A great passage about “absurd” baby names, published in London’s Chambers’s Journal way back in 1858:
No names are too absurd for parents to give their children. Here are innocents stamped for life as Kidnum Toats, Lavender Marjoram, Patient Pipe, Tabitha Cumi, Fussy Gotobed, and, strangest of all, here is one called Eli Lama Sabachthani Pressnail! Other parents are more ambitious, and prematurely ennoble their children by designating them Lord, Earl, Princess Charlotte, &c.; whislt, during the Russian war, numbers of poor things were labeled Malakoff, Sebastopol, Redan, Inkermann, and Balaklava. Florence Nightingale, however, seems to have been the greatest favourite, especially amongst the poor, who have shewn their admiration for her by perpetuating her name in their families all over the country. The returns for the last two years would shew that Florence has become a much commoner name lately.
“And he took the damsel by the hand, and said to her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say to you, arise.” Mark 5:41
This could be my new favorite baby name of all time. Is it legit? I can’t find anyone named “Fussy Gotobed” specifically, but the surname Gotobed is real, and I’ve found a dozens people named Fussy, so it’s certainly plausible.
Eli Lama Sabachthani Pressnail
Jesus’s last words on the cross were “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?” meaning “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Malakoff, Sebastopol, etc.
Names inspired by the Crimean War (1853-1856):
- Malakoff, from the Battle of Malakoff (September, 1855)
- Sebastopol, from the Siege of Sevastopol (September, 1854, to September, 1855)
- Inkermann, from the Battle of Inkerman (November, 1854)
- Redan, a type of fortification
- Balaklava, from the Battle of Balaclava (October, 1854)
In birth records from the mid-19th century, I’ve found all five of the above. I’ve also found variants (e.g., Balaclava, Inkerman, Sevastopol) plus a few other Crimea-inspired names (e.g., Alma, Crimea, Eupatoria).
Several locations (e.g. Inkerman in Renfrewshire, Scotland) were given Crimea-inspired names during the war as well.
This one may be the biggest Crimean War name, in a sense. Nightingale first gained fame for treating the injured in the Crimean War. She was known as The Lady with the Lamp.
I don’t have reliable numbers for 19th-century England, but many baby girls in England were named “Florence Nightingale” between the 1850s and the early 1900s.
In the U.S., Florence became popular during the same period, quite possibly for the same reason:
|Years||Census of 1850||Census of 1880||Census of 1920|
P.S. That paragraph from 1858 is the second-oldest bit of baby name news I’ve been able to scrounge up so far. The oldest is from 1853.
- Chambers, William and Robert Chambers. “Births, Deaths, and Marriages.” Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts 6 Mar. 1858: 156.
- Popular Given Names, US, 1801-1999