Category: Days of Our Lives
Today is officially Soap Opera Day (woo hoo!) and though this isn’t as big of a deal in the baby name world as it once was, with a lot fewer sudsers on TV than there were when soap operas were the main staple of daytime programming, we have to acknowledge the influence that they did have in the past—just as powerful as reality show show TV names do today.
This is true both in terms of trends (as in sometimes condescendingly considered “soap opera names” on the order of Thorne and Trent, Blade and Brent, and also place names like Sierra and Egypt, boys’ names for girls) and individual names—the classic example of which is Kayla. It’s highly doubtful that there would have been 16,000 baby girls named Kayla in 1996 if popular good girl Kayla Brady hadn’t appeared on Days of Our Lives a decade earlier. And the same goes for all those Ashleys too.
What follows is a list of soap opera names across three decades that did have some influence—though it sometimes took as long as a decade or two to make an impact (and of course there could be other factors involved)—followed by the year in which they were at the peak of their popularity.
The term ‘soap opera name’ has always had a pejorative connotation, suggesting over-the-top, strong, silent Ridge–Thorne–Trent type names. But the truth of the matter is that the scripters of daytime dramas have actually been a lot more imaginative–and prescient–than those of, say, sitcoms or nighttime dramas.
The classic example–as Abby Sandel mentioned in her guest blog the other day–is Kayla. When the character of Kayla Brady was introduced on Days of Our Lives in 1982, her name had hardly been heard of–much less used. But not long after that, Kayla began an unprecedented leap up the lists, and stayed there for well over a decade.
Soaps also anticipated the trend of using place names for people–there were Egypts and Indias, Sierras and Friscos years before it was a baby-naming trend and they were in the forefront of using last names as firsts. And there were too many individual names that were ahead of their time: Cameron, Kyle and Kylie, Logan, Hunter, Holden, Colton, Cooper, Roman, Jagger, Harley for a girl…. all of them appeared on the soaps from the 70s to the 90s.
Now, as one of the stalwarts of soap operadom, The Guiding Light, is about to bite the dust after 72 years on radio and TV, this seems like a good moment to celebrate some of the more original sudsy names of the past and present (but sorry, I draw the line at Chardonnay):