1976: A Baby Name Time Capsule

Jun 1st 2012

I recently came across the girl's name Tennille in the name stats. Immediately, images of bicentennial quarters and Jimmy Carter campaign posters flashed before my eyes, to the strains of "Muskrat Love."

For a few brief years in the mid-'70s, the husband and wife duo Captain & Tennille was one of the hottest acts in pop music. If you meet a woman named Tennille, you can bet she was born sometime between "Love Will Keep Us Together" and "Do That to Me One More Time." The name peaked at #299 in 1976.

It's a moment in time, captured in a name. Can any other name compare in the power to take you straight back to 1976? I ran some stats, looking for more names with the same "Spirit of '76." Here are the contenders for a naming time capsule:

Direct Hit: Farrah
In 1976 the tv series "Charlie's Angels" debuted, and a poster of star Farrah Fawcett in a red swimsuit broke sales records. The next year Fawcett left the show. The name Farrah, previously virtually unknown, leapt to #276 in America in 1976, #177 in 1977, then quickly fell back to earth.

Bionically Assisted: Jaime, Lindsay
In 1975, the names Jaime and Lindsay were androgynous. In 1976, they were overwhelmingly female. (Jaime peaked at #29 in 1976; Lindsay leaped to #133 that year, then kept on rising.) The power behind both was tv's "Bionic Woman" Jaime Sommers, played by Lindsay Wagner.

Launched, but Stayed in Orbit: Nadia
Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci made history in the 1976 Olympics with the first ever score of a perfect 10. Her previously obscure foreign name leapt to #360 in the U.S., and has been used here steadily ever since.

One Year Off: Kizzy, Kunta and LeVar
The miniseries "Roots," based on Alex Haley's novel of an African American family's multigenerational journey, was an overwhelming sensation in 1977. Character names Kizzy (#223 for girls) and Kunta (#572 for boys) came out of nowhere, along with the name of actor LeVar Burton (#343), who played Kunta Kinte.

And Just Because...: Travolta
In 1978, eleven American boys were named Travolta. Just thought you'd like to know.

Comments

1
By Amy3
June 1, 2012 10:07 AM

Oh, I had the very popular Toni Tennille haircut! I got it as a 2nd grader in, you guessed it, 1976!

2
By APlecturenotes (not verified)
June 1, 2012 10:28 AM

I was born in 1976 and my middle name is Tenille!  Slightly different spelling, but the same name.  I never hear it.  How odd to see it in the title of a post!

3
June 1, 2012 11:37 AM

I'm a Bicentennial Baby too! These take me back!

4
June 1, 2012 12:01 PM

As a matter of fact, I was born in the late 1970s, and I went to high school with a (variantly spelled) Tenille. 

5
By Guest1976 (not verified)
June 1, 2012 2:30 PM

I'm a 1976 baby. My name is Rache1 J0hanna -> J0hanna comes from a Bob Dylan song from the 60s.

I've got to say, though, I went to school with a lot of Sarahs, Jennifers, Christinas, and Lauras. I don't remember knowing anyone named Tennille, Farrah, Jaime (I did know a Jami), Lindsay, Nadia, Kizzy, Kunta, or LeVar.

6
June 1, 2012 2:35 PM

Guest1976 wrote "I've got to say, though, I went to school with a lot of Sarahs, Jennifers, Christinas, and Lauras. I don't remember knowing anyone named Tennille, Farrah, Jaime (I did know a Jami), Lindsay, Nadia, Kizzy, Kunta, or LeVar."

Oh, absolutely -- most of these names were pretty rare. The idea isn't "If you were born in 1976, this was likely your name" but rather "if this is your name, you were likely born in 1976."

7
June 1, 2012 3:51 PM

Another 1976 baby here! 

8
June 1, 2012 4:37 PM

I've never heard that before.  It actually sounds pretty modern to me, like it could fit pretty well in with the go-feminine naming trend of today.  Will put this on my list for further consideration. :)

9
June 1, 2012 5:09 PM

I knew a Tennille, too! She was my eldest sister's best friend in school. I remember my parents got a huge kick out of it.

10
June 1, 2012 8:38 PM

I was born in 1978 and I think two of my class mates from school had older sisters called Tenille. Fairly likely they were born in 1976!

I also went to school with quite a few (girl) Lindsays and Jamie/Jaimes. 

I've come across 2 Farrah's through work and they would have been born lateish 70's.

Farrah is such a pretty name that it would be lovely if it made a comeback but I guess it's very tied to that 70's era and Farrah Fawcett.

11
By Lindsay1976 (not verified)
June 3, 2012 8:52 AM

I'm a Lindsay who was born in 1976. When I've questioned the reason for my name, my mom has always vaguely said, "I saw your name in a magazine." I actually get a kick out of the idea that the Bionic Woman inspired me name. Makes me want to go workout :)

12
By J&H's mom (not verified)
June 3, 2012 4:37 PM

One of the recent Teen Moms on the MTV show is named Farrah, so I wouldn't be surprised to see if it makes at least a mini comeback.

I have a male cousin named Lindsay born in 1970. I knew both Lindsays and Jamies growing up in the 70s/80s, but I feel like I actually know more young Lindsays now than I did then. They tend to have a whole array of spellings these days.

I have to say, though, in terms of a time capsule name, the name that absolutely says 70s to me will always be Heather.

13
By Guest1938b (not verified)
June 5, 2012 8:40 AM

Just to be different, I went to school with a Tenille, a few Lindsays, a couple Farrahs and Jamies a Nadia and now I can make that Roots connection.  The bit where I'm different?  These were early-mid eighties babies.

I think we were delayed with all fashions, though, including names.  If it makes you feel better we had several Jennifers and Catherines (two female Ryans), a few Breannas and Cindys, too, though.  Lots of Christophers and J names for the boys, too.  Track a bit better there?  ;)

14
By Paula (not verified)
June 5, 2012 1:38 PM

The daughter of country star Barbara Mandrell is named Jaime Nicole, and she was born in Feb. 1976.  Barbara has said in interviews that she was named after the Bionic Woman.  Barbara happened to be watching an episode of the show when she was pregnant and heard someone speak the name Jaime and decided right then that if she had a girl, that was what she was going to name her.

I really find this article interesting because I love learning WHAT popularizes certain names!  I was born in very late December 1963 (okay, go ahead and sing the Four Seasons song!  LOL!), and I was in school with a lot of Lisas and Davids.  I've always wondered what made those two names so popular with my generation.  The only Lisa I can think of is the character on the soap opera As The World Turns, played by actress Eileen Fulton, and I'm not even sure she was on the show that far back.  I had babysitters who watched the CBS soaps, and I remember Lisa being on there when I was a little girl, but was she on before I was born?  And what made the name David so popular for boys of my generation?

I remember a lot of Jackies and Jacquelines around my age and maybe slightly older - I was born 37 days after JFK's assassination, so that one's easily explained.  Didn't we have a lot of Hillarys and Hilarys during the Clinton administration?

And of course I remember all the Jennifers of the 1970's.  The general belief is that the movie Love Story made Jennifer so hugely popular, but is that all?

Does this site, or is there any website, that explains WHAT makes certain names popular at certain times??? 

 

INTERESTING topic!!!!

15
By AnyaT (not verified)
June 5, 2012 2:00 PM

I was born in 1976, but in a different country. Hard to believe, but in my area my name (Anna) was rare and quite a few people told my parents they were crazy to give their baby "an ancient granny name". Only as an adult I found out that there were scores of Annas around my age out there.

Nadia (Nadezhda) was not common back then either. Most Nadias I know are my mom's age.

16
By ValenzMom (not verified)
June 5, 2012 6:23 PM

I graduated from high school in 1976 - the Bicentennial!  I remember that, regardless of my high school colors, we had to wear red, white and blue graduation caps and gowns in honor of our country's 200th birthday.  Since we had all been born in the late 1950s, most of us had names inspired by the movies like Sandra, Tammy, Julie, Debbie and Donna.  Funny that now those are the Grandma names - gone are the Hazels, Myrtles, Henriettas, Louises.

17
By mac (not verified)
June 5, 2012 10:10 PM

I went to school with a TaNeal- we're in our 20's, but I bet her mom was a teenager in 1976!

I also have a 7 year old niece named Farrah, sister to Ginger.

18
By NotJaime (not verified)
June 6, 2012 11:00 AM

I'm a female Jamie, born 1977 - but I am named after my Grandmother, named Jamie and born 1908. Her father was James. I've had to dodge those Bionic Woman references forever! There were several other Jamies at my school, although most with the Jamie spelling were boys - all the girls had Jaime spellings, and I could never find one of those bike license plates with my name spelled my way in the GIRL section.

Oddly enough, my sister's name is Lindsey.

@Valenzmom - All your "Grandma" names are the baby names now! Off the top of my head I can think of a Harriet, 2 Louisas, 3 Sophias, one Augusta (!), a Dorothy, a Florence and an upcoming potential Odette. (Again, !!!)

19
June 8, 2012 6:36 AM

My brother was born in 1976, MN the family perennial Robert. Years after he was born my mom learned that one of our ancestors was born in 1876 and named Robert Centennial--she missed the opportunity to solidify the family tradition by naming my brother FN Robert Bicentennial LN. Someday there could have been a Robert Tricentennial :).

I wonder if it occurred to any parents back in the day to name their child Bicentennille, thereby killing two 1976 stones with one name? I bet it would if today's parents had been naming back then.

20
By JulieLM (not verified)
June 9, 2012 9:42 PM

@Paula, the Lisa character was introduced on ATWT in 1960.  Wikipedia says the name Lisa was up to #6 and her popularity sent it to the top.  My guess would be that it had been a logical followup to Linda, as Jessica would later be to Jennifer.

I turned ten in 1976 (along with many, many Lisas;  there were four in my grade-school class, a full 25% of the female students) and had plans to name my firstborn daughter Jaime.  I thought it was the coolest, prettiest name ever!  Nadia was also on my list, along with Jaclyn (couldn't stand Farrah Fawcett, though I did think her name was attractive).  I changed my mind many times before I finally had a daughter!

21
By Paula (not verified)
June 12, 2012 1:43 PM

Thanks for the info on Lisa, JulieLM.  I didn't realize the character was on the show that far ahead of my birth.  I do know that the name Lisa stayed popular for quite awhile.  After my above mention of singer Barbara Mandrell's daughter Jaime, named after the Bionic Woman, I also remembered that singer Lynn Anderson (of "Rose Garden" fame) has a daughter named Lisa, born in December 1970, around the time "Rose Garden" hit its peak in music popularity, so the name Lisa was evidently still very popular seven years after my birth.  Another girl's name popular in my generation is Kelly and I'd love to know why.  I can also remember, in second grade, having THREE girls named Teresa/Theresa in my class!  (Two spelled it Teresa and one spelled it Theresa.)  Other than among Catholic families, I'd never thought of Teresa/Theresa as being that popular.  One of the Teresas from my second grade class I know for a fact was not Catholic.

Honestly, it seems that boys' names don't have such sharp trends in popularity.  You'll find Davids and Michaels and the like in every generation.  The few exceptions would be the Jasons of the 1980's and the recent Aidens and Jadens, etc.

Is there a website that not only shows when certain names were popular but why????

22
By Sarah1984 (not verified)
June 19, 2012 7:27 PM

How did you find out how many boys were named Travolta? Is there a site?

23
By JulieLM (not verified)
June 24, 2012 1:09 AM

"Is there a website that not only shows when certain names were popular but why????"

I would love to see that!

About Kelly, my guess is Grace Kelly's heyday gave people the idea-  Grace probably seemed old-fashioned, but Kelly had the tomboy perkiness of names like Jody or Sandy,  And John Forsythe had a TV show called Bachelor Father circa 1960 in which he was guardian to a teenage girl named Kelly.

I've wondered about T(h)eresa, too- I went to Catholic school and always assumed it was simply popular among Catholics, but it does seem to have been common across the board.  The Name Voyager shows a sharp rise starting n the 40s and peaking at #25 in the 60s.  Maybe the actress Teresa Wright was an influence- the average younger person today never heard of her, unlike Bette Davis or Liz Taylor, but she was very popular and acclaimed.

24
March 13, 2013 1:48 AM

@JulieLM, I like your ideas. I would also like to know if there's a specific references about certain names, in what time are they popular. I would gladly appreciate any share.

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