I’d figured out the causes of similar spikes for similar names (Kaleena, Kaelin, Katina), but hadn’t gotten around to Kalene yet.
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.
In June of 1982, the Toledo Blade ran a short article about two local brothers who “enjoy the distinction of having initials which spell their names.” One was Thomas Owen Matzinger (T.O.M.), the other was James Irvin Matzinger (J.I.M.). Their dad Mike said it was “just as well” that he didn’t have any more kids, because he couldn’t think of any other sets of names to fit the pattern.
My guess is that Mike was joking, because there are several other sets of initials that could work with an M-surname like Matzinger, one of which, T.I.M., is just a letter away from T.O.M.
In fact, there are at least a couple of combinations that would work with every type of surname.
So today, in honor of the Matzingers of Toledo, I’ve come up with a long list of name-spelling initials. They’re sorted by third initial (that is, the first letter of the last name) so you can scroll straight to the set that matches up with your own surname.
Initials that Spell Names & Nicknames
Surname starts with:
Potential full initials (& example combo):
A.D.A. (Adelaide Diane A.) A.N.A. (Anastasia Nadine A.) A.S.A. (Asa Scott A.) A.V.A. (Ava Virginia A.) B.E.A. (Beatrix Elaine A.) E.V.A. (Eva Veronica A.) G.I.A. (Gia Idonea A.) I.D.A. (Idabelle Daria A.) I.N.A. (Ina Nigella A.) I.R.A. (Ira Ralph A.) I.S.A. (Isabel Simone A.) K.I.A. (Kia Ianthe A.) L.E.A. (Leah Elizabeth A.) M.I.A. (Mia Imelda A.) N.I.A. (Nia Ilona A.) O.D.A. (Odalys Delfina A.) O.R.A. (Ora Ruth A.) U.M.A. (Uma Magnolia A.) U.N.A. (Una Normina A.)
D.E.B. (Deborah Ethel B.) J.E.B. (Jeb Evan B.) L.I.B. (Libbie Ione B.) R.O.B. (Robert Orville B.) S.E.B. (Sebastian Everly B.) S.Y.B. (Sybil Yvette B.) T.A.B. (Tabitha Araminta B.) Z.E.B. (Zebulon Ezekiel B.)
B.E.C. (Becky Eowyn C.) M.A.C. (Mackenzie Anne C.) N.I.C. (Nicole Isabelle C.) V.I.C. (Victor Ivan C.) Z.A.C. (Zackary Arlo C.)
J.E.D. (Jedidiah Easton D.) R.O.D. (Rodney Orrin D.) T.E.D. (Theodora Eugenia D.) Z.E.D. (Zedekiah Ezra D.)
A.B.E. (Abraham Benjamin E.) A.C.E. (Ace Corbin E.) E.V.E. (Eve Violet E.) F.A.E. (Fae Adina E.) I.K.E. (Isaac Keith E.) J.O.E. (Joseph Owen E.) L.E.E. (Lee Ethan E.) M.A.E. (Maebelle Alice E.) M.O.E. (Morris Oscar E.) R.A.E. (Raelene Alicia E.) S.U.E. (Susan Ursula E.) Z.O.E. (Zoe Ocean E.)
C.A.L. (Callum Audley L.) D.E.L. (Delaney Estelle L.) G.I.L. (Gilbert Ishmael L.) H.A.L. (Harry Archibald L.) L.I.L. (Lillian Iva L.) M.A.L. (Malcolm Angus L.) M.E.L. (Melanie Eloisa L.) M.O.L. (Molly Odette L.) S.A.L. (Sally Angelica L.) S.O.L. (Solomon Osborn L.) V.A.L. (Valerie Annette L.) W.I.L. (Willy Ingo L.) Z.E.L. (Zelda Erin L.)
C.A.M. (Cameron Aidan M.) D.O.M. (Dominic Orson M.) J.E.M. (Jemima Eleanor M.) J.I.M. (James Irvin M.) K.I.M. (Kimberly Imogene M.) L.E.M. (Lemuel Emerson M.) P.A.M. (Pamela Alys M.) R.A.M. (Ramsey Archer M.) S.A.M. (Samuel Aaron M.) S.I.M. (Simon Isidore M.) T.A.M. (Tammy Anita M.) T.I.M. (Timothy Isaac M.) T.O.M. (Thomas Owen M.)
B.A.X. (Baxter Andrew X.) D.A.X. (Dax Alec X.) D.E.X. (Dexter Edison X.) J.A.X. (Jaxon Antony X.) L.E.X. (Lexie Eliza X.) M.A.X. (Maximus Alvin X.) P.A.X. (Pax Amelia X.) R.E.X. (Rex Elias X.) R.O.X. (Roxanna Opal X.) T.E.X. (Tex Emmanuel X.)
A.M.Y. (Amy Michelle Y.) G.U.Y. (Guy Urban Y.) I.V.Y. (Ivy Verity Y.) J.A.Y. (Jay Adam Y.) J.O.Y. (Joyce Ondina Y.) K.A.Y. (Katherine Addison Y.) M.A.Y. (May Augusta Y.) R.A.Y. (Raymond Adrian Y.) R.O.Y. (Royce Oberon Y.) S.K.Y. (Skylar Kerry Y.)
The word Silk has appeared just once so far in the U.S. baby name data, in 1993:
1993: 8 baby girls named Silk [debut]
Where did it come from?
Music. Specifically, the Atlanta-based group Silk (one of the many “sexually suggestive R&B vocal groups that followed Jodeci“).
Silk’s biggest hit, the slow jam “Freak Me,” was the #1 song on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart for two weeks in May of 1993. Two other Silk songs, “Girl U For Me” and “Happy Days,” also reached the Hot 100 that year, peaking at 26th and 86th respectively.
Silk was the first band signed to Keith Sweat’s record label Keia, which was founded in late 1992. The label was presumably named after Sweat’s daughter, Keia, who was born the same year. (The baby name Keia saw peak usage in 1993, but this probably has more to do with a TV commercial featuring a girl named Kia than with Keith Sweat’s daughter, or label.)
The word “silk” can be traced back to the ancient Greek word serikos, which referred to the Seres people of Asia. The Seres supplied the ancient Greeks with silks via the Silk Road.