Celebrity Names Blog

Facts of Life Name Facts

A NameCandy reader recently asked whether 80s-sitcom names are due for a comeback.  We're not sure exactly what makes a name an 80s sitcom name, but this reader asked in particular about the series The Facts of Life, which ran on NBC from 1979-1988. The series was a spinoff from another popular '80s show Diff'rent Strokes and took place at a girls' boarding school in upstate New York.

The show eventually focussed on five main characters -- four girls and their housemother.

Blair Warner - Blair was the name of the preppy rich girl played by Lisa Whelchel.  The name Blair, is a Scottish surname that enjoyed popularity as a boys' name in the U.S. since the Social Security Administration started tracking such things.  But a funny thing happened to the name Blair in the 1980s -- no doubt driven by the popularity of The Facts of Life and the coincident appearance of Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair on the national scene -- Blair appeared on the charts for the first time as a girls' name.  By the 1990s, the boys' name Blair had fallen off the charts entirely, and the girls' name Blair peaked at 479 and then fizzled out (see NameVoyager chart for Blair here).  It did however usher in the trend of surnames as first names for boys and then transferring to girls names -- one of the biggest trends of the past decade.

Will Blair rise again? Probably.  Right now Blair is too closely associated with this single 1980s-era character.  But the name itself has never been over-used (even at its peak) and stylistically is on-trend for today's surname-, monosyllabic- and androgynous-name loving parents.  All it will take is one fresh-faced Blair to enter the pop culture zeitgeist to erase The Facts of Life association from our memories and breathe new life into the name Blair.

Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey - Tootie stood out not just for her unusual name, but as the youngest character and only African American girl on The Facts of Life.  She always appeared on roller skates, which was part of her quirkiness. We've written extensively about the name Dorothy in the past, most recently in regards to the character Dorothy on The Golden Girls.    The name Dorothy was already deep in a fashion freefall when the character Tootie would have been born in the late 1960s. A good reason for the show's creators to give her the musical nickname Tootie.

Will Tootie rise again? We doubt the name Tootie will ever crack the top-1000 for obvious reasons. But having been out of the limelight for some time, Dorothy has a shot at re-emerging in the next decade -- most likely with a twist.  We predict mash-ups of Dorothy as tributes to grandmas as well as a smattering of young Dorothys with cute nicknames like Dora, Thea, Dot and Dee.

Natalie Green - Call it the chubby girl's revenge if you like, but it turns out that Natalie (played by Mindy Cohn) bore the most stylish name of the Eastland Prep crew. Natalie is currently the 13th most popular girls name in the U.S. and shows no sign of slowing down.  Interestingly enough, the name Natalie derives form the Latin words diēs nātālis, according to Teresa Norman's A World of Baby Names. The name was originally given to children born on Christmas Day. But the character Natalie was Jewish.

Will Natalie rise again?
The name Natalie's got that unique combination of stylish letters and sounds, a feminine feeling without being too flowery, and a classic but not boring tradition behind it. Natalie is hot now and will remain so for the forseeable future.

Joanna "Jo" Polinaczek - The bad girl from the Bronx, Jo was played by Nancy McKeon.  The character's name was short for Joanna. The name Jo was uber popular in the 1940s and 50s reaching as high as number 60 on the charts.  Combined with Joanne and Joann for which it is a popular nickname, the name Jo was probably meant to sound a both a little outdated and appropriately rough and tumble (think Joe the boys' name and the character Jo from Little Women).

Will Jo rise again? Our bets are on Jo.  You're more likely to see Jo as a nickname for Josephine these days, but Joanna is also more popular than its ever been, riding on classic charm, trendy -a ending and the fact that it hasn't been overused to date.

Edna Garrett - You knew her better as Mrs. G, but the character embodied by Charlotte Rae had a first name and it was Edna.  As a name, Edna even felt too old for Mrs. Garrett. The name hit its peak in the 1890s!  Even with its delightful derivation from the Hebrew (Derived from the Hebrew 'ēdnāh meaning rejuvenation or delight, according to A World of Baby Names), we doubt Edna will see a resurgence any time soon.

Will Edna rise again? No. You're more likely to see little Edies and Edwinas (nicknamed Winnie) on the playground than any Ednas.  The "dn" letter combination in the middle is simply too nasal and old-fashioned sounding to contemporary moms.

Season One of the Facts of Life, included four other girls who were subsequently dropped from the show. They were:

What's your favorite Facts of Life name?  And do you agree with our predictions?



Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

March 31, 2010 3:40 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

There is a new pop-culture Blair: Blair Waldorf of Gossip Girl fame. I suspect her popularity will help associate the name with upward mobility and luxury.

March 31, 2010 3:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Blair is also a character on ABC soap opera One Life to Live. The character began in the early 90's and is now one of the top soap divas, being played by the same actress since 1993.

March 31, 2010 4:14 PM
By Jennie

I wonder if both those soap opera Blairs were named for Blair from Facts of Life. I don't think either of the shows is as pop culture important as Facts of Life in teh 1980s -- but maybe I am just showing my age!

March 31, 2010 7:03 PM
By Lane

I love this!

April 1, 2010 11:24 AM
By t (not verified)

I didn't know that Blair is a boys name
thank you for the info

April 1, 2010 11:49 AM
By The locksmith of miami (not verified)

Well now I know thank you

April 1, 2010 9:52 PM
By Kristin (not verified)

I like Madna and Coldna but not Edna

April 3, 2010 12:46 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think Blair will make a come back. I considered it for my second child. It has a sophisticated sound to it. It's a strong name for a girl.

I think Natalie is on the rise and probably won't stop. I'm not a fan, but it fits in with the popular crowd.

April 4, 2010 9:08 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I can't believe that Edwina sounds better than Edna. Not that I'm a huge fan of Edna but Edwina just sounds awful to me. Edie is nice though.

April 5, 2010 5:31 AM
By Dorothy Hanna (not verified)

are madna and coldna mashups? I've never heard of those names before...

April 5, 2010 7:14 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

I'm twenty, so not too much younger than many first time parents, and I don't think of Blair from Fact of Life in the slightest. The most common Blair association nowadays is Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl, who, funnily enough, is the very epitome of a preppy rich kid.

April 6, 2010 1:29 PM
By Jiminy (not verified)

Maybe it's the literary connection and the fact that it's a family name, but kind of like Edna. It's my MIL's name as well as two of my great aunts (both sides of the family.) Also, maybe it's my accent, but Edna isn't any more nasally than Natalie.

April 6, 2010 1:40 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm in my late 20s and I went to elementary school with a girl named Blair. She was often asked if she was named after Blair Warner (yes, she was).

Maybe it's just because Jo Polniaczek was my childhood idol, but I always liked Jo as a girl's nickname.

A few months ago there was a 10-year-old on TLC's "Toddlers and Tiaras" named Madison whose stage name was Tootie. I wonder if her mother was a Facts of Life fan!

I can see the usage of Dorothy rising in the next few decades. Blair, however, I think is destined to stay in the '80s.

April 6, 2010 8:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Noone mentioning Tony Blair? I thought not...

I dislike surnames as given names. I think they sound tacky eg. McKenzie

April 7, 2010 8:43 AM
By Kristina (not verified)

Blair is my husband's middle name. He was born in 1969, so I'm sure it was at its peak in popularity for boys at that point. The name has always conjured up Blair from Facts of Life for me, being a child of the 80s. :) But don't forget Blair Underwood in the male celebrity sphere.
I like the name. Hubby doesn't. I've suggested using it, and he's always vetoed me (we have 3 kids with another on the way.)

April 11, 2010 12:21 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I second (or third) Blair from Gossip Girl. I don't watch the show (never have), and am 28, but Gossip Girl is well known enough in pop culture that I'm familiar with the basic premise and the character names. When I hear Blair, that's who I think of, and she is absolutely a rich spoiled girl. So, I think there IS now a pop-culture Blair on the scenes, at least among my age group and younger.

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