The rare name Rolayne has appeared in the U.S. baby name data a total of four times — all in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Usage was particularly high in Utah:
1952: 8 baby girls named Rolayne
1951: 5 baby girls named Rolayne
1949: 16 baby girls named Rolayne
8 born in Utah
1948: 16 baby girls named Rolayne [debut]
12 born in Utah
Where did the name come from?
RoLayne Rasmussen, the University of Utah homecoming queen who married well-known University of Utah basketball player Arnie Ferrin in June of 1948.
Arnie was born Chariton Arnold Ferrin, Jr. (The name Chariton is based on the ancient Greek word charis, meaning “grace, kindness.”) He was a four-time All-American during college, and after graduating in 1948 he played for the Minneapolis Lakers from 1948 to 1951. He helped the Lakers win the BAA championship in 1949 and the NBA championship in 1950.
And as Arnie made headlines, RoLayne was often mentioned in the articles as well. As were their children, as they came along. (They had four: Arnold III, Richard Bard, Louanne, and Shawn.)
RoLayne was one of several baby names to be influenced by the partner of a high-profile person. Names similarly influenced include Perian, Stedman, and Josanne.
We looked at the top baby name rises last month, so this month let’s look at the opposite: the top drops. That is, the baby names that decreased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next in the Social Security Administration’s data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year slides in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Clementine dropped 68% and usage of the boy name Neil dropped 76%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does become more accurate in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about a few of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it — leave a comment and let us know why you think any of these names saw dropped in usage when they did.
plus 21 named Periann, 12 named Perriann*, and 5 named Perianne*
1959: 7 baby girls named Perian [debut]
Mississippi-born sportswriter Perian Conerly appeared on the panel show in late 1959, but — unlike most contestants — Perian wasn’t a complete unknown at that point.
She’d been writing a syndicated sports column since 1956 (at a time when female sports writers were unheard of). Her writing appeared in publications as prestigious as Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, and the New York Times. In fact, a few months before she was on WML?, she was profiled in the “Events & Discoveries” section of Sports Illustrated.
As the wife of Charlie Conerly, quarterback of the New York Giants from 1948 to 1961, Perian had the inside scoop on football. Perian and Charlie lived in New York for four months (September through December) every year, and even though Charlie was always the focus, “Perian was almost as big a star in New York as Charlie.”
Together, they were for years the toast of New York – he the ruggedly handsome quarterback and the original Marlboro man, she the Southern belle with movie star glamour and all that charm and wit.
Perian was the first female member of the Football Writers Association of America, likely thanks to her name. A male sportswriter suggested that she join and, assuming that the group wouldn’t offer membership to women, opined that “they will never know” she’s a woman because of her name. Perian did indeed get in and, from then on, mail from the organization was “addressed to Mr. Perian Conerly.”
Here’s what she said about her name in her 1963 book Backseat Quarterback:
Confusion about the gender of my first name is understandable. The spelling does not indicate that it is pronounced Perry Ann, being a contraction of two family names.
Ironically, 1963 — the year her two books (the second being Football Fundamentals for Feminine Fans) were published — was also the year her name dropped off the baby name charts. By that time, though, Charlie had retired from football, Perian had stopped writing her sports column, and the couple had returned to Mississippi.
What’s My Line? (1950-1967) was one of the longest-running game shows on television — not to mention one of the earliest.
The word “line” in the title didn’t refer to a line of script, but to a line of work. Essentially, the show consisted of four celebrity panelists trying to guess a contestant’s occupation — typically something unexpected, e.g., “lipstick demonstrator,” “makes kilts,” “vaccinates chickens.”
Given the popularity of the show, and the fact that contestants’ names were emphasized (each one signed in on a chalkboard at the start of his/her segment), it’s not surprising that some of the more unusual contestant names ended up influencing U.S. baby names. For example…
Rondi Contestant Rondi Stratton, whose job was demonstrating mattresses in store windows, was on the show in October of 1952. The baby name Rondi saw increased usage in 1952-1953.
Barbi Contestant Barbi Nierenberg, who was a maternity dress buyer, was on the show in November of 1952. The baby name Barbi debuted in the data in 1953. (Barbie dolls weren’t launched until 1959.)
Wynelle Contestant Wynelle Davis, who was a fireworks seller, was on the show in June of 1953. The baby name Wynelle saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Sunee Contestant Sunee Parker, who was a men’s barber, was on the show in October of 1953. The baby name Sunee debuted in the data the same year.
Rozana Contestant Rozana Ruehrmund, who was a bill collector, was on the show in August of 1954. The baby name Rozana debuted in the data the same year.
Zana Contestant Zana Stanley, who handled bad checks at a District Attorney’s office, was on the show in November of 1954. The baby name Zana saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Lili Contestant Lili Lisande Wieland, who was a Christmas shopper at Saks Fifth Avenue, was on the show in December of 1954. The baby name Lili saw increased usage the same year.
Thor Contestant Thor Thors, who was the Icelandic ambassador to the United States, was on the show in November of 1955. The baby name Thor saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Evonne Contestant Evonne Gaines, who owned a dog grooming salon, was on the show in March of 1957. The baby name Evonne saw increased usage the same year.
Bunny Contestant Bunny Yeager, who was a “cheesecake photographer,” was on the show in July of 1957. The baby name Bunny saw increased usage the same year. (Bunny, born Linnea Eleanor Yeager, was a former pin-up model herself.)
Darris Contestant Darris Miller (f), who made one-piece pajamas for dogs, was on the show in August of 1959. The baby name Darris saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Perian Contestant Perian Conerly, who wrote a football column for newspapers, was on the show in December of 1959. The baby name Perian debuted in the data the next year. (Her growing visibility as a columnist may have been an influence here as well.)
Sherrylyn Contestant Sherrylyn Patecell, who was a Rockette — not to mention the recently elected Miss New York City — was on the show in July of 1960. The baby name Sherrylyn debuted in the data the same year. (Her pageant win may be a confounding factor here.)
LaVelda Contestant LaVelda Rowe and her identical twin sister LaVona Rowe, both news photographers, were on the show in July of 1960. The baby name LaVelda was a one-hit wonder in the data the same year.
Sita Contestant Sita Arora, who was a high school English teacher originally from Bombay, was on the show in September of 1960. The baby name Sita debuted in the data the same year.
Dorinda Contestant Dorinda Nicholson, who taught hula dancing, was on the show in August of 1962. The baby name Dorinda saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Candi Contestant Candi Brasovan, who was a salami seller, was on the show in January of 1963. The baby name Candi saw increased usage the same year.
Sheva Contestant Sheva Rapoport, who was a dentist, was on the show in February of 1966. The baby name Sheva debuted in the data the same year.
…And here are some other interesting What’s My Line? contestant names. These didn’t influence the data, but they caught my eye nonetheless.