Here’s something I didn’t expect!
A while back I posted about the baby name Siobhan, which was kicked off (in the U.S.) by Irish stage actress Siobhán McKenna in 1956. The curious part was that, in 1955, a handful of phonetic spellings of Siobhán — Shevawn, Shevon, etc. — popped up ahead of the traditional spelling.
My initial assumption was that these had emerged naturally, as often happens with names that have tricky spellings and/or names we hear rather than see. Deirdre is a good example of this.
But one variant, Shevawn, was pretty dominant. In fact, it was the top debut name of 1955.
- 1958: 9 baby girls named Shevawn
- 1957: 8 baby girls named Shevawn
- 1956: 24 baby girls named Shevawn
- 1955: 36 baby girls named Shevawn
- 1954: unlisted
I just figured “Shevawn” was the most-liked phonetic spelling…because I had no other explanation.
I recently came across a blog post that recapped a September 1955 episode of the live drama series The United States Steel Hour (ABC) called “A Wind from the South.” The episode prominently featured a character named Shevawn, amazingly.
Shevawn, played by stage actress Julie Harris, was an Irishwoman who ran an inn with her brother Liam. Here’s a synopsis that ran in a Texas newspaper a few days before the episode aired:
Miss Harris, in a rare television appearance, will portray Shevawn, an imaginative and winsome colleen who, with her brother, runs a country-side inn. Longing to travel to far-away places, where she believes life is full of magic and splendor, the girl becomes hopelessly enamored of an American guest, who is struck with the girl’s delicate and unspoiled nature.
So that explains Shevawn!
But you know what? Siobhán McKenna is still the explanation, ultimately. Because screenwriter James Costigan had written the role with Siobhán McKenna in mind, and hence had given the character her name. But then the show’s producers intervened. They gave the role to the more recognizable Harris and respelled the character’s name “Shevawn” to make it easier for the American audience to connect the spelling and the pronunciation.
What are your thoughts on the name Shevawn? Do you like the simplified spelling, or do you prefer the original form of the name?
P.S. Here’s the full episode, you want to see it:
- “Julie Harris Has Starring Role In TV Production.” Waxahachie Daily Light 11 Sept. 1955: 9.
- The United States Steel Hour 03×06: A Wind from the South – Recap Retro
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