Baby boomer baby names that have gone out of style

Posted: January 5, 2020 in Did you know?
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Some names seem so ubiquitous that it is hard to imagine that they will ever be anything other than everywhere in the popular consciousness. However, a look at the history of popular names goes to show that such enduring popularity is far from given.

babyboomer1When the parents of the baby boomer generation came back from World War II, an array of social factors influenced the names they would give their children, including the names of beloved presidents and popular actors. From models to actresses to singer-songwriters, many of the most famous baby boomers had the most popular names of their day, from Jerry Hall to Bob Dylan to Pat Benatar.

However, for some names, in the time between the boomer years and now, other figures have emerged with the same names that cause these monikers to lose their luster. An unpopular television show character, a kidnapper, murderer, or other unsavory character, or simply a dramatic downturn in fortune on the public stage can all contribute to a name losing its popularity. President Richard Nixon, for example, was famously called “Tricky Dicky” for his crimes in office, making the name Dick far less appealing for parents.

Blanche (girls)

Total baby boomers with this name: 5,024 (#430 most popular name for baby boomer girls)
– Peak popularity year: 1949 (Rank: #410; 379 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: #15,589 (5 babies born)

Two short years after Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire” opened on Broadway, the name Blanche peaked in popularity. Williams’ play was later turned into a film in which the character Blanche is a truly down on her luck—contributing perhaps to negative associations that have led the name to fall from favor.

Earlene (girls)

Total baby boomers with this name: 5,036 (#389 most popular name for baby boomer girls)
– Peak popularity year: 1947 (Rank: #401; 407 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: Not ranked (fewer than 5 babies born)

Although Earlene is hardly as popular a name as it once was, parents hoping for an athletic child may wish to consider naming their child after Earlene Brown. Brown was an Olympic athlete famous for her prowess in track and field—and later in roller derby.

Jerry (girls)

Total baby boomers with this name: 5,245 (#427 most popular name for baby boomer girls)
– Peak popularity year: 1946 (Rank: #345; 475 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: Not ranked (fewer than 5 babies born)

Jerry had been out of high fashion as a girl’s name for ten years when Jerry Hall’s parents named her in 1956. But that didn’t stop Hall from running away to model in Paris at 16 and then marrying Mick Jagger.

Cleveland (boys)

Total baby boomers with this name: 5,612 (#414 most popular name for baby boomer boys)
– Peak popularity year: 1947 (Rank: #361; 359 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: #4,337 (23 babies born)

Cleveland peaked just after World War II, but generations later the name was given a new twist on fame, if not widespread usage. The popular sitcom Family Guy includes a main character named Cleveland, one of the show’s more beloved characters.

Merle (boys)

Total baby boomers with this name: 5,685 (#313 most popular name for baby boomer boys)
– Peak popularity year: 1948 (Rank: #321; 432 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: #4,452 (22 babies born)

Country music legend Merle Haggard is one reason for parents to continue considering naming their children Merle. Counting against the name? That it also means the hair of a dog’s coat.

Earnestine (girls)

earnestineTotal baby boomers with this name: 5,734 (#407 most popular name for baby boomer girls)
– Peak popularity year: 1948 (Rank: #356; 475 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: Not ranked (fewer than 5 babies born)

Earnestine may no longer be a popular name, but it has an auspicious contemporary claim to fame. Earnestine & Hazel has been called by VICE  the most haunted bar in America.

Dick (boys)

Total baby boomers with this name: 5,912 (#309 most popular name for baby boomer boys)
– Peak popularity year: 1946 (Rank: #208; 828 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: Not ranked (fewer than 5 babies born)

One reason the name Dick may no longer be as popular as it once was? President Richard Nixon was famous disgraced in office and nicknamed “Tricky Dicky” for his crimes in office.

Carey (boys)

Total baby boomers with this name: 5,972 (#300 most popular name for baby boomer boys)
– Peak popularity year: 1957 (Rank: #354; 459 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: #4,452 (22 babies born)

Carey has fallen out of favor as a name for boys, but it has at least one high-profile avatar, who is a woman. The actress Carey Mulligan is widely considered one of the most talented actresses of her generation.

Garland (boys)

Total baby boomers with this name: 6,090 (#169 most popular name for baby boomer boys)
– Peak popularity year: 1949 (Rank: #335; 402 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: #4,713 (20 babies born)

The most common connotations with the word garland today are likely garlands strung up for the holidays, and President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee who never got a hearing. Given these associations, it may come as no surprise if parents do not continue naming children Garland.

Bettye (girls)

Total baby boomers with this name: 6,120 (#197 most popular name for baby boomer girls)
– Peak popularity year: 1947 (Rank: #284; 739 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: Not ranked (fewer than 5 babies born)

Bettye peaked in popularity just a year after the singer-songwriter Bettye LaVette was born in 1946. Alas, LaVette’s illustrious career and hit singles weren’t quite enough to keep the name in heavy rotation.

Myrtle (girls)

Total baby boomers with this name: 6,417 (#397 most popular name for baby boomer girls)
– Peak popularity year: 1947 (Rank: #319; 596 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: Not ranked (fewer than 5 babies born)

Myrtle’s ubiquity has been replaced with a highly specific sort of infamy. Moaning Myrtle is one of the most distinct characters in the Harry Potter series—a ghost who haunts a toilet in a girl’s bathroom at Hogwarts.

Elbert (boys)

Total baby boomers with this name: 6,496 (#390 most popular name for baby boomer boys)
– Peak popularity year: 1947 (Rank: #322; 455 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: #6,308 (13 babies born)

One ignominious Elbert who may have contributed to the name’s plummet in popularity? The politician Elbert Woodward, who was a crony of the famously corrupt Boss Tweed at the height of New York City’s political corruption.

Gayla (girls)

gaylaTotal baby boomers with this name: 6,529 (#343 most popular name for baby boomer girls)
– Peak popularity year: 1954 (Rank: #345; 618 babies born)
– Popularity in 2018: Not ranked (fewer than 5 babies born)

Gayla Peevey was one of the most famous child stars of her day, famous for singing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Peevey’s star hasn’t remained quite as prominent in the public imagination as her contemporary Shirley Temple, and the name’s luster has faded with her own.

There are about 38 more names, but at this point I do not wish to run this post to long for reading.

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