How popular is the baby name Sugar in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Sugar.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Sugar


Posts that Mention the Name Sugar

Name Quotes #89: Shelley, Kelly, Bill

Dram EP

From an Uproxx article about DRAM’s most recent EP:

Virginian rap crooner DRAM returned last night with the release of his new, three-song EP, That’s A Girl’s Name. Produced and co-written by Josh Abraham and Oligee, the EP’s title refers to DRAM’S real name, Shelley Massenburg-Smith, which means “that’s a girl’s name” is probably a phrase he heard quite a bit growing up.

(“DRAM” is an acronym for “Does Real Ass Music.” DRAM’s goldendoodle also has an interesting name: Idnit [vid] — “as in, idnit so cute.”)

DRAM with his dog, Idnit

From an Us Magazine article about Matthew McConaughey’s new book Greenlights:

The Texas native also revealed that when he was born his father wasn’t there. Instead, he explained that James “called my mom and said, ‘Only thing I have to say is if it’s a boy, don’t name him Kelly.’”

From a New York Times article about the marriage of Sugar Good, a Dunkin’ Donuts manager, to one of her drive-through customers:

A year would go by before she gathered the courage to pass him her sprinkle-bedecked business card with his breakfast in September 2018. But when she did, it came as a relief to both. The man, John Thompson, a recently retired Marine working as a car salesman in Oklahoma City, had been wondering how he was going to figure out what her real name was.

“When I started going through the drive-through, I noticed she would smile with her eyes, and I thought, maybe if I read the receipt I can see what her name is,” he said. “But it said ‘Sugar No. 7.'” He figured Sugar must have been a reference to how he likes his coffee. With the card, which listed her cellphone number at the bottom, she cleared up the mystery — as well as her own case of the blues.

(I discovered this one via Nancy Friedman — thank you!)

From a Harper’s Bazaar article about genderless beauty brands:

“As a culture, we are realizing that gender is no longer a fixed concept,” says Sam Cheow, senior vice president of corporate innovation and product development at the Estée Lauder Companies, which owns brands like M.A.C, Tom Ford Beauty, Le Labo, and Frédéric Malle . . . Cheow points to evidence that the needle is moving forward: the growing backlash surrounding gender-reveal parties; a rise in gender-neutral baby names (for example, in 2018, 51 percent of “Charlies” were female); and the arrival of Q, the world’s first genderless voice assistant.

From a Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources blog post entitled “The Tiffany Problem“:

Wait, what? No way there’s a Tiffany in this book! Not when there are other women running around with convincing names like Blanchefleur, Isolde, and Ermentrude.

[…]

[T]he Tiffany Problem describes the tension between historical fact and the average, everyday person’s idea of history. So even though authors may research carefully and want to include historically accurate information in their book—like a medieval character named Tiffany—a popular audience likely won’t buy it.

From a piece in Blue Ridge Outdoors about not wanting a trail name:

I remember a guy named Bill. His view on trail names mirrored mine. He didn’t have one, didn’t want one. He was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, not seeking a new identity. As he walked the white-blazed path, he simply introduced himself as “Bill”.

The most-often stated reply to him was, “What’s your trail name?”

His standard answer, “I don’t have a trail name. My name is just Bill.”

He became “Just Bill.”

From a Pitchfork interview with The Good Place actress D’Arcy Carden:

I put an apostrophe in my name that wasn’t there before, like Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, because of how influential this band was to me. D’Arcy was just the epitome of cool to me. In 1993, I was really into alternative and grunge music, and whereas the Nirvanas and the Pearl Jams felt so masculine, there was something sweeter and lighter about Smashing Pumpkins. The fact that they had a girl in their band was huge for me and my friends. I learned the guitar part to “Today,” and it made me feel like such a badass. It was like, “Wow, I can play guitar!” But, of course, anybody can play the beginning of “Today.”

(Name Quotes #73 mentioned another Good Place actress…)

From an amNewYork article about Broadway actress Tovah Feldshuh (born Terri Sue Feldshuh in 1952):

What ever happened to Terri Sue Feldshuh?

“I fell in love with a Christian boy, Michael Fairchild, who didn’t want to kiss a Terri Sue. He said: ‘Terri Sue doesn’t fit you at all. What’s that other name of yours? Tovah? Now that’s a name!'”

(Her stage name was initially “Terri Fairchild,” according to Wikipedia.)

What turned Sugar into a baby name?

The character Sugar Kane from the movie "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965).
Sugar Kane from “Beach Blanket Bingo

The rare baby name Sugar has an interesting pattern of usage in the U.S. data. It appeared as a boy name during the ’50s, then switched to a girl name in the ’60s—except for an interesting one-year return to the boys’ list in the ’80s.

Usage of the baby name Sugar
Usage of Sugar

The initial appearance in 1951 was no doubt influenced by boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, who fought professionally from the ’40s to the ’60s. A number of the 1950s Sugars had “Ray” and “R.” in the middle spot, according to records.

  • 1955: 5 baby boys named Sugar
  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: 6 baby boys named Sugar
  • 1952: 7 baby boys named Sugar
  • 1951: 5 baby boys named Sugar [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

Interestingly, he was retired throughout 1953 and most of 1954. (He tried to launch a career as a tap-dancing entertainer during that time.)

The switcheroo in the ’60s was influenced by something a little more obscure: a character in the 1965 movie Beach Blanket Bingo. The film starred Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, but also featured a singing character named Sugar Kane (played by Linda Evans).

  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: 6 baby girls named Sugar
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted

That was the only ’60s appearance, but the name came back for all of the ’70s. Two pop culture influences that probably helped usage roll along during that decade were the 1971 song “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones and the 1974 movie Sugar Hill, starring Marki Bey (who had put the name Marki on the map several years earlier) as the title character.

Finally, there’s that anomalous, single-year return to the boys’ side of the list:

  • 1982: 5 baby girls named Sugar
  • 1981: 11 baby boys named Sugar
  • 1980: 5 baby girls named Sugar

My best guess here is boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, who fought from the ’70s to the ’90s. The specific reason might have been “The Showdown” — his highly publicized fight against Thomas Hearns in September of 1981.

What are your thoughts on “Sugar” as a name? Do you think of it more as a girl name or as a boy name?

P.S. Sugar Ray Robinson was born Walker Smith. Sugar Ray Leonard was born Ray Charles Leonard — named after the singer, then nicknamed after the original Sugar Ray.

Some thought he was arrogant when [Sugar Ray Leonard] usurped the nickname Sugar Ray, after the man many consider boxing’s best fighter, pound-for-pound. But not the one person who counted.

“I’m gratified he’s using my name,” Sugar Ray Robinson said. “It’s great when kids think enough of you to use your name.”

Sources: Sugar Ray Robinson, 67, Dies – LA Times, Sugar Ray Leonard – Wikipedia, Leonard as sweet as original Sugar Ray