How popular is the baby name Kasara in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Kasara.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Kasara


Posts that Mention the Name Kasara

Where did the baby name Geddy come from?

Geddy Lee of the band Rush (in 2004).
Geddy Lee of Rush

Last weekend, the Toronto Zoo announced that its three capybara pups would be named Geddy, Alex, and Neil in honor of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart — the three members of Canadian progressive rock band Rush (known for songs like “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight”).

This reminded me that, in the late 1970s and early ’80s — when Rush was a fixture on the U.S. Billboard charts — the name Geddy started appearing in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1984: 9 baby boys named Geddy
  • 1983: unlisted
  • 1982: 14 baby boys named Geddy
  • 1981: unlisted
  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: 5 baby boys named Geddy [debut]
  • 1978: unlisted

Vocalist Geddy Lee was born Gary Lee in Toronto in 1953 to parents Morris and Manya Weinrib, Holocaust survivors from Poland. Here’s how the name “Gary” morphed into the name “Geddy”:

“Okay, it’s like the same story of Leave it to Beaver. The story goes: my mother is Polish and she has a very thick accent. When I was about twelve years old, I had a friend who, whenever he heard my mother pronounce my name, he thought she was calling me, ‘Geddy.’ He started calling me ‘Geddy,’ and eventually, all of my friends started calling me ‘Geddy,’ and eventually my mother started to call me ‘Geddy,’ for real. And eventually, I changed my name legally to ‘Geddy,’ so that’s the story and that’s my name, Geddy.”

If you were having a son, and you had to name him either Gary or Geddy, which would you choose? Why?

Sources: Toronto’s ‘capybaby’ triplets named after famous rock trio Rush, Geddy Lee: The Reluctant Rockstar (originally in Bass Frontiers Magazine)

Image by Snowdog from Wikipedia

Mystery baby name: Sumiko

Welcome to mystery week! This is the first of 5 posts featuring baby names that saw sudden popularity increases that I can’t quite figure out. Maybe you guys can help?


In 1980, over 100 baby girls were suddenly given the name Sumiko (or some variant thereof):

Name1979198019811982
Sumiko53175
Semiko**238
Samika7222014
Sameka1221129
Sumeka**14
Sumika**11
Semeka876
Sameko**7
Samica7
Semico**7
Simeko**7
Sumeko**7
Semeko**6
Semika677
Sameika**5

**Debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1980.

What prompted the Sumiko spike? I’m not sure.

The various spellings suggest that people were hearing the name, but not seeing it written down (as with Kasara and Deirdre). So the source is likely to be a song, a movie, or a TV show.

The only possibility I’ve come up with so far is a minor character from The Young and The Restless named Sumiko. According to various soap opera websites, Sumiko was a cult leader (!) who began appearing on the show in early 1980.

Do you have any other ideas?

What gave the baby name Norita a boost (twice) in the 1930s?

Graph of the usage of the baby name Norita (showing spikes in 1935 and 1937).
Usage of the baby name Norita (spikes in ’35 and ’37)

Something unusual happened to the baby name Norita in the 1930s:

  • 1939: 34 baby girls named Norita
  • 1938: 47 baby girls named Norita
  • 1937: 155 baby girls named Norita [rank: 532nd]
  • 1936: 19 baby girls named Norita
  • 1935: 89 baby girls named Norita [rank: 713th]
  • 1934: 7 baby girls named Norita
  • 1933: 6 baby girls named Norita

See how the usage spiked twice? Interesting, isn’t it?

A double-spike requires a double-explanation, and one of those explanations I’ve figured out. The other I’m still working on.

Norita’s 1935 spike in usage

Norita’s first spike can be traced back to a contest, believe it or not. Contests were all the rage in the mid-1930s according to Newsweek:

Almost every week, radio stations and newspapers announce new contests. Prizes of money, automobiles, and round-the-world trips incite listeners and readers to send in slogans and 50-word essays written on soap wrappers and cigar bands.

This particular contest, sponsored by Gold Medal Flour, was woven into the storyline of an old time radio show called “Betty and Bob.” After characters Betty and Bob Drake found a orphaned baby girl at their doorstep on Christmas Eve of 1934, they asked their audience to help choose a name for her.

Gold Medal Flour advertisement featuring "Radio's Nameless Mystery Baby" (1935)
“Radio’s Nameless Mystery Baby”

Gold Medal Flour magazine advertisements from early 1935 gave detailed descriptions of the baby — “golden hair,” “blue eyes,” “happy disposition” — and hints on picking a name, which they stressed should be “original” and “unique.”

Thousands of cash prizes were offered, including a $10,000 grand prize. Here’s the full list (and what the prizes would be worth in today’s dollars):

  • 1st – $10,000 (equivalent to $170,713.14 in 2013)
  • 2nd – $1,500 ($25,606.97)
  • 3rd – $1,000 ($17,071.31)
  • 4th – $500 ($8,535.66)
  • 5th – $250 ($4,267.83)
  • 6th – $200 ($3,414.26)
  • 7th – $150 ($2,560.70)
  • 8th – $100 ($1,707.13)
  • 9th – $75 ($1,280.35)
  • 10th – $25 ($426.78)
  • 11th – $15 ($256.07)
  • 12th – $10 ($170.71)
  • 13th – $7 ($119.50)
  • 14th – $5 ($85.36)
  • 1,000+ other entrants – $1 each ($17.07)

That’s a lot of money, especially when you consider that the nation was still trying to pull itself out of the Great Depression in the mid-1930s.*

Hundreds of thousands of people entered the contest, which ran until mid-February. Some people really went out of their way to catch the attention of the judges:

One woman painstakingly embroidered a pillow with a name on it and could not understand why she got no prize. She even claimed the work had damaged her eyesight. A man sent an 8-foot, electrically-wired lighthouse with the entry-name over its door. A third contestant contributed a huge doll in an expensive bassinet; a nameplate hung on the doll’s neck.

More than 50,000 people suggested the name Goldie (a nod to Gold Medal Flour). Another 57,000 suggested Betty-Jane.

But only Mrs. E. M. Nelson of Minnesota suggested the grand prize-winning name Norita, a name she’d created from an Old English word for “foster child,” norie (also spelled nory, nurry, etc.). The word ultimately comes from Old French nourrir, meaning “nourish.”

The only other prize-winner I know of was a woman named Martha Hunt of Washington state who submitted the name “Adolla” and received $250 (5th place).

According to a newspaper article from 1942, the Gold Medal Flour “Radio’s Nameless Mystery Baby” contest was General Mills’ second-most successful contest ever. Seven years later, the company was still receiving entries.

Norita’s 1937 spike in usage

The second spike was higher than the first — 155 babies this time, versus 89 in 1935 — but I haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause.

One thing I can tell you about the 1937 spike is that, in contrast to the 1935 spike, it inspired a lot of variant forms:

Name19341935193619371938
Norita7891915547
Noretta81566532
Noreta7**55214
Noreda17**
Norrita16**
Noreeta8**
Noreita8**
Noritta8**
Norietta6**
Norreta6**
Norretta5**

**First appearance in the U.S. baby name data.

A sudden increase in variant forms always points me to an audio source — something that has a lot of people hearing a name, but not seeing it written down. This forces people to come up with their own spellings. The Deirdre and Kasara spikes were caused by audio sources, for instance.

So the second Norita spike was likely caused either by radio or by a movie. (Television wasn’t widely adopted until well into the 1950s.)

One other thing I can tell you is that the 1937 spike was localized, just like the 1935 spike. In 1935, most of the babies named Norita were born in the Midwest:

  • 12 Noritas in Minnesota (1935)
  • 9 Noritas in Wisconsin (1935)
  • 7 Noritas in Indiana (1935)
  • 6 Noritas in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio (1935)
  • 5 Noritas in Texas (1935)

The story of a Minnesota woman winning $10,000 by inventing the name “Norita” was probably a lot bigger in this region than elsewhere.

Skipping ahead two years, we see something similar:

  • 17 Noritas in Ohio (1937)
  • 16 Noritas in Pennsylvania (1937)
  • 14 Noritas in California (1937)
  • 11 Noritas in Illinois (1937)
  • 10 Noritas in Texas (1937)
  • 9 Noritas in Indiana and Minnesota (1937)
  • 5 Noritas in Michigan, Oregon, and West Virginia (1937)

The localization isn’t quite as strong, but over 20% of the 1937 Noritas were born in Ohio and Pennsylvania, which is notable.

Thoughts?

My best guess is that the second spike is related to the “Betty and Bob” radio show somehow. Perhaps baby Norita became an on-air character in 1937?

But I have no clue why the name was disproportionately popular in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Do you have any ideas?

Also: Do you like the name Norita? Would you ever consider using it for a baby?

Sources/Tools:

  • BLS Inflation Calculator
  • “Contest: 57,000 American Listeners Have The Same Idea” Newsweek 11 May 1935: 38.
  • Hughes, Lawrence M. “Advertising news.” New York Sun 13 Feb. 1941: 23.
  • Whitney, William Dwight Whitney and Benjamin Eli Smith. The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia. New York: The Century Co., 1914.
  • “Wins Cash Award for Baby’s Name.” Spokane Daily Chronicle 18 Apr. 1935: 6.

*Did you know some kids were actually named Depression during the Great Depression?

Mystery baby name: LaQuita

When the popularity of a particular baby name spikes, there’s always an explanation.

Most of the time, the explanation isn’t hard to come up with. Hundreds of baby girls were named Rhiannon after Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon was released in 1976, dozens of baby boys were named Rambo after the Rambo movies started coming out in the early 1980s, and so forth.

Sometimes, the explanation isn’t as conspicuous. I didn’t immediately see the connection between the name Aquanette and B-movie actress Burnu Acquanetta, for instance. Only after mulling it over for a while was I able to link the name Kasara to a long-forgotten Lisa Lisa song.

Today’s name belongs in that latter group. In fact, the explanation for today’s name is so inconspicuous that I haven’t been able to piece it together, even after months of trying.

So I’m giving up. I’m just going to post what I know and hope that some wise soul leaves a comment that helps me unravel the mystery. :)

The name is Laquita. (It’s often written LaQuita in obituaries.) It debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1930, coming out of nowhere to be given to an impressive 68 baby girls that year.

laquita popularity graph

Now, the number 68 might seem trivial. Today’s most popular names are given to tens of thousands of babies each, after all. As far as newbie names go, though, 68 is huge. Especially when you’re talking about the early 20th century. Here’s some context:

  • Top debut names of 1926: Narice, 13; Bibb, 15
  • Top debut names of 1927: Sunya, 14; Bidwell, 14
  • Top debut names of 1928: Joreen, 22; Alfread & Brevard, 9
  • Top debut names of 1929: Jeannene, 26; Donnald, Edsol, Rhys & Wolfgang, 8
  • Top debut names of 1930: Laquita, 68; Shogo, 11
  • Top debut names of 1931: Joanie, 12; Rockne, 17
  • Top debut names of 1932: Carolann, Delano & Jenine, 11; Alvyn, Avelardo, Elena, Mannon & Wenford, 7
  • Top debut names of 1933: Gayleen, 23; Skippy, 10
  • Top debut names of 1934: Carollee & Janean, 12; Franchot, 9

Laquita jumped into the top 1,000 right away, ranking 874th. It remained there for the next three years.

Here’s a final fact that could be helpful: None of the 28 1930-Laquitas listed in the SSDI were born during the first four months of the year. The name starts to show up in May, with 3 Laquitas born that month. This may mean that a mid-year event triggered the spike.

Ideas?

Was the baby name Kasara influenced by misheard song lyrics in 1987?

Singer Lisa Lisa (born Lisa Velez) in the "Lost in Emotion" video
Lisa Lisa

Do you ever mishear song lyrics?

I do. All the time. (Though I’m not nearly as bad as my husband.)

I ask because I believe today’s baby name(s) can be traced back to a specific set of lyrics misheard by dozens of parents a little more than 20 years ago.

Intrigued?

The Names

Casara, Kasarah, Cassara, and Casarah all debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1987. The same year, Kasara returned to the data after popping up only once before (in the mid-1970s). And, in 1988, Cassarah made its first and only appearance.

Name1986198719881989
Kasara224419
Casara17*3410
Kasarah10*2517
Cassara9*1810
Casarah7*1210
Cassarah5

*Debut

At first I couldn’t figure them out. They didn’t look like alternative spellings of a more popular name. They all emerged at about the same time, pointing to a single pop culture source, but the origin wasn’t obvious (as it had been with names like Daughtry and Cheetara.)

Finally, months after discovering them, I came up with a decent theory.

The Song

Let’s set the scene. Artists on the radio back in 1987 included U2, George Michael, Whitney Houston, Tiffany, Billy Idol, Madonna, The Bangles, Bon Jovi, Kim Wilde, Los Lobos with “La Bamba,” Belinda Carlisle, Exposé, Atlantic Starr…and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam.

In fact, 1987 was a great year for Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. Their second album, Spanish Fly, went platinum in August. Two songs from the album ended up hitting #1 on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” chart — “Head to Toe” in June, and “Lost In Emotion” in October.

Below is the video for “Lost in Emotion.” Pay special attention to the following lines (starting at 1:27):

Que sera, que sera
Baby, whatever will be
Que sera, que sera
Between you and me

(How awesome is all that ’80s fashion/styling, btw?)

The Connection

That “que sera, que sera” in the chorus is a corruption of the phrase “que sera, sera,” which was created for the earlier song “Que Sera, Sera” (1956).

The phrase “que sera, sera” — commonly thought to mean “whatever will be, will be” — is an hispanicized form of “che sera, sera,” which itself is an an ungrammatical corruption of the Italian phrase quel che sarà, sarà, meaning “that which will be, will be.”

Anyway…to someone casually listening to “Lost in Emotion” on the radio, the words “que sera” blend together and sound just like Kasara, Casara, and the other names above.

Singer Lisa Lisa (born Lisa Velez) in the "Lost in Emotion" video
Lisa Lisa

The Proof

Well, not “proof” exactly. But an enticing bit of evidence.

I did a search for anyone (a blogger, say) who’d written about mistaking “que sera” for a girl name. Just to see if anyone could back me up.

Check out this comment I found at song site Am I Right:

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s, “Lost In Emotion”

The Misheard Lyrics:
Kassarah, Kassarah

The Real Lyrics:
Lost in emotion Que sera, que sera.

The Story: My sister named my niece Kassarah after this song. Ooops, oh well a beautifully unique name for a beautiful, unique girl! – Submitted by: Sandee

Jackpot. :)

(Incidentally, the spelling Kassarah has never appeared in the U.S. baby name data.)

Singer Lisa Lisa (born Lisa Velez) in the "Lost in Emotion" video
Lisa Lisa

The Conclusion

So that’s what I suspect — in the late ’80s, dozens of expectant parents heard Lisa Lisa’s “Lost in Emotion,” interpreted “que sera” as a female name, and used the mondegreen as a baby name, spelling it various ways (e.g. Kasara, Casara, Kasarah).

But I’d love to hear other theories if anyone out there has a better explanation.

Sources: