A while back we talked about a bunch of actress-inspired name debuts from the 1910s (Francelia, Ormi, Seena, Allyn). So far, though, we haven’t talked much about movie-inspired baby name debuts from the decade — even though there are over a dozen of them (including Zudora).
The earliest one I’ve seen so far? Undine.
The name Undine comes directly from the word undine, which is a type of water nymph found in European folklore. The mythological creature was originally dubbed undina by Swiss-German physician Paracelsus during the 16th century. He’d based the name on the Latin word unda, meaning “wave.”
Undines later began making appearances in the arts — first in the German novella Undine, eine Erzählung (1811) by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, then in operas and plays, then in paintings and sculptures.
Eventually, Undine started seeing occasional usage as a female name. But the baby name Undine didn’t appear on the SSA’s baby name list until 1912 — the same year the SSDI shows a spike in the number of people with the first name Undine.
|1912||9 Undines [debut]||17 Undines|
|1915||6 Undines||8 Undines|
|1916||8 Undines||7 Undines|
|1917||5 Undines||6 Undines|
|1918||9 Undines||9 Undines|
|1919||9 Undines||8 Undines|
|1922||7 Undines||9 Undines|
What was the cause?
Well, we have two films to choose from: Undine and Neptune’s Daughter.
Both were short, silent, black-and-white films based on the German novella and released in September of 1912.
- In Undine, put out by Thanhouser, Undine was played by actress Florence La Badie (whose untimely death in late 1917 may have caused the 1918 spike in the usage of Florence).
- In Neptune’s Daughter, put out by Essanay, Undine was played by actress Martha Russell.
My guess is that Undine had a greater influence on baby names than Neptune’s Daughter did, simply because it features the name in the title.
(The Edith Wharton novel The Custom of the Country, which was serialized in Scribner’s Magazine during the first half of 1913, features a protagonist named Undine Spragg. I wonder if Wharton wasn’t influenced by these movies as well…?)
What do you think of the name Undine? Do you like this version of the name, or do you prefer one of the other forms (like Ondine or Undina)?