Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.
I’m generally skeptical about claims that names in the media have a big impact on parents’ choices of what to name the baby (see this earlier post on “Twilight” names). But Hilary Parker points out some examples where celebrity influence is unmistakable. Like Farrah.
“Charlie’s Angels” came to TV in 1976, and the angel prima inter pares was Farrah Fawcett. This poster was seemingly everywhere (and in 1976, that barely noticeable nipple was a big deal):
But as with most names that rise quickly, Farrah went quickly out of style. If you see a Farrah on a dating site listing her age as 29, she’s lying by six or seven years.
Hilary is different. The name grew gradually in popularity, probably flowing down through the social class system. There was no sudden burst of popularity caused by the outside force of a celebrity name (see Gabriel Rossman’s post on endogenous and exogenous influences). Then in 1992, Hilary seemed to have been totally banned from the obstetrics ward.
Surely, the effect came not from word of mouth but from a prominent Hilary (or in this case, the rarer spelling Hillary), the one who said she wasn’t going to stay home and bake cookies.
Maybe now that Hillary is getting a favorable press — good reviews for her stint as Secretary of State — the name might return to its 1980s popularity.Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.