Compound names (Anne-Marie, Jean-François) are falling out of style.
Once-taboo English names (Elliot, Mia) are seeing new acceptance.
Similarly, French names are flipping languages (Anne to Anna, Guillaume to William).
Names are also flipping gender (Ariel, Noa).
Pop culture is influencing names (Shania, Logan).
Unique names are on the rise.
Speaking of unique names, sociologist Laurence Charton of the INRS (Institut national de la recherche scientifique) suggested that the rise of unique names starting in the early 1980s was fueled in part by a 1981 change in Quebec’s Civil Code that loosened restrictions on babies’ surnames.
This claim makes me wish the article had included data from the ’60s and ’70s. I don’t doubt that parents felt liberated by the law change, but I do suspect that unique names were already on the rise by 1981.
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 was a character played by actress Anita King in the film The Squaw Man’s Son (1917).
Wahnah was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Kidnapped by Indians (1914).
Princess Wah-tah was a character played by actress Yvonne De Carlo in the film The Deerslayer (1943).
Wah-ta-wah was a character played by actress Aline Goodwin in the film serial Leatherstocking (1924).
Wahtonka was a character played by actress Claire Du Brey in the film Dakota (1945).
Wahtunka was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Brought to Justice (1914).
Walmura was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film The Fate of a Squaw (1914).
Walpurga was a character played by actress Mrs. A. C. Marston in the short film On the Heights (1914).
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 was a character played by actress Lule Warrenton in the short film The Queen of Jungle Land (1915).
Wana was a character played by actress Alice Joyce in the short film The Indian Maid’s Sacrifice (1911).
Wanama was a character played by actress Armida in the film Jungle Goddess (1948).
Wanana was a character played by actress Marie Walcamp in the short film A Daughter of the Redskins (1914).
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).
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 Hyde was a character played by actress Pauline Starke in the film The Argument (1918).
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).
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?
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
1916: 5 baby girls named Wetona [debut]
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
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?
Pisani, Michael V. Imagining Native America in Music. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.