Swedish Baby Named Q

I’ve posted about several Swedish names (*, Estelle, Engla) recently, so let’s throw in one more.

About a decade ago in central Sweden, the parents of a baby boy named “Q Anbjörn Jackrapat Rehnberg” had to go to three different courts to make the first name “Q” legal.

The first court (the county administrative court) ruled against the name.

The parents appealed, but the next court (the administrative court of appeal) also ruled against the name.

The parents appealed again, and, finally, the third court (the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court) ruled in favor of the name, stating that “it has not been proven that the name Q may cause offence [sic], or that it may lead to discomfort for the bearer of the name […] there is also no reason why Q is obviously inappropriate as a first name.”

What are your thoughts on the first name Q?

How do you feel about single-letter first names in general?

Sources: Swedish couple denied right to name their son Q, Swedish parents emerge victorious in bid to name son ‘Q’

Pearl Harbor’s Influence on the Name “Pearl”

more baby girls named pearl in 1942, after pearl harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor happened on December 7, 1941 — 77 years ago today.

The next year, usage of the baby name Pearl, which had been trending downward since the 1920s, increased nearly 31%:

  • 1945: 654 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 265th]
  • 1944: 757 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 238th]
  • 1943: 878 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 223rd]
  • 1942: 1,092 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 191st]
  • 1941: 835 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 212th]
  • 1940: 908 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 197th]
  • 1939: 901 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 198th]

Some of these post-1941 babies got first-middle combos like “Pearl Victory” and “Pearl Harbor.” (Here’s a “Victory Pearl Harbor.”)

After that 1942 uptick, Pearl’s downward trend continued. Usage was lowest during the last three decades of the 20th century. Since then, usage has picked up somewhat.

Do you like the name Pearl?

Name Change Story: Nzingha

Nzingha Motisla Masani was given her African name at a naming ceremony in 1974. Many friends and family members disapproved of (or simply didn’t acknowledge) her name change, but some of the people she encountered strongly approved:

I got my name changed while I was working for a politician, and I went to a lot of community meetings. And I got up one night at this ninety-five percent Polish meeting. I told them proudly that, “Please do not call me by my old name, my birth name. I’m proud to tell everyone that my new name is Nzinga Motisla Masani.” […] And they gave me a standing ovation. Well a lot of the Polish people came up to me after the meeting and they had to immediately change their name when they got here in order to get a job, or in order to fit into society. They admired me for doing it and they said that some of what I said to them motivated them to tell their children the importance of their history and the importance of your name.

Sources: Nzingha Masani and Noah Hairston – StoryCorps, StoryCorps Griot: Back to Her Roots

The Surprising Source of Tierney

joseph mccarthy, adopted baby, tierney elizabeth
Joseph, Tierney and Jean McCarthy – Jan. 1957

The Irish surname Tierney first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1957. In fact, it was the top debut name of the year.

  • 1960: 18 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1959: 14 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1958: 26 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1957: 46 baby girls named Tierney [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

For a long time I’d assumed that Hollywood actress Gene Tierney was the cause. Then it dawned on me that Gene’s career was on the wane in 1957 — that the peak of her fame had been in the 1940s. So Gene wasn’t the answer.

But you know who was? The adopted daughter of the infamous politician Joseph McCarthy. (This makes Tierney a celebrity baby name, essentially.)

In early 1957, the Wisconsin senator (and zealous communist hunter) and his wife Jean adopted a five-week old baby girl from the New York Foundling Home. They named her Tierney Elizabeth.

Tierney’s first name came from Joe’s mom Bridget Tierney McCarthy; her middle name came from Jean’s mom Elizabeth Fraser Kerr. The name Tierney is based on the Irish surname Ó Tíghearnaigh, meaning “descendant of Tighearnach,” and the byname Tighearnach is based on the Old Irish word tigern, meaning “lord, master.”

The McCarthys brought Tierney home to Washington, D.C., on January 13. The same day, Joseph “announced over a nationwide television program [Press Conference on ABC] that he was a brand new father and invited photographers to his home for a preview of the new arrival.”

A second unfortunate event that gave the name another round of exposure was Joseph McCarthy’s death in May — a mere four months after the adoption. In fact, some newspapers (including the New York Daily News) re-ran the baby photos of Tierney alongside McCarthy’s obituary.

…Despite all this, I’m still left wondering about Gene Tierney’s influence. While she clearly didn’t inspire the debut, she had given the surname Tierney a strong feminine association. Was she the reason why the McCarthys opted for Tierney over Elizabeth as the primary name? Hm…

What are your thoughts on the baby name Tierney?

Sources:

  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • “McCarthy Blasts Eisenhower Palace Guard.” Redlands Daily Facts [Redlands, Calif.] 14 Jan. 1957: 9.
  • “Meet Miss McCarthy.” News-Palladium [Benton Harbor, Mich.] 14 Jan. 1957: 3.

P.S. Baby Tierney was in the news at the same time as baby Sindee.

Name Story: Parris Afton Bonds

Prolific romance author Parris Afton Bonds — who co-founded both Romance Writers of America and the Southwest Writers Workshop — explained the origin of her first and middle names in an article from 1981:

“I’d like to tell you I was named after Paris, France,” Parris Afton Bonds told me as I visited her in her house outside Lewisville, “but I wasn’t. It was Paris, Kentucky.” She was, however, named after the River Afton in Scotland, and she pointed to a bottle on her bookshelf, still bearing a Schweppes label, that was filled with Afton water.

Other sources specify that Parris was in fact conceived in Paris, Kentucky.

Btw, did you know that Afton (as a girl name) has been particularly popular in Utah?

Source: Harrigan, Stephen. “Behind the Purple Page.” Texas Monthly Jan. 1981: 139-141.