In 1983, the top newbie name on the U.S. baby name charts was Mallori, a derivative of Mallory, popularized that year by the hit TV show Family Ties.
Just below Mallori, tied for 2nd place, was the particularly ’80s-looking name Tyger:
1984: 11 baby girls named Tyger
1983: 29 baby girls named Tyger [debut]
So where did Tyger come from?
Patricia “Tyger” Hayes, the main character of two identically-named programs: Bare Essence, a CBS mini-series that aired in October of 1982, and Bare Essence, an NBC soap opera (based on the mini-series) that aired from February to June of 1983.
Tyger Hayes was a “spunky young spitfire” who married into a wealthy family. She had to “fight for her share of the family perfume empire when her husband Chase [was] murdered in the premiere episode” of the soap, which — despite heavy promotion — was ultimately a flop.
Here’s what a WaPo reviewer said:
NBC blunders in where everyone has already exhaustingly trod with “Bare Essence,” yet another glossy prime-time soap about the conniving and conjugating rich. This one, derived from a two-part CBS movie that aired last fall, comes up lacking on almost all counts. A better title would be “Bare Minimum.”
In the final episode, the identity of Chase’s murderer was finally revealed. The culprit? His amazingly named sister-in-law, Muffin.
What do you think of the name Tyger? (Do you like it more or less than Muffin?)
Shales, Tom. “Such Gloss! Such Dross! It’s ‘Bare Essence’!” Washington Post 15 Feb. 1983.
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!
The popular ’80s sitcom Family Ties (1982-1989) featured the fictional Keaton family: parents Steven and Elyse, and children Alex, Mallory, and Jennifer. (In later seasons, a baby brother named Andy was added.)
Family Ties was one of the top five TV shows in the nation from 1984 to 1987, and it also had a big impact on U.S. baby names…
Alex P. Keaton (played by Michael J. Fox) was the oldest child in the family and, for the first half of the series, the only son. He was a preppy, precocious, and proudly conservative — often clashing with his ex-hippie liberal parents over politics. For his memorable portrayal of Alex, Michael J. Fox won three Emmy Awards (in 1986, 1987, and 1988) and was nominated for two more.
Usage of the name Alex was already on the rise in the early ’80s, but the sitcom gave the name a big boost:
1990: 6,945 baby boys named Alex [rank: 59th]
1989: 6,540 baby boys named Alex [rank: 60th]
1988: 6,406 baby boys named Alex [rank: 58th]
1987: 6,043 baby boys named Alex [rank: 60th]
1986: 5,110 baby boys named Alex [rank: 64th]
1985: 3,907 baby boys named Alex [rank: 80th]
1984: 3,027 baby boys named Alex [rank: 93rd]
1983: 2,163 baby boys named Alex [rank: 123rd]
1982: 1,965 baby boys named Alex [rank: 143rd]
1981: 1,873 baby boys named Alex [rank: 148th]
“Alex” may have been on the way to the top 100 already, but the show put it there a lot faster — in 1984. It was a fixture in the top 100 all the way until 2012.
Usage of name also increased slightly for baby girls:
Mallory Keaton (played by Justine Bateman) was the middle child and the oldest daughter. She loved fashion and shopping, but wasn’t as interested in school. For her portrayal of Mallory, Justine Bateman was nominated for two Emmy Awards.
Usage of the rare name Mallory — which had been used primarily for boys during most of the 20th century — skyrocketed for baby girls during the 1980s:
1990: 1,782 baby girls named Mallory [rank: 162nd]
1989: 1,971 baby girls named Mallory [rank: 147th]
1988: 2,365 baby girls named Mallory [rank: 120th]
1987: 3,140 baby girls named Mallory [rank: 91st]
1986: 3,323 baby girls named Mallory [rank: 83rd]
1985: 2,039 baby girls named Mallory [rank: 144th]
1984: 1,470 baby girls named Mallory [rank: 186th]
1983: 689 baby girls named Mallory [rank: 334th]
1982: 45 baby girls named Mallory
1981: 27 baby girls named Mallory
The name Mallory entered the girls’ top 1,000 in 1983, and the girls’ top 100 in 1986 (though it only managed to remain a top-100 name for one more year before dropping back down).
The usage of spelling variants also increased dramatically. Mallorie, Malorie and Malarie got a boost on the charts, while Mallory-inspired debuts throughout the ’80s included…
The name even reached the top 500 for a stretch (1985-1989). Usage of the spellings Elise, Alyse, and Alise also increased during this period.
The family surname Keaton also started seeing heavier usage as a baby name — particularly as a boy name — while Family Ties was on the air:
1990: 283 baby boys named Keaton [rank: 592nd]
1989: 225 baby boys named Keaton [rank: 667th]
1988: 163 baby boys named Keaton [rank: 741st]
1987: 135 baby boys named Keaton [rank: 799th]
1986: 131 baby boys named Keaton [rank: 793rd]
1985: 109 baby boys named Keaton [rank: 869th]
1984: 69 baby boys named Keaton
1983: 47 baby boys named Keaton
1982: 23 baby boys named Keaton
1981: 15 baby boys named Keaton
The name Keaton entered the boys’ top 1,000 for the first time in 1985. It continued to rise for both genders until the early 2000s. (The continued rise might have been helped along by actor Michael Keaton.)