From Malibu to Manhattan, people everywhere are embracing the timeless charm of the iconic Hollywood power couple, Barbie and Ken. With the release of the movie just around the corner, everyone has been living and breathing the glamorous world of Barbiecore.
But it turns out people aren’t passionate enough about the dolls to use them as inspiration for baby names. Yes, the name “Ken” is cursed, and “Barbie” hasn’t been a thing for baby names for a while.
The history of Barbara — or Barbie
According to Britannica, Barbie the doll was first introduced to the world in 1955, and she’s remained a pop culture icon ever since. Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts, which feels about as retro as it gets.
“The name Barbara is a girl's name of Latin origin,” Nameberry explains. The name means "foreign woman.” Though the name was in fashion by the turn of the 20th century, by the 1920s, the name had finally cracked the top 50 most popular baby girl names, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration.
Only seven years later, Barbara found itself in the top 10 most popular girl names, yet it never became the most popular baby girl name. In fact, from 1937 to 1944, the name was the 2nd most popular baby girl name every single year. It jumped between the 2nd and 3rd place spots until 1950. In 1955, the year Barbie was introduced to the world, the name was still quite popular — the 7th most popular girl name in the U.S. But by 1977, the name was out of the top 100 most popular names, and by 2000, out of the top 500. In 2022, Barbara was the 976th most popular girl name in the U.S.
While it’s predicted that the names that were popular when our grandparents were little, Barbara is not likely to become as popular as it once was. The nickname for Barbara — Barbie — has never been a popular baby girl name.
According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the name Barbie was the 938th most popular baby girl name in 1961 — and it peaked just three years later in 1964 when it was ranked 756.
The history of Kenneth — or Ken
According to the History Channel, Ken was introduced into the world of Barbie in 1961 as Barbie’s on-again, off-again boyfriend. His full name was Kenneth Carson, but he’s really only ever been known as Ken, a common nickname for Kenneth.
“The name Kenneth is boy's name meaning ‘born of fire, handsome,’” the baby name expert site explains.
This name, like Barbara, has a really long history. Its popularity first dates back to before the 1920s, when it was in the top 25 most popular baby boy names for that time, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration.
However, unlike Barbara, Kenneth (or Ken) has had staying power for far longer. The name peaked in popularity the very same year the doll was introduced — in 1960 and 1961, it was the 16th most popular baby name in the United States.
But from there, it slowly became less popular year by year. By 1986, it was only the 50th most popular baby boy name in the United States. In 2022, it was only the 264th most popular baby name in the U.S. — the least popular the name has been since the SSA has begun tracking baby names. This makes a certain amount of sense when you consider that the male version of Karen, is commonly thought to be, Ken.
Barbie hits theaters on July 21, 2023.