Category: TV names
When The Golden Girls hit the small screen in 1985, the names of its leading ladies—Rose, Dorothy and Blanche—were late middle aged, and Mama Sophia was old enough to have already been in and out of the Shady Pines Nursing Home. That was 25 years ago, a period of major change in the name world. Sophia is now the seventh most popular baby name (and #1 in some places), Rose is America‘s favorite middle name, and Dorothy is one of the belles of the nameberry name boards.
Not only that: other Golden Girl names, names that were virtually written off just a couple of years ago, are back in play. Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, for example, named one of their twin daughters Marion, Julia Roberts chose Hazel for hers and Molly Ringwald picked Adele. And nameberryites are cool with similar period names like Clara and Cora, Vivian and Vera.
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):
The names of characters from the television shows that we watched when we were young often stick with us forever, from kiddie shows to teen-oriented programs to favorite sitcoms. Grover, Oscar, Kermit–those Muppetish images are hard to shake: Oscar seems to have recovered from his Grouchiness, but Kermit might stay green forever. Ditto the shows we might have been glued to through our school years–especially if they happened to feature a teen idol.
A name from an old TV show might remain with us because we found it especially appealing, or if it was attached to a favorite character, or perhaps if we hadn’t heard the name before, giving it a fresh resonance. Here’s a list of some examples from the past few decades that fit one or more of those criteria and which might inspire a baby name choice today. (Some of the shows continued running from one decade to the next, but we’ve listed them under the one they started in.)
1970s TELEVISION SHOWS
ALMANZO — Little House on the Prairie
BAILEY (girl)– WKRP in Cincinnati
BLAIR — The Facts of Life
BO –The Dukes of Hazzard
DAISY — The Dukes of Hazzard
FLORIDA — Good Times
TANNER — The Bad News Bears
1980s TELEVISION SHOWS
ADDISON — Moonlighting
ALEXIS — Dynasty
BRUNO — Fame
COCO — Fame
COLT — The Fall Guy
LEONARDO — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
LILITH — Cheers
LIBERTY — De Grassi, The Last Generation
MADDIE — Moonlighting
MALLORY — Family Ties
SUMMER — Baywatch
THEO — The Cosby Show
WINNIE — The Wonder Years
ZAX — Benji, Zax & The Alien Prince
1990s TELEVISION SHOWS
AIDAN — Sex in the City
BRIGHT — 7th Heaven
COSMO — Seinfeld
FELICITY — Felicity
FOX — The X-Files
GENEVA — Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper
GRIFFIN — Party of Five
MABEL — Mad About You
MEADOW — The Sopranos
MIRANDA — Sex in the City
OWEN — Party of Five
PIPER — Charmed
PO — Teletubbies
PRUE — Charmed
SIX — Blossom
URSULA — Mad About You
ZOEY — Cybill/Zoey 101
Do you have your own nostalgic favorites? Is there one that you’ve actually used or would consider using for your child?