TV Names That Never Took Off: Felicity & Frasier

posted by: upswingbabynames View all posts by this author

by Angela Mastrodonato of Upswing Baby Names

Fifty years ago, a prime-time comedy launched on ABC. That show was Bewitched, and it put the name Samantha on the map. Here’s how the numbers pan out:

  • The year before the show, 1963, there were fewer than 100 born in the U.S.
  • By 1964, there were over 400 born
  • By 1965, there almost 2,000 born

That same year, 1965, Samantha hit the top 200 ranks at 179. Pretty impressive considering that only two years earlier Samantha didn’t even make the top 1000.

Samantha may have had an advantage in that it wasn’t a title-character. TV shows can boost a name’s birth numbers, but not, usually, when the name belongs to a title-character.

For example, Dexter follows so many modern name trends and has the style of modest hit. Dexter also happens to be a title-character in a Showtime drama that ended just a year ago. The show got a positive  reception, being one of the most-watched original Showtime dramas ever.

Despite the show’s popularity, when I suggested Dexter to expecting parents a few years ago, I was surprised at the common response: “I can’t name my son after that TV show.” Some parents added that they found the vigilante character too controversial.

Because of my anecdotal evidence, I was shocked to learn a few years ago that Dexter was one of the fastest rising names of 2011. The following year, Dexter’s birth numbers climbed a little more. But even before 2011, the name was slowly climbing the name ranks since 2006 when the show first aired and the name was at the bottom of the top 1000.

Maybe the show did help the name a little. But Dexter’s momentum may be short-lived. Dexter declined in 2013 (the most recent year for name ranks) putting its most recent rank at 380.

The jury is out on Dexter’s future as a baby name but based on how other TV title-character names fared long-term, Dexter won’t see the same success as Samantha. None of these other TV title characters took off:

Earl

  • TV Show: My Name is Earl
  • Originally Aired: 2005 – 2009
  • Name’s rankings during show’s original run: 953 – outside the top 1000

When the show originally aired, Earl was at its lowest rank ever and left the top 1000 a couple of years later. This name was a hit during the late 19th century, when it almost hit the top 20. Over a century later, not even a TV show could erase the name’s dusty relic image. But for those who love vintage-hipster geek-chic names, Earl is a great find.

Felicity

  • TV Show: Felicity
  • Originally Aired: 1998 – 2002
  • Name’s rankings during show’s original run: 818 – 548

Based on its lacy, lively style, I’m continually amazed that there aren’t more tweens and teens named Felicity now. Admittedly this name did become a little more popular during the show’s original run, but its newfound notoriety was short-lived. Before the show aired in 1998 Felicity had never been in the top 1000. During the show’s second season in 1999 its rank rose over 400 places to 390. Like Dexter a few years later, Felicity did seem poised to take-off, but then its growth slowed down and eventually declined. There is hope, however. Felicity has yet to leave the top 1000, and has made a modest comeback.

Frasier

  • TV Show: Frasier
  • Originally Aired: 1993 – 2004
  • Name’s rankings during show’s original run: Outside the top 1000

Thanks to the Cheers spin-off, Frasier has a cerebral, uptight image. Before the show the name was mostly unknown, never hitting the top 1000. After the show, Frasier‘s association with the TV show may still prevent the name from being taken seriously. And even a decade since the show’s last original episode, the connection with the show might still discourage parents from using Frasier. But give it time.

Maude

  • TV Show: Maude
  • Originally Aired: 1972 – 1978
  • Name’s rankings during show’s original run: Outside the top 1000

The controversial nature of the All in the Family spin-off may have kept the name from taking off. But more likely, the name’s antique style was a stark contrast to hot names of the time, such as Heather and Melissa. Maude has a better chance of seeing a slight revival today among cutting-edge parents who love comeback names such as Beatrice, Hazel, and Mabel.

Tru

  • TV Show: Tru Calling
  • Originally Aired: 2003 – 2005
  • Name’s rankings during show’s original run: Outside the top 1000

The heroine in this Fox Network show had a supernatural ability to talk to the recently deceased. She also had a name with modern potential, especially for those who like androgynous and literal-meaning names. Tru can be an alternative spelling for True or a short-form for Truman. This off-beat name has yet to hit the top 1000, but with its one-syllable style, it might work well in the middle spot.

Quincy

  • TV Show: Quincy M.E.
  • Originally Aired: 1976 – 1983
  • Name’s rankings during show’s original run: 304 – 430

This off-beat surname had never been common in the U.S. When the show first aired, Quincy did see a short-term increase, spending a couple of years in the 200-ranks and then the name declined. The name continues to decline today, but with its endearing sound, and inspired initial (Q), it has the makings of a modern hit.

Most of these TV names have selling points but were overshadowed by their title characters. In a few cases, such as Dexter and Felicity, the TV show slightly helped the name in the short-term, but never had the impact Bewitched had on the name Samantha. Samantha eventually had more staying power than the TV show that made it familiar. As for the rest of these TV names, their associations with their shows will fade in time, and perhaps then these names will be appreciated.

Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find that different but not too different name. She muses about names on their way in and on their way out in her book, The Top 22 in 2022, which she updates every year in May once the newest U.S. name rankings become available.  

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About the author

upswingbabynames

Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.
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4 Responses to “TV Names That Never Took Off: Felicity & Frasier”

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lindsW Says:

October 13th, 2014 at 8:47 am

For the record, the BOOK of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was first published in 1972.

lindsW Says:

October 13th, 2014 at 8:48 am

darn… commented on the wrong post.

mermuse Says:

October 13th, 2014 at 9:15 am

Well, my parents got my name, Stephanie, from the TV show, “Newhart”–not a title character. So, I guess I am another statistic in support of this post!

lesliemarion Says:

October 13th, 2014 at 10:51 pm

Too bad — I love the names Felicty and Frasier.

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