Failure to Launch: Mindy in the 1970s

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.

Mindy in the 1970s


Musician Mindy Smith

Mindy (along with Beverly) inspired the Failure to Launch series, a series on names that never became as popular as they could have for a featured decade. But there was a problem. I arbitrarily decided that Failure to Launch names must fall short of the top 100 for the featured decade. For example, Mack did reach the top 100 (once in 1900), but not for the featured decade (the 2000s).

The problem was that Mindy did reach the top 100 in the 1970s, once at #81 in 1979. For that reason, I held off on featuring Mindy. Then I realized that an #81 ranking back in 1979 was a lot less common than it seems now. Clearly I was obsessing too much over Social Security rankings.

While Mindy did reach the top 100 during the 1970s, what is surprising is that Mindy didn’t hit those ranks earlier and didn’t stick around longer. Consider the following names like Mindy that were in the top 100 during the 1970s (and at least part of the 1960s):

  • Cindy (as a given name not as a nickname for the popular Cynthia): was in the top 100 from 1953 – 1973.
  • Melinda (Mindy’s long form): 1967 – 1980.
  • Wendy: 1959 – 1981.

Clearly Mindy would have been too matchy as a sibling for any of these  names. But Mindy would have been a great sister to any of these other top 50 names from the 70s: Amy, Kelly, Lisa, Lori, Melissa, Michelle, Tammy, Tina, Tracy, and Stacy (or Stacey).

Parents preferred these names over Mindy. I set out of discover why. Mindy is one of those names that spiked. It soared from #170 in 1978 to #81 in 1979. And then in 1980 Mindy fell to #131 and continued to fall. It left the top 1000 in 1997.

My theory was that the name was too strongly associated with the title character from the TV show Mork and Mindy. Some research revealed that the TV show both helped and perhaps eventually hurt the name. 1978, the year before the baby name rose to the top 100, was the year Mork and Mindy hit the air.

Mindy’s success as a baby name mirrored the success of the late 70s/early 80s sitcom. The show’s debut season in 1978 was extremely successful. The show’s Nielsen rating was #3.
The following year, due to some changes to the cast, storyline, and time slot, the show’s Nielsen rating fell to #27. Mork and Mindy continued to decline in it’s third and fourth season. Mindy also declined as a baby name through the early 80s.

There may have been other subtle influences that caused Mindy’s spike in the late 80s. Mindy’s contemporary Mandy saw similar rankings during the same time; it hit the bottom of the top 100 in 1977 and 1978, and declined through the early 80s.

Mindy has a mid-century modern style, which includes nickname-names like Lori and Tammy, many of them newly created during this time. This style doesn’t have much appeal now. But as a name that isn’t terribly popular on 30 and 40-somethings, but still imaginable on that generation, Mindy has top 10 potential for the 2060s when today’s 30-40-somethings will become great-grandparents.

As I have mentioned before, most revival names are more popular the second time around. For example, Isabella, a hot great-grandma revival name hit #1 in 2009 and 2010, but never ranked nearly that high on the great-grandmother generation. For that generation, Isabella only reached #215 in 1880. Being a name that has never hit the top 10, Mindy has great revival name potential but not for at least a couple more generations.

Currently, people may start to think of Mindy from The Mindy Project, a Fox comedy, that launched this past fall. The reviews have been generally favorable. Regardless of the show’s reception, whether or not The Mindy Project will inspire more baby Mindy’s in the future is uncertain. Sometimes TV shows help a name and other times they have little or no effect.

If Mindy has any potential now, the potential is as a nickname. Nameberry unearthed the 18th century Minta, and suggested it as a less obvious formal version for Mindy. Perhaps Mindy would also work as a nickname for these Minta related names: Araminta and Aminta.

Readers: Which is your favorite formal option for Mindy?

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