Hedda Hopper was a gossip columnist who came to fame in the early 1940s (when she was in her 50s). But “Hedda Hopper” wasn’t her original name. It was Elda Furry.
She’d been a performer (both on stage and in the movies) as a young woman — long before she wrote for the newspapers. So it’s logical to assume that the name change happened around the time she embarked upon her showbiz career, right?
As it turns out, that wasn’t the case — she made the switch mid-career. Here’s the story:
Elda was working as a chorus girl for DeWolf Hopper’s theater company in the early 1910s…
[DeWolf Hopper] had had four marriages, and was five years older than Elda’s father, but was still a great charmer and anything but jaded. Hopper’s first four wives were named Ella, Ida, Edna and Nella, in that order, and Elda was a natural for the euphonious sequence. So, about a year after their first meeting, Hopper proposed on a train platform in Grand Central and that afternoon they were married in Wading River, N.J.
Elda shortly became aware of some rather piquant marital complications. Any man with five wives is likely to become confused and, when the wives have such similar names as the Hopper ladies, the situations becomes positively grotesque. Elda discovered that as often as not Hopper would whisper affectionately, “Dear Nella” (or Ella, Ida and Edna) instead of “Dear Elda.” The sensation of being continuously mistaken for someone else became irksome in time, and Elda forthwith visited a numerologist who recommended the name “Hedda.” From then on Hopper never got his lines crossed.
Her marriage to Hopper only lasted from 1913 until 1922, but she retained the name “Hedda Hopper” for the rest of her life.
It’s no coincidence that the usage of the baby name Hedda was highest during the 1940s. Records even reveal that one of the 1944 babies named Hedda was born into a Texas family with the surname Hopper.
Which name do you prefer, Elda or Hedda?
Source: Wickware, Francis Sill. “Hedda Hopper.” Life 20 Nov. 1944: 63-70.
The unusual Irish name Oona first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the 1940s:
1944: 5 baby girls named Oona
1943: 7 baby girls named Oona
1942: 5 baby girls named Oona [debut]
It was thanks to Oona O’Neill, daughter of Eugene and Agnes O’Neill, both writers. Oona was born in Bermuda in 1925, five years after her father won his first Pulitzer Prize.
In the early 1940s, Oona was a teenage socialite with famous friends. And in April of 1942, when the 16-year-old debutante was selected as the top “glamour girl” of New York society at the Stork Club, she became famous.
Oona got offers from film studios, and if she had gone in that direction, her name might have become more popular during the 1940s. Instead, she became the wife of Charlie Chaplin in June of 1943, when she was 18 and he was 54. Not long after that, her name dropped back off the charts.
(Oona and Charlie went on to have eight children, named: Geraldine, Michael, Josephine, Victoria, Eugene, Jane, Annette, and Christopher. Geraldine’s daughter Oona Chaplin played the part of Talisa Maegyr on Game of Thrones a few years ago.)
These days, the name Oona (which is actually a spelling variant of Úna) is relatively close to the U.S. top 1,000:
2017: 93 baby girls named Oona [rank: 2,085th]
2016: 111 baby girls named Oona [rank: 1,856th]
2015: 131 baby girls named Oona [rank: 1,634th]
2014: 63 baby girls named Oona [rank: 2,761st]
2013: 38 baby girls named Oona [rank: 3,977th]
Do you think it will ever get there?
What are your thoughts on the baby name Oona?
P.S. “Oona” was back in the baby name data in 1954, the year a character named Oona could be seen on the big screen in the movie Taza, Son of Cochise.
Bewitched, the sitcom about a witch who marries a mere mortal, premiered on ABC in September of 1964 and ran all the way until 1972. Like many popular TV shows, it had a noticeable influence on U.S. baby names. For instance…
The name Samantha, which had ranked far outside the top 1,000 for most of the 20th century, skyrocketed in popularity in the mid-1960s thanks to main character (and witch!) Samantha Stephens, played by Elizabeth Montgomery.
1968: 2,339 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 136th]
1967: 1,806 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 176th]
1966: 1,794 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 182nd]
1965: 1,963 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 179th]
1964: 421 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 473rd]
1963: 73 baby girls named Samantha
The name reached and maintained top-5 status during most of the 1990s (with a lot of help from another fictional Samantha: Samantha Micelli from ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss?).
Montgomery also played the part of Samantha’s cousin Serena, who was a recurring character during later seasons of the show. The name Serena saw higher usage in the late ’60s and early ’70s as a result.
The name Darrin was boosted up to its highest-ever usage in 1965 thanks to Samantha’s husband Darrin Stephens, originally played by Dick York.
1968: 2,078 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 138th]
1967: 2,029 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 141st]
1966: 2,568 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 119th]
1965: 3,257 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 102nd] <- peak usage
1964: 801 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 272nd]
1963: 310 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 450th]
In fact, all the spelling variants of Darrin saw peak usage in 1965. The most common spelling of the name, Darren, reached 52nd place in the rankings that year. Also in the top 1,000 were Darin (123th), Daren (271st), Darron (408th), Daron (494th) Daryn (717th), and Darryn (818th).
The rare name Endora debuted in 1965, thanks to Samantha’s flamboyant and moderately villainous witch-mother Endora, played by Agnes Moorehead (who, several years earlier, played another TV witch).
1968: 7 baby girls named Endora
1967: 17 baby girls named Endora
1966: 19 baby girls named Endora
1965: 28 baby girls named Endora [debut]
Endora was so dismissive of Darrin that she nearly never bothered to say his name correctly, calling him things like Derwood, Dagwood, Darwick, Dumpkin, and so forth.
Endora’s own name was inspired by the biblical Witch of Endor; “Endor” was an ancient Canaanite city.
Tabatha & Tabitha
The names Tabatha and Tabitha were both featured on Bewitched, confusingly.
Samantha and Darrin’s first child was a baby girl born in January of 1966. They named her Tabitha, a name first strongly suggested in the storyline by Endora (“Whatever you call her, I shall call her Tabitha”).
Behind the scenes, it was Elizabeth Montgomery who suggested the character name Tabitha — spelled the traditional way, with an i.
But, for some unknown reason, the name was spelled Tabatha — with an a — on the credit role. Montgomery was later quoted as saying: “Honestly, I shudder every time I see it. It’s like a squeaky piece of chalk scratching on my nerves.” The spelling wasn’t corrected until season 5 (1968-1969).
Accordingly, the usage of both baby names rose during the ’60s, with Tabatha ranking higher than Tabitha for a three-year stretch before the spelling mistake in the credits was corrected:
947 [rank: 295th]
543 [rank: 398th]
1,050 [rank: 279th]
585 [rank: 401st]
944 [rank: 297th]
658 [rank: 355th]
549 [rank: 391st]
701 [rank: 328th]
444 [rank: 451st]
581 [rank: 378th]
327 [rank: 524th]
500 [rank: 419th]
The name Adam more than doubled in usage over a two-year stretch thanks to Samantha and Darrin’s second child, Adam, who was born in October of 1969.
1972: 5,748 baby boys named Adam [rank: 51st]
1971: 5,855 baby boys named Adam [rank: 57th]
1970: 4,320 baby boys named Adam [rank: 71st]
1969: 2,869 baby boys named Adam [rank: 113th]
1968: 2,546 baby boys named Adam [rank: 119th]
1967: 2,528 baby boys named Adam [rank: 118th]
The name reached and maintained top-20 status for several years during the early 1980s.
…So are you a fan of Bewitched? Which names from the show do you like the best?
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