Celebrity Names Blog

Golden Girl Names

Golden Girl Names
Photo Credit: GARY LEWIS/bauergriffinonline.com

With Saturday Night Live supposedly close to signing Betty White on as a host following a grass roots campaign on Facebook (see this story on EW.com),  we thought the time was right to revisit the names of The Golden Girls, the sitcom that ran from 1985-1992 and followed the lives of four older women sharing a home in Miami.

Betty White (Rose): The name Betty, which can be a nickname for Elizabeth or used as standalone name in its own right, hit its peak in the 1930s, when it was the second-most popular name for girls in America. By the end of the 1980s, the name Betty had fallen off the charts entirely and while Eizabeth remains popular today, we rarely hear the name Betty on contemporary girls, except from time to time in reference to a surfer girl or the title character on televsion series Ugly BettyRose, is another story entirely. While Rose was also popular in the early, 20th Century, rising as high as #14, it's a name that is once again in vogue today.  Its current ranking at #344 on the popularity chart does not reflect its enormous popularity as a middle name.  Our own celebrity baby names database lists no fewer than 35 celebrity babies with the middle name Rose.

Beatrice Arthur (Dorothy): The name Beatrice hit its peak at #38 in the 1920s, the decade before Bea Arthur was born. The name stayed on the charts through the 1990s, though just barely, then fell off.  However, the name Beatrice is climbing back, helped no doubt by trendsetting celebrities like Paul McCartney who named his daughter Beatrice in 2003. We've been seeing the names Beatrice and Beatrix bandied about as favorites by Name Enthusiasts on the Baby Name Wizard for the past year or so. Dorothy, however, which ranked #2 in the 1920s and #6 in the 1930s is less likely to make a comeback. The name has fallen off the charts entirely today. Other popular Dorothys, including Dorothy Hamill, Dorothy the Goldfish from Elmo's World, and Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz, are unlikely to give the name Dorothy a boost with contemporary parents.

Rue McClanahan (Blanche): Rue has never been a popular name, probably because of its association with the English word "rue", meaning regret. And of all the Golden Girls names, Blanche is probably most off-target froma  generational naming standpoint.  By the time the character Blanche would have been born, the name had already fallen to number 232.  It would have been a more appropriate name for the Estelle Getty character, who was supposed to be one generation older; Blanche enjoyed its peak of popularity at the turn of the century.

Estelle Getty (Sophia):  Estelle Getty sported heavy make-up to play the character of Dorothy's mother, Sophia. In fact, Ms. Getty was younger than the other actresses, despite the fact that her name hit its peak of popularity well before the others' -- Estelle peaked at #115 in the 1880sSophia, on the other is the one Golden Girls character name that is more popular today than it would have been at the time the character was supposed to have been born. Sophia ranked at 196 at the turn of the century and is currently the seventh most popular girls' name in America.

Three of the four actresses were in their 60s when the show started.  Do you think their names -- and their characters' names -- were representative of their generation of grandmas?  If the Golden Girls were to be revived today what would you name the characters?

--J.B.

Comments

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February 22, 2010 1:23 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I love this show! I always thought the names worked very well for their characters, though if I'm being picky, the Italian-born Sophia should have been a Sofia.

For the 2010 Golden Girls, I would go with Marilyn, Linda, Helen, Carol-- something along those lines.

February 22, 2010 3:06 PM
By Lane

I love these names. Rue, Beatrice and the nicknames Betty or Betsy for Elizabeth feel pretty "now." (There's also Betty on Mad Men.)

Hm, today's golden girls? Ruthie, Diane, Geneva, Lois, June, Carmen, Ida (and ditto on Linda or Helen).

February 22, 2010 4:18 PM
By Dominique

The name Blanche also evokes a famous lady from the South -- Blanche DuBois. But the Blanche of The Golden Girls is much happier than Tennesse Williams' creation.

February 23, 2010 11:20 AM
By Barbara C. (not verified)

I think the whole point of the character being named Blanche was because she was supposed to be a southern belle.

Looking at her Wikipedia page, I can't help wondering if Rue's given first name (Eddi-Rue) isn't a combo of a dad's middle and her mom's last name.

And Sophia was supposed to be Italian-born, so I don't know how Sofia/Sophia would have stacked up in Italy at the time.

February 23, 2010 1:33 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My grandmother's given names were Alma LaRue. Born in 1907, she was not Spanish or very French (mostly German on her mom's side and English, some French, and Iroquois on her dad's) and we can't find either name elsewhere, anywhere in the family tree, which we've got pretty well filled out. Anyway, it's my understanding that LaRue is French for "the road", which makes for a kind of dopey meaning to my mind, but I guess Road would be a better name than Regret.

February 23, 2010 5:11 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think Today's Golden Girls would be something like this :

Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia would be :

Lily, Agnes, Vivian, and Lola

February 24, 2010 12:02 AM
By Portia (not verified)

(Apologies if this is triple-posted, but it's not showing up . . . feel free to delete if necessary:)

3 in 60s -- Kathleen, Barbara, Ruby
1 in 80s

February 24, 2010 6:10 PM
By Stephanie (not verified)

I never have watched the Golden Girls, but 3 Grandmas and 1 Great Grandma (for me) would have to be named Barbara, Merle/Meryl, Ellen/Helen and Esther or Eleanor.

February 24, 2010 6:53 PM
By A Rose (not verified)

I love the Golden Girls! And my mn is Rose, I can attest to its popularity (at least within the Northeastern US's Jewish population) where I know like 10 people with the mn Rose!

Today's Golden Girls: (more than just the four names, but still...)

Carol, Nancy, Linda, Cindy, Vivian, Barbara, and I'm not sure about the 'Sophia' character.

February 28, 2010 11:49 PM
By Jessica (not verified)

I loved the show. The names though do not work for babies. Not yet. Maybe a couple of decades it will be fresh again. Just now many people equal old lady with the name such as Betty, Blanche and especially Dorothy.

February 28, 2010 11:59 PM
By JA (not verified)

If the Golden Girls were senior citizens of today. That would mean they were still born in the laten 20's and 30's. Still the same names were common already used for the show. Now if the show was of baby boomers being old ladies in Miami. It would be like this.
Linda, Pamela, Carol or Karen.

If born in the 60's
Cara or Dawn
Katherine or Kate
Deborah or Debra
Allison

If the old ladies were born in the 70's it would be
Jennifer or Jessica
Christina or Michelle
Sarah or Angela
Andrea or Nicole

Born in the 80's
Ashley
Megan
Samantha or Kimberly
Stephanie

The 90's

Taylor
Briana
Caitlin
Michaela

The 2000's
Isabella
Ariana
Nevaeh
And some other trendy name like Maya but spelled Mya (cringe)

March 1, 2010 12:02 AM
By JA (not verified)

It seems the girls born today also all have the mn Rose which is nice and all but there are so many other names. Rose has become the new filler name like Ann and Renee was years ago. Lee was another one too and Marie.

June 4, 2010 1:11 PM
By Elissa (not verified)

Golden girls of now? Let's see.... 60s now, would have to have been born between 1940 and 1950. I vote:

Patricia
Helen -- can be the "Sophia"
Marjorie
Nancy

November 30, 2012 10:14 PM
By hermes 35cm birkin bag (not verified)

Good sharing of this post. i love the names.

January 11, 2014 7:34 PM
By joy (not verified)

Golden girls names if the show was remade today?
I know that in the 1950's it was common to name girls after popular celebrities of the era. thats why there were lots of girls named Judy, Debbie, Elizabeth, Lucy, Marilyn etc. It was also common to name girls after a grandmother, aunt or even a sibling who had passed away.
Ok here's my choices:
Terri (Teresa)
Brenda
Shirley
and for the Sophia character born in Cicely:
Carmen

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