Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Having already outted myself as a name buff, I thought it would be fun to speculate about the effect popular soap characters had on naming trends in the U.S.

For instance, As The World Turns was the number one rated soap opera from 1958 to 1978, averaging around 10 million viewers a day. For the bulk of that time, Lisa was the show's front-burner bitch, becoming so popular that, in 1965, she even warranted the only daytime to primetime spin-off ever, Our Private World.

According to Social Security records, the name Lisa entered the Top Ten of favorite girl's names in 1959, hit #1 in 1962, and stayed there for a whopping eight years. Lisa didn't fall out of the Top Ten until 1977. (It is currently ranked 493rd for 2005).

Coincidence? Maybe.

Let's keep looking.

The show that usurped ATWT's #1 slot atop the ratings in the late 1970s/early 1980s was General Hospital, featuring the uber-popular, Laura. Interestingly enough, that name hit the Top Ten in 1969 and was on its way down by the time GH took the world by storm. At the height of Luke and Laura mania, Laura ranked 21st in 1980 and 1981. (Those were also the best years for Lucas, 98 and 87, until the new millennium).

Ashley Abbott debuted on the soon-to-be-number-one Young & Restless in 1982. That year, the name was ranked #17 on the popularity scale. The following year it was #4, hitting #1 in 1991 and staying there for two years. (It's still in the Top Ten today).

Strangely, however, despite actress Charita Bauer's over thirty years of popularity on Guiding Light, the name Bert never really caught on for girls. Even Bert's own granddaughter, originally named Bertha Bauer Ramsey after her grandmother and nicknamed Bibi, was soon redubbed Michelle Bauer.

I guess Bert could motivate thousands of women to go for their first Pap smear, but to name their daughters Bertha... that was asking for a bit too much.