Sharlie, Take Two

Sharlie debuted rather impressively as a girl name in the SSA data in the year 1933.

Initially, my best guess regarding Sharlie’s sudden appearance was the trendy radio catchphrase, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?”

But a few months ago, I serendipitously discovered a much better explanation: a serialized newspaper story simply called Sharlie. It was written by Beatrice Burton and appeared in the papers in late 1932 and early 1933. The main character was “pretty, vivacious Sharlie Dunn.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned researching thousands of pop culture-inspired baby names over the years, it’s this: personification is key. A name attached to a person (real or fictional) carries far more weight with the baby-naming public than a free-floating name/word.

So, while I don’t doubt that the catchphrase did indeed draw attention to “Sharlie” back in the early 1930s, I think the female character was what helped expectant parents see “Sharlie” as a potential baby name. And that makes all the difference.

What are your thoughts on this?

P.S. I had to update my theory on the name Normandie for the very same reason. It’s much more likely that it was influenced by the comic strip character than by the ocean liner.

2 thoughts on “Sharlie, Take Two

  1. I’m assuming it’s pronounced like ‘Charlie?’
    If so – never heard of it spelled with an ‘S’ and I like how it looks.

  2. My guess is that readers of the story pronounced it with an “sh” sound — similar to Charlene — but I don’t know for sure.

    I’ve heard the Baron Munchausen catchphrase a few times now (radio/movie), and sometimes it’s an “sh” sound, but other times it’s more like a hybrid of “sh” and “ch” — I think because of the character’s heavy accent.

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