A photo of 17-year-old Wrayanne Teeple ran in newspapers nationwide in September of 1948. The caption revealed that Wrayanne would be one of about 50 girls posing for amateur photographers at the sixth annual Beach Girl-Amateur Photographer Contest in Long Beach, California. (She didn’t end up winning.)
Her name (sometimes misspelled Rayanne) was also mentioned in local California papers later that year, when she was selected as the “princess” of the Long Beach float in the Tournament of Roses Parade, which was held on the first day of 1949.
Wrayanne’s name was likely coined as a combination of her parents’ names, Ray and Georgiana.
The name Kanye debuted in the SSA’s baby name data in 2002. It saw peak usage just two years later, in 2004:
2007: 53 boys named Kanye
2006: 101 boys named Kanye
2005: 202 boys (and 5 girls) named Kanye [rank: 893rd]
2004: 509 boys (and 19 girls) named Kanye [rank: 486th]
2003: 87 boys named Kanye
2002: 5 boys named Kanye
Also in 2004, the similar names Kanyae, Jakanye and Dekanye debuted, and the name Kanya popped up for the first time as a boy name.
The influence, of course, was rapper/producer Kanye (pronounced kahn-yay) West.
His successful debut album, The College Dropout (2004), is what boosted the name to peak usage. Even before that, though, he was becoming famous as an in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella Records. He worked on Jay-Z’s 2001 album The Blueprint, for instance.
How did he come to have the name “Kanye”? Here’s what his late mother Donda West wrote in her 2007 book Raising Kanye:
Only one thing was missing — the perfect name for the perfect baby. With all of the excitement around the pregnancy, we’d never picked out names. So my mother and I began thumbing through this book of African names I’d bought. I was very Afrocentric and so was Ray. We wanted our child to have a name that represented his culture and stood for something. We wanted him to have a strong name.
Mother and I found the name “Kanye” in this book. It was an Ethiopian name that meant “the only one.” I knew he would be our only child, set apart, and special.
My mother found his middle name in the Os. She chose “Omari,” which means “wise man.” Kanye Omari West. Mother pointed out that his initials would be K.O. She liked that it stood for knockout. We asked Ray about the names and he was cool with both Kanye for the first name and Omari as the middle name. So we made it official.
(I haven’t been able to confirm this particular origin/meaning of Kanye — or even figure out which name-book Donda was using — but I can tell you that there’s a village in Botswana called Kanye, which is interesting.)
What are your thoughts on the name Kanye? Would you considering using it?
The Hindu name Narada first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the late ’70s:
1983: 19 baby boys named Narada
1982: 18 baby boys named Narada
1981: 29 baby boys named Narada
1980: 48 baby boys and 7 baby girls named Narada
1979: 19 baby boys named Narada [debut]
Where did it come from?
Musician and producer Narada Michael Walden, whose songs “I Don’t Want Nobody Else (To Dance with You)” and “I Shoulda Loved Ya” both reached the top 10 on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1979.
He went on to have a successful career, being nominated for a total of eight Grammys and winning three (two in the ’80s, one in the ’90s). He produced music for people like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, Gladys Knight, Shanice Wilson, Tevin Campbell, etc.
He was born Michael Walden in Michigan in 1952. In the early ’70s, he became a devotee of Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy gave him the spiritual name Narada, and Walden chose to use Narada as part of his stage name. (Carlos Santana, another follower, went by “Devadip Carlos Santana” for a time.)
In Hindu tradition, the character Narada is a sage and musician. He is portrayed “as both wise and mischievous, creating some of Vedic literature’s more humorous tales.”
Do you like Narada as a baby name? Would you use it?
Yesterday we looked at the baby name Laura, which saw a curious dip in usage from 1965 to 1967:
You know what was happening at the very same time? A drastic increase in the usage of the very similar name Lara, which suddenly jumped into the top 1,000 in 1966:
Here’s the data, side-by-side:
Girls named Laura
Girls named Lara
18,743 (rank: 11th)
1,295 (rank: 227th)
15,817 (rank: 15th)
945 (rank: 277th)
15,549 (rank: 19th)
236 (rank: 618th)
16,213 (rank: 18th)
65 (rank: 1,376th)
18,974 (rank: 14th)
57 (rank: 1,512th)
So…what caused Lara to suddenly skyrocket (and thereby steal some of Laura’s thunder)?
The film Doctor Zhivago, which was released at the very end of 1965 and which, accounting for inflation, currently ranks as the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S.
Doctor Zhivago, based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name, was a drama set in Russia during the early 1900s — primarily around the time of WWI and the Russian Revolution. The main character was married physician/poet Yuri Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif), who was having an affair with Larisa “Lara” Antipova (played by Julie Christie), the wife of a political activist.
But it was more than just the character — we can’t ignore the influence of the film’s leitmotif “Lara’s Theme.” After Doctor Zhivago came out, it was turned into a Grammy-winning pop song, “Somewhere, My Love,” that name-checked the character in the lyrics:
Lara, my own, think of me now and then Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again
Renditions of both versions of the song ended up peaking on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” list during the summer of 1966: Ray Conniff’s “Somewhere, My Love” at #9, and Roger Williams’ “Lara’s Theme” at #65.
Ironically, the names Lara and Laura are not related. Laura comes from the Latin name Laurus, meaning “laurel,” whereas the Russian name Lara is a short form of the Greek myth name Larisa, which may have been inspired by the ancient city of Larisa.
The movie also seems to have given a boost to the name Yuri (which had debuted a few years earlier thanks to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin). And it must be connected somehow to the 1980 debut of the one-hit wonder nameZhivago. (Perhaps it was airing on TV around that time?) “Zhivago” isn’t a Russian surname, incidentally — it’s a Church Slavonic word meaning “the living.”
Getting back to Lara…the name’s popularity declined after the 1960’s, but, so far, it has never dropped out of the top 1,000. (The uptick in usage in 2001-2002 corresponds to the release of the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which starred Angelina Jolie.)