Conjuring up names on TV
It's no secret that a popular tv series can launch the popularity of a name. The all-time champion, by my reckoning, is "Bewitched." During its eight-year run, that beloved suburban-sorceress sitcom launched three names with lasting star power: Samantha, Darren and Tabitha. Samantha in particuar has become such a modern classic that it's hard to remember the name was virtually unknown before Elizabeth Montgomery brought it to twinkling life.
One contemporary heir to the naming throne shares a lot in common with "Bewitched." Try a charming suburban blonde, struggling each week to smoothe over trouble caused by pesky supernatural forces.
When "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" premiered in 1997, the character names Willow and Xander were completely off the radar as baby names. But by the show's final year in 2003, Willow was the 530th most popular name for American girls. And Xander checked in at #237 for boys, ahead of such familiar favorites as Gregory, Martin and Scott.
Both shows took place in parallel universes, where life was full of the unexpected and unusual names wouldn't cause any raised eyebrows. (Who cares that your mother-in-law is named Endora, you've got bigger problems, she turned you into a goat.) The more real-world the show's setting, the less likely it will spawn hot new names. "Dynasty" was a huge name influence: Blake, Krystle, Alexis, Fallon. But "E.R."? Forget it.