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?
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.
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]
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?
Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
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.