Once upon a time, tv commercials were America's common language. They were catchy, they were inescapable, they were universal. In the glory days of network tv, you might not have watched the exact same shows as your neighbors, but you definitely knew not to squeeze the Charmin, asked "Where's the beef?," and could sing all the words to the "Meow Mix" cat food song. (Spoiler: they're all "meow.")
For the ultimate proof of the impact of vintage tv ads, I present baby names. Meet three names that became overnight phenomena thanks to the power of commercials.
In 1993, Hellmann's/Best Foods introduced a brand-new sandwich spread. It combined the tang of French-style Dijon mustard with Hellman's famous mayonnaise to produce a revolutionary creamy "Dijonnaise"TM.
In other words, it was mayo + mustard, for those who couldn't be bothered to use two different condiments. That might seem prosaic, but a genius of advertising thought to set the new product to the tune of Gene Chandler's doo wop classic "Duke of Earl." Di, Di, Di, Dijonnaise, Di Di...take a listen to the ad, and I dare you to keep the jingle out of your head. It certainly stuck in the head of American parents, who named 23 girls Dijonnaise in 1993.
In the 1980s, wine coolers had a moment. The mildly alcoholic drinks were essentially pre-packaged punch: a mixture of soda, juice and cheap wine in individual serving sizes, ready to slip in with the Budweiser in your party ice chest. For a few heady years, they were everywhere. But hey, before you laugh at the '80s consider that the current trend is for "hard seltzer," which is marketed as good for you because it's low in carbs. Mark your calendar for 25 years from now to look back and snicker.
Anyway, the top wine cooler brand, Bartles & Jaymes, was a Gallo product that hit it big with an unlikely ad campaign. Two gray-haired country gents sat on a front porch and said "thank you for your support" for "their" new wine cooler brand. The name Jaymes, previously an obscure spelling of Jaymes seen just a handful of times each year, immediately took off. During the ad campaign's peak in 1986, 144 American boys were named Jaymes.
When was the last time you heard a perfume theme song? Back in the '70s and '80s, companies like Revlon and Prince Matchabelli churned out jingles to make their scents household names. Each perfume was positioned as a lifestyle statement, typically either romantic and beguiling ("Your Wind Song stays on my mind") or fresh and liberated ("Kinda free, kinda WOW, Charlie")—but always with the explicit purpose of winning over men, who were pictured either in expensive business suits or riding horses along the beach.
Revlon's Enjoli (AHN-zhǝ-LEE) perfume crafted its 1978 vision of the modern woman out of Peggy Lee's powerhouse song "I'm a Woman." Their revised lyrics served as an introduction to the superwoman ideal: full-time businesswoman, full-time homemaker, and full-time seductress. "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never-never-never let you forget you're a man." In the first two years after the jingle's launch, 185 girls were named Enjoli.
Could any advertisement pack that kind of cultural punch today?
Unusual, but not weird. Not trendy, but not outdated either. Easy to spell and pronounce, but not ordinary?
If that's your impossible baby name target, no worries, we've got you covered.
We've tracked down 16 boys' names that are familiar, usable, and perennially rare. So rare, in fact, that none of them has ever ranked among the top 300 names in America. Even the likes of Millard and Wilmer have managed to climb higher than that.
The rarity should make any of these names distinctive to your son wherever he goes. In fact, many of them stand out in sound as well as style, with few sound-alike names (think Aiden and Hayden, Jason and Mason). The familiarity, meanwhile, gives them an easy confidence. They should be recognized wherever they go, without too many raised eyebrows.
(And be sure to check out the rare-but-familiar girls' names, too.)
Photo: Getty Images
|NAME||WHY IS IT SO FAMILIAR?|
|Benedict||From actor Benedict Cumberbatch, General Benedict Arnold, Pope Benedict, Eggs Benedict|
|Campbell||From the common surname, actor Campbell Scott, and Campbell's Soup|
|Casper||Because of Casper the Friendly Ghost, and various place names and brand names|
|Cormac||From author Cormac McCarthy|
|Gray||As a common word and surname, and from former California Governor Gray Davis|
|Harris||As a common surname, and via related names Harry and Harrison|
|Judd||Because of actors Judd Hirsch and Judd Nelsion, and filmmaker Judd Apatow|
|Jules||From author Jules Verne and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and contemporary spellings like Juelz|
|Kip||As an occasional nickname as well as a given name and surname|
|Leif||From explorer Leif Erikson and singer Leif Garrett|
|Linus||Via comics character Linus van Pelt, Linux creator Linus Torvalds, and scientist Linus Pauling|
|Murphy||From the common surname, and (female) tv character Murphy Brown|
|Palmer||From the common surname, and soap opera character Palmer Cortland|
|Phineas||From TV series Phineas and Ferb, scientific subject Phineas Gage, and current "Finn" names|
|Stone||As a common word and surname, and tv journalist Stone Phillips|
|Truman||Because of writer Truman Capote, film The Truman Show, and President Harry S.Truman|
A brand-new year means brand-new baby name trends. Here are eight best bets for 2019 style. These names were all unusual last year, but their combination of fashionable sound and new, breakout star power has them poised to rise in the year ahead.
This energetic surname was left behind by the tradesman trend that sent names like Carter, Cooper, Tyler and Parker to the top. Thanks to Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, that should change in a hurry.
The name Kiki has always been a step apart from the likes of Mimi and Fifi. It has bold and creative associations, which actress KiKi Layne of If Beale Street Could Talk helps bring to the fore. Look for it to emerge as a fresh nickname option for almost any K name.
KiKi Layne, Baker Mayfield. Photos: Getty Images
"New Rules" singer Dua Lipa has such a catchy little name that many people assume it's a stage name. In fact, it comes from her family's Albanian heritage. Dua is an Albanian verb meaning "love."
Billie isn't a "new" name per se, but a 1920s-30s favorite that's been out of the picture for decades. Young singer-songwriter Billie Eilish should have more parents considering this name alongside rising hits like Charlie.
Zuri (M, F)
Zuri means "beautiful" in Kiswahili, and is traditionally a girl's name. Thanks to a male Zuri in the year's top movie Black Panther, it's now ready to rise for girls and boys alike.
Outfielder Mallex Smith was one of the year's breakout baseball players with the Tampa Bay Rays. Expect x-hunting parents to take note of his name, which his mother created as a twist on Alex for an all-M family.
Kiernan is an Irish surname that comes from the similar-sounding given name Tiernan. It has usually been a boy's name, but actress Kiernan Shipka of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina could change that.
The name of a baby on the TV series Love & Hip Hop, this supremely "liquid" name is a smart bet to be the latest reality tv-launched hit.