Celebrity Names Blog

Sarah Palin Didn't Make These Names Popular. Witches Did.

Sarah Palin Didn't Make These Names Popular. Witches Did.
The Face that Launched 1000 Xanders. Juan Rico/Fame pictures

Samantha, that "timeless classic" that today calls to mind Sex in the City and American Girl dolls, was actually no more popular than Permelia before the debut of Bewitched in 1964, writes Laura Wattenberg on our sister site, Baby Name Wizard. A single magic tv character made this name a star. (Fun fact: the only Samantha among celebrity babies in our database is the daughter of Sex in the City alum, Cynthia Nixon.)

Think Samantha is an unusual example? Think again. As Wattenberg commented on Lemondrop, "Your recipe for a pop culture phenomenon? You take a movie or a TV show with attractive young people who have supernatural powers." Twilight's bevy of hits are only the latest example of this. Do you know what other "classic" names were launched by cute, supernaturally-experienced teens and 20-somethings?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (debuted in 1997)

Xander:  chart debut in 1999 (#925). 2009 ranking: #244.

Willow: chart debut in 1998 (#853). 2009 ranking: #315. (Today, we know Willow as a Sarah Palin daughter.)

Anya: chart debut in 1998 (#845). 2009 ranking: #363.

Charmed (debuted in 1998)

Piper: chart debut in 1999 (#700). 2009 ranking: #147. (Another Sarah Palin daughter.)

Phoebe, Leo, and Paige have also risen dramatically in the last decade, but because these names were already increasing in popularity before the show debuted, they weren't launched by the show.

Carrie (book published 1974, movie appeared 1976)

2009 marks the first year that Carrie was not in the top 1000 in the US. It was a very popular name in the 1880s that gradually fell through the 1950s, rose again slightly through the 60s, then dwindled away completely.

However, for three years last century, Carrie experienced a return to the popularity it enjoyed in its heyday. Those years were 1975, 1976, and 1977 -- the years immediately following the release of Stephen King's bestselling thriller about a troubled girl with psychokinetic powers, and the movie based on it.

Interestingly, when Sex in the City (which also revived Samantha) revived Carrie as the name of the fashion-savvy Manhattanite played by Sarah Jessica Parker, the name's popularity fell much more rapidly.

You're launching a new tv show about cute young witches. What do you call the characters?

--L.R.

Comments

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July 26, 2010 1:34 PM
By Carrie (not verified)

How about a main character named Carrie! I want my name back up again! :)

But really, I'd go for something a little old fashioned and offbeat. Witches can't be too normal, right?

How about Zillah?

July 26, 2010 1:46 PM
By Megan (not verified)

I'll bet Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in 1977 didn't hurt that one either.

I think Carrie is right to go for a "Z" name (maybe even stick the z in the front of a familiar name): Zara, Zoira, Zayna

July 27, 2010 12:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Samantha can also thank the film 'High Society' (1956) for some of her popularity. Grace Kelly played the socialite Tracy Samantha, but was called Sam by Bing Crosby.
She also has her own song 'I love you Samantha'.

July 27, 2010 12:52 PM
By Allison (not verified)

Hmmm, if I were making a TV show with witches? I would name them...

Lucinda
Lilly (the double L is a must!)
Guinevere (Winnie, Eve or Vera as nicknames)
Flora

No rhyme or reason, just the names I choose today for witches being given their own show!

How did Sabrina et all turn out after the Teenage Witch premiered?

July 27, 2010 6:08 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I knew several Carries and Karis when I was in school (graduated high school in 2007). I wonder why the resurgence in my area. Though Maine is slow to get clothing trends-- maybe the same is true for names? Except nowadays every small child even here seems to be named Aidan or something that rhymes with it, so who knows.

July 27, 2010 7:54 PM
By Tiff (not verified)

Weava and Merry are young witches in my upcoming book Weava the Wilful Witch. It's not a TV show, but may be of interest. For the record, I originally named the main character "Kish" but the editor vetoed it. "Wanda" was suggested, but I vetoed that on the grounds that it's been used before. Weava came about partly because alliteration was wanted, and the ed prefers names longer than one syllable. Weava's full name is "Weava Charm", so her first name makes a statement when used with her surname. Other books in the series star Flax Lilykicker, a feral fairy, and Mal de Mer, a mischievous mermaid. After these two the editor wanted longer names, so the next ones are about Nanda Gemdibbler (Nanda the Naughty Gnome), Tikki Flicker (Tikki the Tricky Pixie) and Effie Redwood (Effie the Outrageous Elf).

July 28, 2010 8:42 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If I were putting together such a TV show, I would use names like:

Lotus
Marigold
Sasha
Haven
Carletta
Reagan
Milla
Hartley
Freud
Jocelyn
Flynn

Some made up - some sound made up, but have a fresh feel to them - some "real" names that are underused at the moment.

July 28, 2010 6:24 PM
By Stephanie (not verified)

I think if I were launching a tv show about young witches I would have to pick something that sounds traditional, but cute and/or seductive at the same time. (Depends on which kind of show you are promoting, right?)

Victoria comes to mind, maybe in the seductive category.

Catherine holds all kinds of possibilities, could use a nickname to make it cuter.

Genevra isn't traditional, pre se, but to me it has that witch feel.

Any name with sun, moon or earth connections is potentially a witch name: Gia, Violet, Eden, Rose, etc.

August 2, 2010 11:38 AM
By Holly (not verified)

Cute young witches:

Zorah
Dinah
Salem
Thaddeus
Gilbert
Lark

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