I don’t know much about actress Swoosie Kurtz (b. 1944), but I recently learned that her name was inspired by a B-17.
Her father, decorated WWII bomber pilot Frank Kurtz, Jr., named her after The Swoose, a famous B-17 now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
The plane was originally nicknamed Ole Betsy, but after being damaged and repaired using parts from other planes, it was re-nicknamed The Swoose after “Alexander the Swoose,” the half-swan, half-goose character mentioned in a popular song of the time. (The song was performed by bandleader Kay Kyser, who also inspired a few baby names in his day.)
Whether or not Swoosie is Swoosie Kurtz’s official birth name remains unclear. One news article, from 1949, says this:
Their four-year-old daughter, Margo, Jr., is nicknamed “Swoosey.”
Another, from 1962, says this:
When Kurtz returned to his country at war’s end a daughter was born at Omaha, Neb., and newsmen suggested he name her “Swoosie.”
A nurse, amused at the idea, wrote “Swoosie” on the hospital records–and the parents decided to let the name become official.
- “Famous Plane on Final Hop.” Telegraph-Herald 25 Mar. 1949: 2.
- The Swoose comes home to roost at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
- “Swoosie Enrolls as a Freshman at University.” Meriden Record 15 Aug. 1962: 7.
UPDATE: Since writing this, I’ve found several sources that suggest Swoosie is indeed Swoosie Kurtz’s birth name.
From a 1982 article in People:
When his daughter was born in 1944, Col. Frank Kurtz was already well-known for piloting the famous Flying Fortress nicknamed “The Swoose” (half swan, half goose). A patriotic nurse wrote the name on the birth certificate, Mom said okay, and the baby forever after became Swoosie Kurtz.
And from a 2012 PopEater.com interview:
Okay, tell the readers of PopEater how you got your unusual name.
Oh God, I was named after a B17 that my father flew in the war. It was called the Swoos after a strange looking bird. There was a song that I think Doris Day sang about a half-swan, half-goose bird. It’s because the plane was kind of a hybrid, made up of parts from different planes.
Did you get teased?
Oh God, yes, constantly. I still do. People still mangle it and want to put a Z in there. I don’t blame them.
Your dad was an amazing man.
Yes, he was the most decorated Air Force pilot of World War II and a diving champion.
- Lester, Peter. “An Actress Named Swoosie (Yes, It’s Her Real Name) Charms Broadway and Sidney.” People 5 April 1982: 123.
- Gostin, Nicki. “Swoosie Kurtz Talks George Clooney and Her War-Inspired Name.” PopEater.com 17 Sept. 2010.