Wednesday, July 11, 2012

'The Golden Girls': Old-Lady-Name Central

With so many parents choosing century names and old-lady names for their kids, I've been wondering if anyone has examined the impact of "The Golden Girls" on the trend.

After all, Sophia (played by Estelle Getty) now has the most popular moniker in America, and the show is a source of other great names in the same vein.


Sure enough, the Nameberry blog beat me to this topic, covering it in early 2010 (before Sophia reached No. 1 nationwide).
When The Golden Girls hit the small screen in 1985, the names of its leading ladies — Rose, Dorothy and Blanche — were late middle aged, and Mama Sophia was old enough to have already been in and out of the Shady Pines Nursing Home. That was 25 years ago, a period of major change in the name world. Sophia is now the seventh most popular baby name (and #1 in some places), Rose is America's favorite middle name, and Dorothy is one of the belles of the nameberry name boards. 
Not only that: other Golden Girl names, names that were virtually written off just a couple of years ago, are back in play. Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, for example, named one of their twin daughters Marion, Julia Roberts chose Hazel for hers and Molly Ringwald picked Adele. And nameberryites are cool with similar period names like Clara and Cora, Vivian and Vera.
Such names have become even more mainstream since Nameberry addressed this issue two years ago. (Adele also has gotten a boost from the singer, of course.) But I think the growth for some of these names is just getting under way.

I really like Dorothy and predict that it's going to blow up in the next 10 years. It was No. 3 in the 1910s and No. 2 in the 1920s, making it a perfect century name.

I don't predict as dramatic an ascent for Rose, which  as Nameberry notes  is more ensconced as a middle name now. And Blanche doesn't have the same charm.

But let's dig deeper: What about the names of the actresses on "The Golden Girls"?

Stella is already popular, and I could see Estelle gaining steam as well (though it's not currently in the top 1,000). Estelle Getty was born in 1923, when the name ranked 123rd.

Bea Arthur was actually born Bernice  a name that I don't expect to make a comeback soon. But Beatrice has already climbed back into the top 1,000, and I think it will go higher.

Rue McClanahan had an unusual name, and it doesn't evoke a bygone era. If it makes any headway in the coming years, it will be due to the "Hunger Games" character, not nostalgia.

Then there's Betty White, the only member of the principal cast who is still alive. I don't see Betty staging a rebound, but it's a diminutive of Elizabeth  a perennial favorite  so it may get some love on the nickname front.