|Soleil Moon Frye as Punky Brewster
I was feeling a bit nostalgic so watched a few episodes of 'Punky Brewster' today for a fun blast from the past.
If you were alive in the 80's then it's likely that you know the TV show I'm talking about. It's about a little girl named Punky who was homeless and squatting in a vacant apartment until she was discovered by the building manager Henry Warnimont, a somewhat crotchety elder man with no family of his own. Punky takes an instant liking to the belligerent Henry, but he takes a little longer to warm to Punky. Initially, he contacts Family Services in an attempt to find her mother, but when she can't be found he fights for custody himself rather than have Punky placed with a foster family. Fun and hi-jinks ensue as these two mis-matched loners adjust to life together.
The show wasn't a huge ratings winner, but 'Punky Brewster' was very popular with kids during its' run from 1984 to 1988, and made child star Soleil Moon Frye a household name. Yes, that's the same Soleil who now has her own children, the fabulously named Poet Sienna Rose, Jagger Joseph Blue and Lyric Sonny Roads.
But on to todays' quote. I loved this conversation between Punky and social worker Randi Mitchell in the second episode.
Randi: Do you have a real name besides Punky?
Punky: Punky's a real name
Randi: Yes I know, and it's a very nice one, but don't you have another name?
Punky: Sure - Brewster!
Randi: No, I mean another first name
Punky: Gee, I can't remember one....
Randi: You know, I don't like to tell people my real name either, they always laugh
Punky: At Randi?
Randi: No, that's my nickname, my real name is Miranda
Punky: Miranda! Miranda's worse than Penelope!
Randi: A-ha! Penelope Brewster
Punky: Boy, that was slick
I loved the show, but could not have told you that Punky was short for Penelope!
It also illustrates just how much our opinions of names can change in 30 years. When this episode aired in 1984, Penelope was way outside the U.S top 1000, as she had been for the previous 8 years and would remain for the next 16 years. You can see how Miss Brewster would have been less than impressed with her formal name, one that would have seemed uncool and "old lady-like" in the 80's. Now it's a different story though. Penelope has been shooting up the charts, entering the top 100 for the first time in 2013 (Punky however has yet to ever chart).
Miranda on the other hand has remained a top 1000 name for a long time, declining slightly in the last few years. I'm not sure why it would have seemed so laughable as a name in the 1984, when it was hovering just outside the top 100.
On a final note, wouldn't Penelope and Miranda now make for fantastic sisters? Less so Punky (which now feels dated and too tied to the one character) and Randi (which has not-so-great connotations for a little girl), although both are quite sassy, boisterous names for their classical counterparts.
In today's naming climate I have a feeling that Penelope and Miranda wouldn't feel ashamed of their beautiful names at all.