A couple of months ago, I got an email from someone who wanted to know why the baby name Kalene saw so much usage all of a sudden in 1993:
- 1995: 41 baby girls named Kia
- 1994: 85 baby girls named Kia
- 1993: 204 baby girls named Kia [rank: 929th] – peak usage
- 1992: 24 baby girls named Kia
- 1991: 7 baby girls named Kia
Here’s a visual:
Other Kalene-like names also saw higher usage in 1993, and at least one of them (Kaylean) was a newbie in the data.
So I did some research. And I didn’t come up with anything useful until I found myself on the Kalene page of a random baby name site where several people happened to mention the same Hooked on Phonics commercial:
- “…I seen a Hooked on Phonics Commercial…”
- “…my mom got it off of the hooked on phonics commercial…”
- “…I too saw the name on the Hooked On Phonics commercial…”
- “…My mom got it off the commercial in the 1990’s…”
- …”My mom named me Kalene because she saw it on tv…”
- “…my name was originally Christie but my mom saw a ‘hooked on phonics’ commercial about a month after i was born and she changed my name…”
One of my favorite things ever is discovering cheesy pop culture enshrined in the baby name data (excellent example: Kebrina), so finding out that a Hooked on Phonics commercial influenced U.S. baby names was pretty epic for me.
Since that point, I’ve been searching for that specific Hooked on Phonics commercial featuring Kalene.
On YouTube I found a segment of a Hooked on Phonics commercial with a Cindy Brady-esque little girl. She seemed promising…but the segment didn’t include her name on-screen.
That said, I did find a discussion thread from the 1990s — a cool piece of internet history in and of itself — that independently verified the existence of a Hooked on Phonics commercial featuring a girl named Kalene. So that was helpful.
(The search for a decades-old commercial is reminding me of our adventures with Deneen.)
So I’m not sure whether or not we’ve found Kalene yet, but one of the other Hooked on Phonics commercials I saw spotlighted a girl named Kia:
And, just like Kalene, the name Kia saw its highest-ever usage in 1993:
- 1995: 211 baby girls named Kia [rank: 899th]
- 1994: 229 baby girls named Kia [rank: 859th]
- 1993: 344 baby girls named Kia [rank: 649th] – peak usage
- 1992: 247 baby girls named Kia [rank: 813th]
- 1991: 253 baby girls named Kia [rank: 809th]
(South Korean company Kia Motors began selling cars in the U.S. during the final months of 1993, but I doubt this had much impact on the name.)
…So now we have two Hooked on Phonics-influenced baby names. Amazing.
Question of the Day: Do you remember any other names from old Hooked on Phonics commercials? The company was advertising heavily on TV back in the 1990s — that much I remember — but I can’t recall any specific names from the commercials. Please leave a comment if you can think of any!
UPDATE, Nov. 2022: Kalene has been identified! (Thank you to reader Ellyn for the help!)
We’ve unearthed a Hooked on Phonics commercial featuring several different children, including the little blonde girl with pigtails. Turns out that her name is indeed Kalene!
Kia was also in the commercial:
The other children were three boys named Blake, Billy, and Adam.