What Kicked Off the Name “Caresse”?

dinner at antoines, book, 1940s, caresse, baby nameThe unusual baby name Caresse saw its highest usage in the late ’80s and early ’90s (no doubt thanks to commercials for Caress soap, which was launched by Lever in 1985). But it debuted in the U.S. data way back in the 1940s:

  • 1951: unlisted
  • 1950: 5 baby girls named Caresse
  • 1949: 7 baby girls named Caresse [debut]
  • 1948: unlisted
  • 1947: unlisted

Where did it come from?

The 1949 novel Dinner at Antoine’s by Frances Parkinson Keyes, which became one of the bestselling books in the United States that year. The story was also serialized in several newspapers.

It was murder mystery set in New Orleans; the “Antoine’s” of the title refers to the famous Antoine’s Restaurant. One of the characters, Caresse Lalande, was a radio star (her show was called Fashions of Yesteryear). She was also carrying on an affair with her sister’s husband, Léonce. When the sister (named Odile) ended up murdered, both Caresse and Léonce (and many other people in their circle) became suspects.

The name got even more exposure that year thanks to the Literary Guild Book Club, which ran ads that featured not just Dinner at Antoine’s, but Caresse specifically:

caresse in literary guild advertisement

The French word Caresse (and also the English word Cherish) can be traced back to the Latin word carus, meaning “dear, costly, beloved.”

What do you think of the baby names Caresse and Caress? Would you use them?

Sources: Publishers Weekly list of bestselling novels in the United States in the 1940s – Wikipedia, Caress – Online Etymology Dictionary
Image: from the October 1949 issue of Radio Mirror


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.