The Debut of Desnee

Desnee and Billy

The rare name Desnee was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1950s:

  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 7 baby girls named Desnee [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

What was the influence?

A 15-month-old London girl named Desnee Sampson, who was featured in a pair of photos that ran in various U.S. newspapers in late 1950 and early 1951.

In the first photo, she was sitting on the floor, watching her cat Billy drink milk from a saucer. In the second, she was bent over the saucer herself and trying to lap up milk in the same way (with Billy looking on).

I don’t know the origin of the name. In fact, my initial guess was that “Desnee” was a typo for Desiree. (I could imagine the middle letters being transposed and then mistaken for an “n.”)

As it turns out, Desnee Sampson’s birth (1949) and marriage (1970) records both confirm that her real name was indeed “Desnee.” Besides, the name Desiree didn’t become trendy until a few years later, thanks to the 1954 Marlon Brando movie Désirée (which I mentioned in the Deserie post).

What do you think of the name Desnee? Would you pronounce the second syllable like that of Desiree (ay-sound) or Deedee (ee-sound)?

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