Category: soap opera names
Trendy baby names have been around a lot longer Miley Cyrus or any of the famous Kardashians. From the dawn of recorded U.S. baby name history — aka 1880, when the federal government began keeping records — we’ve adopted names inspired by current events and popular people and culture, only to leave them behind for a new inspiration the next year.
The inspiration for name trends a century ago may have been politicians and war heroes rather than reality stars, but the definition of trendy baby names was the same: Names that spiked in popularity thanks to an outside influence, then sank from view along with its original bearer.
An organization called Flowing Data has calculated the trendiest names in US history, a fascinating look at which names burned the brightest only to fade the fastest.
I’m sure you’re all really busy making preparations to celebrate National Radio Day tomorrow, the day set aside to commemorate old time radio—I but hope you can take some time out to look at these interesting vintage radio character names we’ve dug up.
They date back to a time, from the 1930s to the fifties, when listening to the radio was the only home entertainment there was, aside from harmonizing around the piano. Moms tuned in to their daily soap operas— often only fifteen minutes long—as they feather-dusted and darned Junior’s socks, before Junior rushed home from school to hear the latest adventure of Don Winslow of the Navy. And in the evening the whole family would gather around the big console to laugh at Baby Snooks or shudder at Suspense Theater.
Once in a while some pop culture phenomenon comes along that doesn’t just reflect the name gestalt of its day, but actually influences it. This was the case with the glossy nighttime soaps of the late 70s and early 80s–most particularly Dynasty—which were all about wealth and greed, ambition, melodrama, campy catfights –and humungous shoulder pads.
The writers on these shows were quite ingenious in the way they came up with names that reflected perfectly those values and vices. Male names that were short, sleek, and powerful. Sophisticated, boyish women’s names like Arliss that were a complete reversal of the previous decades’ unisex nicknamish names like Jodie and Jamie. Elegant surname names such as Blake Carrington.
Probably the most influential was the name of Blake’s ex-wife, that evil viper, Alexis. Despite the character’s villainy, her name took off, and was instrumental in the success of other Alexi: Alexandra, Alexa, Alex et al. In the year before Dynasty debuted in 1982, there were scarcely 1500 girls given that name across the country; by 1999, it had reached #3 on the list, with the birth of 19,000 baby Alexises.
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):