Bettina is one of the Missing Six Degrees of Elizabeth links.
This series is a subset of Spotlight Names dedicated to names that had the potential to become huge for a certain decade. They represented a certain era well, but for whatever reason never made it to the top 100. Perhaps for these names, their time is yet to come.
Bettina in the 1960s
Little Girl Lost is an episode of The Twilight Zone, originally aired in 1963. In this episode, a little girl, Bettina Miller can be heard but not seen as she got lost in another dimension. The name stood out, and I eagerly did my research. Bettina, it would seem, is a German diminutive of the ever-present Elizabeth. Bettina also originates from the Italian Benedetta, which is the feminine form of Benedict.
While I wouldn’t have expected Bettina to hit the top 10 or even the top 20, she has a style that seems very 1960s. She is obviously similar to Regina, which peaked at number 80 in 1967.
Bettina had the potential to make the top 100 in the 60s, but she never reached the top 700s. Bettina hasn’t even been in the top 1000 for the past 30 years, and historically hasn’t spent much time there. She first hit the top 1000 in 1945, but after that she came and went – hovering in and out of the lower rung of the top 1000 for a few decades.
Bettina did peak in the 60s at 719 in 1965. While this peak could have been in part caused by The Twilight Zone episode, that is not likely, especially considering the name actually dipped a little in popularity between 1963, when the show first aired, and 1964. The biggest leap for Bettina was between 1959 and 1960 when she went from 994 to 776, over 200 places. But after that she seemed to waver between the 700s and 800s for the rest of the decade.
Like her title character, Bettina seems like the “little name lost” but she can be heard. How? In the nickname Tina. In fact, in Little Girl Lost Bettina Miller is only called Bettina once or twice by Rod Serling. Throughout the rest of the show she is called Tina. And perhaps, in terms of pop culture, Tina is Bettina’s legacy.
Unlike Bettina, Tina enjoyed great popularity in the late 60s/early 70s, peaking at 18 in 1972. The Twilight Zone, however, doesn’t seem to have much influence on Tina’s popularity. If anything, The Twilight Zone writers were following, not setting, any trends.
When the episode originally aired, Tina was already on the upswing, ranking at 35 in 1963. But the writers were original (in actual usage) when they used Tina as a short form for Bettina. Few real parents caught on to this trend. Most continued going straight to Tina without a long form.
These were likely the same 60s parents who bypassed Anastasia and went straight to Stacy. (In the 70s when Stacy was a hit, Anastasia ranked in the 600s.) But Anastasia is finally getting some well-deserved recognition, recently peaking in the 200s for the early part of the 2000s. Maybe Bettina will follow.
If Bettina doesn’t catch on, there are several other fascinating variants for Bettina: Battina, Betiana, Betina, Bettine, and Ina. My favorites are Betiana and Ina, which have plenty of modern appeal. Betiana appeals to parents who like latin sounding girl names like Iliana and Alessandra. Ina appeals to parents who like old-fashioned hipster revival names like Ida, Iva and Ivy.
With more parents embracing exotic names, especially names with an Italian origin or sound, perhaps Bettina has potential today. On the other hand, some modern parents may not like the B beginning, followed by the stress on the a-ending. This pattern is both 60s retro (think of Belinda) and 70s/80s retro (think of Brianna). The 1960s, and certainly 1980s, aren’t quite ready to come back. Except maybe in an alternate universe.
But I wouldn’t write off Bettina yet. Betty, Bette, and Betsy, are becoming retro-cool again. These names aren’t only nicknames for Elizabeth, they can be nicknames for Bettina as well. And if the alternate route to Betty/Bette/Betsy doesn’t give Bettina a boost, when 60s names come back in vogue, probably around the 2050s, Bettina could be a hot commodity.
Readers: Which Bettina relative is your favorite?