Back in the Paleolithic Era when a McDonald’s cheeseburger was 29 cents and nobody swore on TV (or in public for that matter) there was a very popular song on the radio where the lyrics went, and I quote: Shirley, Shirley, bo-ber-ley, bo-na-na fanna, fo-fer-ley, fee fi mo-mer-ley – Shirley!
Although this nuanced masterpiece of poetic depth and lyrical complexity didn’t win any Pulitzer Prizes for Literature, many readers may remember that the song invited you to place your own name into the formula and sing along to a catchy little melodic ditty. For example, say your name is Nick, you would sing: “Nick, Nick, bo-bick, bo-na-na fanna fo fick, fee fi fo mo-mick – Nick!”
The song is called The Name Game by a one hit wonder named Shirley Ellis and it came out in 1964 and if you want to amuse yourself for a good six to eight minutes I would highly recommend looking up this tune and singing along with your own personal moniker. It will either make you appreciate what your well-meaning parents gave you, or cause you to once again rue the day you were stuck with the handle Rufus or Bertha.
I in fact heard the infamous Name Game song on the car radio the other day and had driven well past my destination before realizing I was belting out “Harley, Harley, bo-barley…” etc. at the top of my lungs. Not only was this a clear case of distracted driving, I could well have been given a ticket for “really bad singing.”
This got me to thinking: I wonder what names for human males and females were popular when this song came out, compared to now. Also, I was wondering if the person who thought up the Name Game song had serious personality disorder, but never mind that, it’s deep and meaningful research that’s important right now.
So after several exhausting minutes of clicking online I discovered what the most popular names were in 1964. Can you guess? Close your eyes, have a sip of coffee (not necessarily in that order) and take a second or two to formulate your answer…
OK, so now that you’ve cheated by reading ahead, I might as well tell you that for boys it was: Michael, John, David, James and Robert. For the girls: Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen and Patricia. And we all know a few of them, right? And round out the top ten were: Mark, William, Richard, Thomas and Jeffrey, as well as Kimberly, Donna, Linda, Cynthia and Tammy. A few surprises there, I suppose, but nothing compared to nowadays.
Several websites cited the latest baby name statistics last week. In good old Alberta in 2021 so far, the most popular girl’s names have been: Olivia, Charlotte, Sophia, Emma and Ava. For the wee gents: Noah, Liam, Oliver, Ethan and Jack.
Of course, there are all kinds of reasons to stick your newborn with a certain handle, not least of which is a family connection whereby you try not to give your child the same name as the weird uncle who’s doing a stint in a crowbar hotel, or the celeb connection when you attempt to honour you child by giving them the name of one of Princess Kate’s kids even if it is Charlotte or George.
But some people just like to be different. So, case in point (and you knew this was coming) here are some actual registered baby names inflicted on new humans already this year that are real doozies. Get a load of these poor kids: Salad, Monster, Fallopia, Mileage (pronounce My Liege as you would refer to a King), Linoleum and Truck.
Oh and talk about one for the times, here’s a John Henry that says it all (and I’m still not making this up): Pandemica.
All together now, “Pandemica, Pandemica, bo-benica, bo-na-na fanna fo-fenic, fee-fi-fo-mo-menica – Pandemica!”
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Send him a column idea at email@example.com.