The Emergence of Jolie

red foley, jolie blon, song, baby name, 1940s
Red Foley

These days, main association for the name Jolie, from the French word for “pretty,” is actress Angelina Jolie (who single-handedly turned Maleficent into a baby name a few years ago). But Angie — though she’s certainly influenced the usage of the name recently — didn’t put the name on the map in the late ’40s:

  • 1952: 22 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1951: 19 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1950: 26 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1949: 6 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1948: 9 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1947: 7 baby girls named Jolie [debut]
  • 1946: unlisted

In 2006, name expert Cleveland Kent Evans noted that the name “was first brought to the attention of Americans by Jolie Gabor…the mother of actresses Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor.” I don’t think this is wrong — I think Jolie Gabor may account for some of the usage of the name during the ’50s — but I also don’t think it’s right, as Zsa Zsa wasn’t terribly famous in ’40s. (The name Zsa Zsa first appeared in the data in 1957.)

My guess on the 1947 debut of Jolie is the song “New Jolie Blonde” by country singer Red Foley. That, plus a couple of the similar songs: “New Pretty Blonde (Jole Blon)” by Aubrey “Moon” Mullican and “(Our Own) Jole Blon” by Roy Acuff. All three saw heavy play on juke boxes in 1947, according to Billboard. Red’s rendition, which featured the “Jolie” spelling in the title, was the most successful.

The song is ultimately based on the old (pre-1900) Cajun song “Jole Blon.” In 1946, Cajun fiddler Harry Choates came out with an updated version of the song that saw moderate success. Other performers then followed Harry’s lead with their own versions.

(According to one source, the title of the version by Harry Choates was initially misspelled jolie blonde, “thus forever altering the song title among Anglophone audiences,” but I haven’t seen any evidence of this misspelling, so I doubt it would have had much impact. The Choates version was only ever called “Jole Blon” in Billboard magazine, for example.)

What do you think of the baby name Jolie?

Sources:

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Your email address will not be published.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.