names, several of which were derived from the Old Norse personal name Kori (meaning unknown) combined with the Old Norse word býr, meaning “village, town.” The French version, on the other hand, was derived from the Old French word corb, meaning “crow.”
Do you like Corby as a baby name? Do you like it better for girls or for boys?
Source: Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!
So far, the baby name Varinia has appeared in the U.S. baby name data just three times. The first two appearances were in the early 1960s:
1962: 7 baby girls named Varinia
1961: 5 baby girls named Varinia [debut]
What put this rare name on the onomastic map?
The 1960 film Spartacus, which starred Kirk Douglas as rebellious Thracian slave Spartacus. Varinia, played by Jean Simmons, was a slave girl from Britannia who become Spartacus’ wife.
The movie was based on the 1951 novel of the same name by Howard Fast. The author invented the character Varinia (originally Germanic, not Britannic) for the book.
Though we know that the real-life Spartacus had a wife — she’s mentioned by Plutarch — we don’t know what her name was. The name chosen by Fast is a form of the Roman name Varinius, which might be based on the Latin word varius, meaning “various, variegated.”
Incidentally, this wasn’t the first time that Jean Simmons played a name-influencing character. In 1954, she was appearing in theaters as both Désirée Clary and Corby Lane.