The gritty TV police drama Toma, which starred actor Tony Musante as New Jersey police detective David Toma, started airing in 1973.
The year the show premiered, the baby name Toma, which had only ever appeared in the data as a girl name, started seeing usage as a boy name. It even cracked the boys’ top 1,000 briefly.
Girls named Toma
Boys named Toma
84 [rank: 884th]
But usage returned to pre-Toma levels after the series was canceled in 1974.
In 1975, a retooled version of Toma called Baretta came out. The new show, which starred Robert Blake as New York City police detective Tony Baretta, was less violent and included more comic relief than the original. (Baretta had a pet cockatoo named Fred, and one of his informants was a man called Rooster.)
In response, the name Baretta debuted in the baby name data, and it remained there for the same number of years the Emmy-winning series was on the air (1975-1978).
1978: 8 baby boys named Baretta
1977: 13 baby boys named Baretta
1976: 6 baby girls / 13 baby boys named Baretta
1975: 14 baby girls [debut] / 18 baby boys [debut] named Baretta
Long before celebs Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt popularized the name Shiloh, singer Neil Diamond put the name Shilo (no H) on the onomastic map:
1972: 35 baby girls and 19 baby boys named Shilo
1971: 32 baby girls and 11 baby boys named Shilo
1970: 38 baby girls and 9 baby boys named Shilo [dual-gender debut]
Diamond’s song “Shilo” was originally and released on the 1967 album Just for You, but his label wouldn’t release it as a single, because they didn’t think an introspective song about an imaginary childhood friend (“Shilo, when I was young / I used to call your name / When no one else would come / Shilo, you always came”) would be a commercial success.
Diamond switched labels in 1968. By 1970, several of his new songs (“Sweet Caroline” and “Holly Holy”) had become big hits.
The folks back at the original label decided to capitalize on this success by giving “Shilo” a different backing track and releasing the new version as a single. This spiffed-up version reached #24 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in April of 1970.
Diamond responded by re-recording the song (“with a quicker tempo, a tighter arrangement, and a bolder, if slightly less expressive vocal”) and including it on the reissued version of his 1968 album Velvet Gloves And Spit, which came out in late 1970 with a redesigned front cover that drew attention to the addition.
The song’s lyrics suggest that Shilo was female, but the name debuted in the baby name data for both genders in 1970. Shilo was the top girl-name debut of 1970, in fact. (Other dual-gender debuts include Dasani and Dondi.)
What are your thoughts on the baby name Shilo? Which spelling do you prefer?
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!