Has some grumpy person ever called you a “Pollyanna”? That person may have meant it pejoratively, but take it as a compliment! (And tell that grump to go take a nap.) Because for over a century now the name has been a vocabulary word with a seriously pleasant meaning: “an excessively cheerful or optimistic person.”
So how did the compound name come to have that meaning? With the help of a popular book from the 1910s.
Pollyanna (1913) by Eleanor H. Porter was the first in a series of books about Pollyanna Whittier, one of the famous optimistic orphans of literature. (Think Anne of Green Gables, or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.) But Pollyanna Whittier, “a girl who preaches the gospel of Gladness,” was the most optimistic of them all:
After her father’s death, the orphan moves to Beldingsville, Vt. In the next hundred pages, this juvenile social worker persuades the whole town to play the Glad Game. Cranky Mr. Pendleton, the bedridden Mrs. Snow, the dispirited Reverend Ford, the forlorn Dr. Chilton, a loose woman contemplating divorce and (finally) her sclerotic aunt succumb to the power of positive thinking and begin to hunt for and find things to be glad about.
The original Pollyanna book was the 8th-bestselling book of 1913 and the 2nd-bestselling book of 1914. It was so successful that Porter turned it into a series, starting with the sequel Pollyanna Grows Up (1915), which ranked 4th on the bestseller list in 1915.
As one critic explained in 1947, “The publication of the story in 1913 was only less influential than the World War. White Mountain cabins, Colorado teahouses, Texas babies, Indiana apartment houses, and a brand of milk were immediately named for the new character.”
The critic mentioned Texas specifically because a Texas baby named for the character (Pollyanna Houston, born in Waco) was in the news in 1915. But babies elsewhere got the name as well. Here’s the SSA data for the usage of Pollyanna during the 1910s:
1919: 15 baby girls named Pollyanna
1918: 13 baby girls named Pollyanna
1917: 21 baby girls named Pollyanna
1916: 20 baby girls named Pollyanna
1915: 12 baby girls named Pollyanna
1914: 6 baby girls named Pollyanna [debut]
And here’s the SSDI data for the same window of time:
1919: 10 Pollyannas
1918: 9 Pollyannas
1917: 15 Pollyannas
1916: 18 Pollyannas
1915: 11 Pollyannas
1914: 3 Pollyannas
1913: 6 Pollyannas
1912: 2 Pollyannas
The greatest usage of the name came in the 1960s, with the Disney movie adaptation of the book…but we’ll talk more about that (and the name Hayley!) tomorrow.
Until then, why not leave me a comment with your thoughts on the baby name Pollyanna? Do you think it’s usable these days?
“Books.” Gazette Globe [Kansas City, Kansas] 18 Feb. 1915: 4.
“142” boy names: Huntington, Konstantine, Naetochukwu, Iyanuoluwa, Marquavius
7 via 151
The following baby names add up to 151, which reduces to seven (1+5+1=7).
“151” girl names: Montserrath, Victorious
7 via 160
The boy name Arinzechukwu adds up to 160, which reduces to seven (1+6+0=7).
7 via 169
The boy name Somtochukwu adds up to 169, which reduces to seven (1+6+9=16; 1+6=7).
What Does “7” Mean?
First, we’ll look at the significance assigned to “7” by two different numerological sources. Second, and more importantly, ask yourself if “7” or any of the intermediate numbers above have any special significance to you.
“7” (the heptad) according to the Pythagoreans: …
“Since everything comes together and is distinguished by coincidence and in a critical manner at the place of the hebdomad [group of seven], they called it ‘critical time’ and ‘Chance,’ and custom has entrenched the habit of saying ‘critical time and Chance’ together.”
“Many things, both in the heavens of the universe and on the Earth – celestial bodies and creatures and plants – are in fact brought to completion by it. And that is why it is called ‘Chance,’ because it accompanies everything which happens, and ‘critical time,’ because it has gained the most critical position and nature.”
“It is also called ‘that which brings completion,’ for seven-month children are viable.”
“Everything is fond of sevens.”
“It is called ‘forager’ because its structure has been collected and gathered together in a manner resembling unity, since it is altogether indissoluble, except into something which has the same denominator as itself”
“7” according to Edgar Cayce:
“Seven is the spiritual number” (reading 261-15).
“As does seven signify the spiritual forces, as are seen in all the ritualistic orders of any nature” (reading 5751-1).
Does “7” — or do any of the other numbers above (e.g., 25, 43, 88, 151) — have any special significance to you?
Think about your own preferences and personal experiences: lucky numbers, birth dates, music, sports, and so on. Maybe you like how “88” reminds you of piano keys, for example.
Also think about associations you may have picked up from your culture, your religion, or society in general.
If you have any interesting insights about the number 7, or any of the other numbers above, please leave a comment!
Source: Theologumena Arithmeticae, attributed to Iamblichus (c.250-c.330).
A handful of Filipino babies have been born — or almost born — on the Light Rail (LRT) in metropolitan Manila, and at least three of these babies have been given LRT-inspired names…
In May of 2005, Lea Aquino Ababa gave birth inside the Doroteo Jose LRT station. The baby girl was named Dorotea after the station.
In April of 2011, Mary Ann Opedra went into labor aboard an LRT train. She made to a hospital near Libertad Station in time to deliver. The baby girl was named Liberty Anne after the station.
In June of 2012, Angel Hotba gave birth aboard a moving LRT train somewhere between Libertad and Gil Puyat stations. The baby girl’s name, Lilibeth, was inspired by Libertad station. (Name suggestions from Twitter users included Larita, LoReTa, Laura Regina Teresa, Trayna, Katraina, and Railey.)
Looking for an uncommon K-name for your baby girl? Here’s the next installment of rare female names collected from very old films (released from the 1910s to the 1940s). For those names that saw enough usage to register in the national data set, I’ve included links to the popularity graphs.
Kabirah was a character played by actress Emily Seville in the film Kismet (1920).
Kalaniweo was a character played by actress Enid Markey in the film Aloha Oe (1915).
Kalora was a character played by actress Ruth Stonehouse in the film The Slim Princess (1915) and by actress Mabel Normand in the remake The Slim Princess (1920).
Kaluna was a character played by actress Betty Schade in the short film Isle of Abandoned Hope (1914).
Kamamamalua was a character played by actress Hilo Hattie in the film Miss Tatlock’s Millions (1948).
Kameela was a character played by actress Ann Rork in the film The Notorious Lady (1927)
Karamaneh was a character played by either of two actresses, Joan Clarkson and Dorinea Shirley, in various short films, including The Shrine of the Seven Lamps and The Cafe L’Egypte, during the 1920s.
Karanina “Nina” Novak was a character played by actress Anne Shirley in the film Four Jacks and a Jill (1942).
Karin Touzac was a character played by actress Merle Oberon in the film This Love of Ours (1945).
Kathe was a character played by actress Dorothy Tree in the film Sky Murder (1940).
Usage of the baby name Kathe (which debuted in the data the year Sky Murder came out).
Kathlyn Williams was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1930s. She was born in Montana in 1879. Her birth name was Kathleen Mabel Williams. Kathlyn was also a character played by actress Bessie Eyton in the film The City of Purple Dreams (1918).
Katina Paxinou was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1970s. She was born in Greece in 1900. Her birth name was Ekaterini Konstantopoulou. Katina was also a character played by actress Sonja Henie in the film Iceland (1942).
Katuma was a character played by actress Tsuru Aoki in the short film A Relic of Old Japan (1914).
Katyusha Maslova was a character played by various actresses (such as Florence Lawrence, Pauline Frederick, Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez) in various movies called Resurrection, all based on the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy.
Kawista was a character played by actress Edith Storey in the short film Return of Ta-Wa-Wa (1910).
Kay Laurel was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1890. Her birth name was Ruth Leslie. Kay Aldridge was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. Aldridge was born in Florida in 1917. Kay was also a character name in multiple films, including The Scarlet Honeymoon (1925) and Mrs. Miniver (1942).
Kittens Reichert was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1910. Her birth name was Catherine Alma Reichert. Kittens was also a character played by actress Dorothy Abril in the film Rouge and Riches (1920).
Kittie Swasher was a character played by actress Madge Kennedy in the film The Girl with the Jazz Heart (1921).
Kitty Gordon was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in England in 1878. Her birth name was Constance Blades. Kitty was also a character name in multiple films, including Five Star Final (1931) and The Challenge (1948).
Successful entrepreneurs Sergey Brin (Google) and Anne Wojcicki (23andMe) were married from 2007 to 2015. During that time they had two children, a son and a daughter.
They named the kids Benji and Chloe, but that’s not all — they also gave the kids a brand new surname: Wojin, a combination of Wojcicki (which is pronounced wo-JIT-skee) and Brin. According to a Gawker tipster, the surname had been created “for security reasons.”
Do you know of any families with invented/blended surnames?