Celebrity Names Blog

Lucille Ball at 100; Lucy Is Hot As Ever

Lucille Ball at 100; Lucy Is Hot As Ever

Yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of one of the most ground-breaking female comedians of the 20th century: the late, great Lucille Ball.

Our taste in comedy can change as quickly as our taste for names -- what’s fresh and original one year can seem overused and unexciting the next. (Try watching Austin Powers and see if it seems as brilliant as it did on the first viewing in 1997). It’s rare to find something that has both staying power and mass appeal.

When it comes to comedy, Ball’s flavor exemplifies timelessness. I Love Lucy premiered nearly 60 years ago, and while the scenery, fashion, gender roles and technology as depicted on the show may seem more archaic by the year, the jokes have never gone stale. Fans whose parents weren’t yet born when the show first aired laugh just as easily at Lucy's crazy antics as the first generation of viewers did decades ago. Her knack for impeccable timing and comedic physical expression is as watchable as ever.

Let’s look at how the names Lucy and Lucille have has fared over time:

First, it's important to separate the names Lucy and Lucille. It's commonly assumed that Lucy is a nickname for Lucille, when, in fact, it is the other way around -- Lucille was originally a diminutive of Lucie. Lucy has its own noteworthy history as a name.

Though Lucy steadily declined in popularity throughout the twentieth century, it's never fallen off the charts. We may associate the name with Lucy Ricardo, but it never became branded as an "old lady" name to the degree her pal Ethel's name did.

Looking at the Name Voyager, we can see that in the 1880s, Lucy was ranked at number 49, while Lucille stood at 174. By the 1890s, however, the tables turned and Lucille shot up to 99, while Lucy continued its 100-year long steady drop.

However, as quickly as Lucille's star had risen, it fell. After peaking in the 1910s, it plummeted over the next 30 years, and by the 1980s no longer ranked as a popular name.

Now, Lucy and its variations are getting hot again, and not just in the US. It's been sneaking up the American charts since the 1970s, but has been on a fast uphill climb since 2003. In 2010, Lucy ranked within the top 20 girls names in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, England, and New Zealand and Australia. Its variant, Lucia, is a cross-cultural mainstay. It exists in any Romance language (Portuguese, Italian, Spanish) and a celebration of St. Lucia is observed in many Scandanavian and Eastern European countries. Lucy/Lucia might be on the brink of trendiness, but its longetivity, international appeal, and simplistic spelling could save it from being too closely associated with the 2010s.

We're far enough removed from the days of I Love Lucy that parents probably don't have to worry about dozens of "You have some splainin' to do!" jokes, but at the same time, we hope that little Lucys everywhere get to appreciate the hilarity of their namesake TV character one day.

Do you associate "Lucy" with Lucille Ball? Are the young Lucys that you know aware of the show?

And just for fun, here's a clip of some of that timeless physical comedy we mentioned earlier. In this bit from I Love Lucy, Ricky boasts about the success of his plan to put Lucy on a strict daily schedule. With the help of some fellow housewives, she concocts a plan to give Ricky exactly what he wants, and throws him the speedy and efficient dinner party he wanted.

-- K.L.

Comments

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August 7, 2011 10:58 PM
By Suzy

When I think Lucy, I think of Lucy Van Pelt from Charlie Brown first. Then I Love Lucy. Loved both... but I was slightly more of a Sunday comics girl.

August 8, 2011 8:01 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Love lucy....as well as Lucia "Loo-si-a", NOT Loo-chia. I'm 40 and Lucy was the name of my first doll, and thus will always be my first and fondest association.

August 8, 2011 9:27 AM
By HiLary (not verified)

My mom's name is Lucia, pronounced Loo-sha. I've always wanted to name a daughter after her, but she refuses to let me because of all of the years of mispronunciations of her name. I think Lucy is a good way to pay homage.

August 8, 2011 12:25 PM
By Sarah (not verified)

I love Lucy! (pun intended I guess!) In addition to being associated with Lucille Ball and Lucy VanPelt from Peaunts, it is in several songs, such as "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and Hanson's "Lucy." It is also a great saint name. With such varied associations and its timeless appeal, I don't think anyone should have to worry about using Lucy in the way they might have to worry about using a name like Miley. My little sister's name is Grace Lucille, and she goes by the nickname Gracey Lu. (Though she's a little older now, so mostly only family still adds on the Lu part)

August 8, 2011 1:49 PM
By Katie

Oh boy, how could I forget Lucy VanPelt? I only really paid attention to Peanuts around the holidays, but growing up, my parents were big on exposing my siblings and me to old TV shows and movies.

Thanks to Nick at Night reruns, I Love Lucy, Get Smart, and Bewitched were some of my favorite shows! Maybe that last one explains why I had at least one doll named Samantha...

August 8, 2011 8:22 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

To me, there are too many notable Lucys out there that it is not tied to any one of them. Lucy is all at once Lucy Ricardo, Lucy Pevensie (of the Narnia books), Lucy of Charlie Brown, Lucy Honeychurch (of A Room With a View, one of my favorite books) and a whole host of other enduring personalities.

To me that's one of Lucy's biggest appeals (and I do adore the name)- everyone knows it, it is tied to many great associations but it can't be pinned down. Much like other favorites Elizabeth and Jane.

August 8, 2011 11:11 PM
By Allison (not verified)

I am all the time coming up with hair-brained schemes and ideas and every time I mention one I get, "What now, Lucy?" Apparently I channel Lucy Ricardo a lot and I don't mind.

My grandmother's middle name was Lucille (b. 1923) and she hated it. It's nice enough, but Lucy is more girl next door and appealing to my ears.

Either way - Lucy or Lucille - it's a memorable name, to be sure!

August 9, 2011 12:18 PM
By Amanda (not verified)

My daughter is named Lucille after my grandmother also born in 1923. We call her Lucy and to this date it is still my favorite name! To me, it is classic, timeless and fun.

August 9, 2011 12:29 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

"Lucia, is a cross-cultural mainstay. It exists in any Romance language (Portuguese, Italian, Spanish)...."

Um, no, it doesn't exist in French which is certainly a Romance language. The French form is, of course, Lucaidie.

August 9, 2011 12:30 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Sorry for the typo--The French form should be Lucie.

August 9, 2011 12:45 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Not a big fan of Lucy...loved the show (and actress), but the name, not so much. Sounds passé.

August 9, 2011 1:15 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My daughter's name is Luciana (lu-si-ana) but but she is called Luci (spelled with an i because of her name). Her name in both long and short form seems to appeal to almost every generation that we encounter!

August 10, 2011 11:22 AM
By Erin (not verified)

A friend of mine is thinking about naming her twin daughters Lucy & Alice. Seriously - how cute & timeless is that twin-set? *LOVE*

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