Rare Girl Names from Early Cinema: W

willette kershaw
Willette Kershaw (1882-1960)
Time for more unusual female names from old films!

Here’s something I didn’t know until recently: many (most?) of the “Indian maiden” characters in early movies had names starting with W. As a result, about half of the names below refer to Native American characters specifically. I’m not sure how many of these Native American names are legit, though. If you can verify any of them, please leave a comment.

Wah-na-gi
Wah-na-gi was a character played by actress Anita King in the film The Squaw Man’s Son (1917).

Wahnah
Wahnah was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Kidnapped by Indians (1914).

Wah-tah
Princess Wah-tah was a character played by actress Yvonne De Carlo in the film The Deerslayer (1943).

Wah-ta-wah
Wah-ta-wah was a character played by actress Aline Goodwin in the film serial Leatherstocking (1924).

Wahtonka
Wahtonka was a character played by actress Claire Du Brey in the film Dakota (1945).

Wahtunka
Wahtunka was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Brought to Justice (1914).

Walmura
Walmura was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film The Fate of a Squaw (1914).

Walpurga
Walpurga was a character played by actress Mrs. A. C. Marston in the short film On the Heights (1914).

Wamba
Wamba was a character name in multiple films, including Wamba, a Child of the Jungle (short, 1913) and Justice of the Far North (1925).

Wambi
Wambi was a character played by actress Lule Warrenton in the short film The Queen of Jungle Land (1915).

Wana
Wana was a character played by actress Alice Joyce in the short film The Indian Maid’s Sacrifice (1911).

  • Usage of the baby name Wana.

Wanama
Wanama was a character played by actress Armida in the film Jungle Goddess (1948).

Wanana
Wanana was a character played by actress Marie Walcamp in the short film A Daughter of the Redskins (1914).

Wanda
Wanda Hawley was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1895. Wanda McKay was an actress who appeared in films mainly in the 1940s. She was born in Oregon in 1915. Wanda was also a character name in multiple films, including The One-Way Trail (1920) and Men Are Such Fools (1938).

  • Usage of the baby name Wanda.

Wandi
Wandi was a character played by actress Mary Gale Fisher in the film One Million B.C. (1940).

Wanoka
Wanoka was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the film Grey Eagle’s Last Stand (1914).

Wan-o-mee
Wan-o-mee was a character played by actress Evelyn Axzell in the film The Hell Cat (1918).

Warda
Warda Lamont was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s.

  • Usage of the baby name Warda.

Watuma
Watuma was a character played by actress Phyllis Gordon in the film The Werewolf (1913) — possibly the first-ever werewolf film.

Wauteka
Wauteka was a character played by actresses May Foster and Lule Warrenton in the short film The Brand of His Tribe (1914).

Wawina
Wawina was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film The War Bonnet (1914).

Wenda
Wenda was a character played by actress Myrtle Tennehill in the short film When the Mind Sleeps (1915).

  • Usage of the baby name Wenda.

Wendie
Wendie Holmes was a character played by actress Marjorie Riordan in the film Parachute Nurse (1942).

  • Usage of the baby name Wendie.

Werta
Werta was a character played by actress Dorothy Dwan in the film The Devil Bear (1929).

Wetona
Wetona was a character played by actress Norma Talmadge in the film The Heart of Wetona (1919).

Wilda
Wilda Lanning was a character played by actress Frances Robinson in the film Forbidden Valley (1938).

  • Usage of the baby name Wilda.

Wildeth
Wildeth Christie was a character played by actress Fay Wray in the film Shanghai Madness (1933).

Wildflower
Wildflower was a character played by Mona Darkfeather in the short film Indian Fate (1914).

Willametta
Willametta was a character played by actress Margaret Hamilton in the film Meet the Stewarts (1942).

Willette
Willette Kershaw was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Missouri in 1882.

Willowbud
Willowbud was a character played by actress Marin Sais in the short film The Big Horn Massacre (1913).

Willowdean
Willowdean French was a character played by actress Leila Hyams in the film Summer Bachelors (1926).

Wilma
Wilma was a character name used in multiple films, including Woman-Proof (1923) and Three Cheers for Love (1936).

  • Usage of the baby name Wilma.

Winona
Winona was a character name used in multiple films, including An Indian Ambuscade (short, 1914) and Reckless Courage (1925).

  • Usage of the baby name Winona.

Wowkle
Wowkle was a character played by actress Anita King in the film The Girl of the Golden West (1915), by Neola May in The Girl of the Golden West (1930), and by Ynez Seabury in The Girl of the Golden West (1938). The film was based on the play The Girl of the Golden West (1905) by David Belasco, who found the name Wowkle in the writings of ethnographer Stephen Powers, who claimed the name meant “fox” among the Nisenan of California.

Wyllis
Wyllis Hyde was a character played by actress Pauline Starke in the film The Argument (1918).

  • Usage of the baby name Wyllis.

Wynne
Wynne Gibson was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in New York in 1898. Wynne was also a character played by actress Anita Louise in the film Lady Tubbs (1935).

  • Usage of the baby name Wynne.

Wynona
Wynona was a character name used in multiple films, including Wynona’s Vengeance (1913) and The Woman from Warren’s (short, 1915).

  • Usage of the baby name Wynona.

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Which of the above names do you like best?


Could “Unicorn” Become a Baby Name?

could unicorn become a baby name?

The baby name Unicorn: Ridiculous? Inevitable? Both?

I’m not asking because I think Unicorn should become a baby name. I’m asking because I think there’s an outside chance that it could see some usage this year, thanks to the sudden trendiness of unicorns.

The word “unicorn” is being used to market all manner of colorful, sparkly products at the moment. In fact, Google searches for “unicorn” hit an all-time high last month.

The word has also acquired some positive associations over the last few years. According to Elizabeth Segran of Fast Company, “unicorn” is now being used to denote uniqueness (e.g., unicorn startup, unicorn boyfriend) and also to signify anything “happy, fun-loving, and cute.”

So if this unicorn fad lasts long enough, and if American parents are daring enough, do you think we could see a Unicorn or two in the birth announcements this year?

For the record, Unicorn has been used as a name in the U.S. before, but only a handful of times. The youngest I found was a male born in the ’90s with the middle name Unicorn.

Mythical creature names (like Phoenix, Griffin, and Dragon) — not to mention real-life creature names (like Bear, Fox, Wolf, and Wren) — are on the rise right now. So what are the odds that we’ll see some some baby Unicorns in 2017?

Source: The Unicorn Craze, Explained

The Baby Name Wetona

heart of wetona, norma talmadge, silent film, 1919

Here’s a curious one: Wetona. The name started appearing in the baby name data during the second half of the 1910s:

  • 1922: 10 baby girls named Wetona
  • 1921: 6 baby girls named Wetona
  • 1920: 12 baby girls named Wetona [peak]
  • 1919: 9 baby girls named Wetona
  • 1918: unlisted
  • 1917: unlisted
  • 1916: 5 baby girls named Wetona [debut]
  • 1915: unlisted

The SSA data from that far back isn’t terribly reliable, though, so here’s SSDI data for the same time period:

  • 1922: 6 Wetonas
  • 1921: 4 Wetonas
  • 1920: 9 Wetonas and 1 Wetonah
  • 1919: 10 Wetonas, 1 Wetonah, and 1 person with the middle name Wetona
  • 1918: 1 Wetona
  • 1917: 1 Wetona
  • 1916: 1 Wetona and 1 Wetonah
  • 1915: none

What put Wetona (and Wetonah) on the map in 1916? The play The Heart of Wetona, which was written by George Scarborough and performed on Broadway from February to May, 1916. It starred actress Lenore Ulric as the “Indian princess” Wetona.

How did Scarborough come up with the name Wetona? I’m not sure that he did. “The play was originally called Oklahoma and focused on problems of religious leaders in the new state.” It was then rewritten by theatrical producer/playwright David Belasco, who “changed some of the characters to Indians and the locale to a reservation.”

A few years later, in 1919, two things happened. First, the play was turned into a silent film starring Norma Talmadge. Second, the song “Heart of Wetona” — which was “inspired by and dedicated to Norma Talmadge” — was published. These two things together account for the increased usage of the name Wetona that year.

Do you like the name Wetona? Do you think it’s usable nowadays?

Sources:

Babies Named for the Wind…

the association, 1967, album

In January of 1940, The McMillan family of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, welcomed a baby girl “[a]t the height of a windstorm.”

Naming the child was easy. The McMillans called her Wendie Dae.

Had this scene occurred in the late ’60s instead of the early ’40s, I wonder if the McMillans would have gone for “Windy” instead of “Wendie.”

Why? Because in mid-1967, a song called “Windy” — about a woman named Windy — was the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks straight.

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smiling at everybody she sees?
Who’s reaching out to capture a moment?
Everyone knows it’s Windy

The usage of the baby name Windy doubled that year. Windy was boosted into the top 1,000 for the first time, and it saw peak popularity in 1975, ranking 553rd that year.

Wendy also got a boost from the song “Windy,” though it didn’t need any help: the name Wendy was in the top 100 from the ’50s to the ’80s, reaching as high as 28th in 1970.

Which name do you prefer, Windy or Wendy? (Or Wendie?)

Source: “Daughter Born in Windstorm Is Christened Wendie Dae.” Morning Avalanche [Lubbock, Texas] 18 Jan. 1940: 6.

Lalage: Chatterbox Baby Name?

lalage, baby name, greek

Lalage’s quirky definition is what first caught my eye.

Horace, the Roman poet, created the name Lalage over two thousand years ago from the ancient Greek word lalagein, meaning “to chatter,” “to prattle,” “to babble,” or (in the case of a bird) “to chirp.” He invented it as a fitting alias for the “sweetly laughing, sweetly talking” woman described in Ode 1.22:

dulce ridentem Lalagen amabo,
dulce loquentem.

The name Lalage has since appeared in other literary works, including the play Politian (1835) by Edgar Allan Poe, the poem “Rimini” (1906) by Rudyard Kipling, and the novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) by John Fowles.

In The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the mother of the child named Lalage “pronounced it as a dactyl, the g hard.” So: LAL-a-ghee. But I checked other sources (such as this one) and found a variety of pronunciation suggestions.

There are two distinct camps regarding the G, for instance — the hard-G camp (lal-a-ghee) and the soft-G camp (lal-a-dgee). I think the soft-G makes the most sense for English-speakers, as the English forms of other Greek-origin names (like George and Eugene) also tend to have soft G’s, but that’s just personal opinion.

Lalage has since become the name of an asteroid (822 Lalage) and a genus of birds (the trillers), but my favorite association so far is the mid-20th-century circus performer.

Lalage — whose real name was Hedwig Roth — was an aerialist with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. According to one circus program, she was a “dusty blonde of French-Swiss origin” and she pronounced her name lä-lä-gay, but she had “given up trying to sell people that idea” because most people assumed it was lä-LÄZH. (See what I mean about the various pronunciations?)

Here’s the first stanza of the poem “Lalage!” (1946) by American poet Charles Olson:

The legs of Lalage toss, and toss, and toss
(l’esprit de femme)
against the canvas of the circus sky

What do you think of the name Lalage? Would it be a good alternative to popular girl names like Lillian or Lily?

Sources: