Celebrity Names Blog

RIP Whitney Houston: Her Name, Its Rise and Fall

RIP Whitney Houston: Her Name, Its Rise and Fall
Photo Credit: Fame/Flynet

The world is mourning the untimely death of pop diva Whitney Houston.  Not only was she a beloved singer and actress whose troubled personal life and drug use devastated her famous voice and poise, she was a pop legend whose first name followed her meteoric career arc.

As Laura Wattenberg writes in the Baby Name Wizard book:

"Whitney started out as a swank-sounding boy's name back when the Whitneys, Morgans and Vanderbilts were gilded-age kingpins.  Once it crossed to the girl's side it followed the career arc of singer Whitney Houston, soaring in the '80s then plummeting by the year 2000."

The name Whitney was already on the rise when Whitney Houston entered the popular consciousness.  She herself was part of the first wave of girls named Whitney in the early 1960s.  The name Whitney entered the Social Security Administration's list of top-1000 girls names around the time Whitney Houston was born and enjoyed a slow and steady ascent into the low-200s in the early 1980s.  

But right in step with Whitney Houston's smash debut album in 1986, the name Whitney skyrocketed to #32 on the popularity charts.  As her career faltered and she became known as much for her personal troubles and drug use, the name Whitney followed suit.   Most recently the name Whitney ranks at #542 on the popularity charts, a little ahead of the position it held in 1963, the year Whitney Houston was born.

With Whitney Houston's death, the onetime Queen of Pop enters the legion of tragic music figures who lived hard and died too young. As fans mourn and remember her at her best, will the name Whitney rise again or remain a relic of the 1980s? Do you think the pop culture presence of another Whitney -- Whitney Cummings, the comedian and star of the television series Whitney -- will have any impact on the name? 

--J.B.

Comments

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February 15, 2012 3:57 PM
By Whitney (not verified)

As a Whitney born in the 1970's, I didn't know another one until I was in elementary school. I still have only met a handful in my life. I've always disliked it when I tell someone my name and they say, "Like Whitney Houston?" No, my mother had no clue who Whitney Houston was in 1973 when I was born...

When Ms. Houston died, I wondered if my name would rise on the baby name charts again. I think those who followed her career are on the older end of their babynaming days, so maybe it won't move up the charts too much. I've never watched the new Whitney tv show, so I can't comment on that.

February 17, 2012 3:25 PM
By Tonya G (not verified)

I don't think it will really an impact. How many little Janises were there after Janis Joplin died ? I've only known two in my whole life both spelled Janice nothing related to the singer.

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