The interesting name Chael, after first appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the early 2000s, rose to peak usage in 2013:
2015: 35 baby boys named Chael
2014: 60 baby boys named Chael
2013: 96 baby boys named Chael [peak]
2012: 61 baby boys named Chael
2011: 34 baby boys named Chael
What was the influence?
Mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen (pronounced CHAYL SUN-en; first name similar to “jail”), whose career lasted from the late 1990s to the late 2010s.
He was most famous during the early 2010s, when he was a top contender in two different UFC weight classes. Also during that time period, he cemented his reputation as one of MMA’s best trash-talkers.
Sonnen’s initial fight with Anderson Silva* for the UFC Middleweight Championship in August of 2010 was voted Fight of the Year at the annual World MMA awards. Ahead of their highly anticipated re-match in July of 2012, a Bleacher Report writer said:
Chael Sonnen is a name that seems to be on the tip of every MMA fans’ tongues these days. Whether you’re online or watching UFC televised programming, Sonnen’s name and face are everywhere.
In April of 2013, Sonnen lost his third and final title bout, this time against Jon Jones in the Light Heavyweight division. But he did win MMA Personality of the Year in 2013 — ousting the usual recipient, Joe Rogan.
So how did Sonnen, who was born in Oregon in 1977, get the first name Chael? Here’s what he said during a Reddit AMA a few years ago:
My Mom took the name “Michael” and removed the “Mi”.
Here are Jermaine’s thoughts on some of the Jackson family names, from his memoir:
I have often wondered how many names my parents went through before agreeing on the final nine. Not that it mattered in the end, because the choice of “Sigmund Esco” for their first son morphed into “Jackie” when Papa Samuel thought it easy to refer to him as “Jackson boy,” then laziness shortened it some more. And “Tariano Adaryl” [sic] became “Tito” because it was easier for us all. I was forever curious as a child about how two people’s taste could go from the exotic-sounding “Jermaine LaJuane” to “Michael Joe.” From somewhere, and especially after Michael’s death, a rumor began that his middle name was Joseph. Maybe this myth prefers the echo with our father’s name because the crossover reads better about a father and son who struggled to see eye to eye. “Joe” was his middle name, as recorded on his birth certificate. His first name was almost “Ronald,” at the suggestion of Mama Martha, but Mother quickly quashed that one.
(Papa Samuel was Jermaine’s paternal grandfather; Mama Martha was his maternal grandmother.)
The Jackson 5, whose “bubblegum soul” sound made them remarkably successful in the early 1970s, consisted of five musically gifted brothers out of Gary, Indiana. Their names were:
Sigmund Esco “Jackie” Jackson, b. 1951
Toriano Adaryll “Tito” Jackson, b. 1953
Records suggest that Tito’s first name was actually “Tariano,” but the press typically spelled it “Toriano.”
Jermaine LaJuane Jackson, b. 1954
Marlon David Jackson, b. 1957
Michael Joe Jackson, b. 1958
The brothers began performing together in the mid-1960s, but Jacksonmania didn’t hit until 1970, with the success of songs like “I Want You Back” (1969), “ABC” (1970), “The Love You Save” (1970), and “I’ll Be There” (1970) — all four of which hit #1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart.
At the height of their fame, the boys even had a Saturday morning cartoon show called “The Jackson 5ive” (1971-1972).
So how did the Jacksons’ celebrity affect U.S. baby names in the early 1970s? Let’s go brother by brother…
Jackie Jackson couldn’t stop the name Jackie from trending downward, and he didn’t do much for the unusual name Esco, but the name Sigmund did see a distinct uptick in usage in 1971.
Tito’s first son, Toriano Adaryll “Taj” Jackson, Jr. (b. 1973) — whose nickname was derived from his initials — gave the name Taj a boost. His second son, Taryll (b. 1975), was behind the debut of the name Taryll (also mentioned here).
Jermaine Jackson, the co-lead vocalist of the group (with Michael), brought so much attention to the name Jermaine that it not only entered the top 1,000, but nearly cracked the top 100 as well:
1974: 1,628 baby boys named Jermaine [rank: 151st]
1973: 2,039 baby boys named Jermaine [rank: 127th]
1972: 1,966 baby boys named Jermaine [rank: 135th]
1971: 1,015 baby boys named Jermaine [rank: 233rd]
Jermaine’s middle name, LaJuane, also debuted (in 1971).
Jermaine had a total of nine children, one of whom was named (rather infamously) Jermajesty.
Marlon Jackson was the main reason that the name Marlon saw peak usage in 1972. (But he had some help from Marlon Brando, whose movie The Godfather came out the same year.)
Michael Jackson — who was still a decade away from releasing his massively popular solo album Thriller — couldn’t ultimately reverse the decline of the name Michael. But the combined influence of Michael Jackson and other famous Michaels (like basketball star Michael Jordan, and TV star Michael Landon) did help the name’s usage level out somewhat during the 1970s and ’80s.
Which Jackson 5 name is your favorite? (And, if you were around during Jacksonmania: Which group member was your favorite?)
While you ponder these questions, check out the group’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in December of 1969: