The curious name Rizzo debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 2016:
2018: 7 baby boys named Rizzo
2017: 10 baby boys named Rizzo
2016: 7 baby boys named Rizzo [debut]
Because of baseball player Anthony Rizzo. He was a key part of the Chicago Cubs’ successful 2016 season, which was capped with a World Series win over the Cleveland Indians. This famously ended the Cubs’ 108-year drought.
Notably, Rizzo caught the “final out” balls in the final games of both the National League Championship Series (against the Dodgers) and the World Series.
The Italian surname Rizzo is a variant of Riccio, which comes from the Italian word riccio, meaning “curly.” Originally, Riccio was a nickname for someone with curly hair.
Earlier this year, the BBC presenter formerly known as Ben Bland changed his surname to Boulos to celebrate his maternal Sudanese-Egyptian heritage.
The Bland name had masked important aspects of his identity that he had downplayed as a child, not wanting to be seen as in any way “different”, including his Coptic faith, Boulos said. “Every name tells a story – and I want mine to give a more complete picture of who I am.”
Boulos’s grandparents, who came to Britain in the 1920s, had chosen the surname Bland because they feared using the Jewish-Germanic family name “Blumenthal”. “They decided on the blandest name possible — literally — to ensure their survival,” he wrote.
Actress Camila Mendes [vid] talking about her name on The Late Late Show With James Corden in 2017:
So my name is Camila Mendes, and there’s a singer called Camila Cabello, and a singer called Shawn Mendes. And people seem to think my Twitter is a fan account for that relationship.
From the book I Speak of the City: Mexico City at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (2015) by Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo:
Babies were baptized with new and strange names, particularly in the 1920s, names taken from the titles of various socialist experiments (for instance, in Tabasco with Garrido Canaval, who established socialist baptisms), and as a result of the emergence of the radio and the indigenist turn of the city’s language. Masiosare became a boy’s name (derived from a stanza of the national anthem: “Mas si osare un extraño enemigo…”), but also Alcazelser (after the popularity of Alka-Seltzer), Xochitl, Tenoch, Cuauhtémoc, Tonatihu (the biblically named Lázaro Cárdenas named his son Cuauhtémoc).
The names of characters came from people [executive producer Peter] Engel knew growing up.
“I knew a guy named Screech Washington. He was a producer. I said I’m not going to hire him, but I’m going to steal your name,” he said. “Slater was a kid who was in my son’s kindergarten class, Zack was named after my dear, dear friend, John DeLorean. […] His son’s name was Zack. Lisa Turtle was a girl I knew and Mr. Belding, Richard Belding, had been my cranky editor when I worked at Universal.”
From the book Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood (2004) by Robert S. Birchard:
DeMille interviewed Gloria Stuart for the part of the high school girl [in This Day and Age], Gay Merrick, and said she was “extremely enthusiastic,” and he also considered Paramount contract player Grace Bradley, but ultimately he selected a former model who called herself Mari Colman. In April 1933 Colman won a Paramount screen test in a New York beauty competition, and DeMille was apparently delighted by the innocent image she projected.
In a comic sequence in David O. Selznick’s 1937 production of A Star Is Born, the studio’s latest discovery, Esther Blodgett, is given a new name more in keeping with her status as a movie starlet. As This Day and Age was getting ready to roll, Mari Colman was subjected to the same treatment as DeMille and Paramount tested long lists of potential screen names. Among the suggestions were Betty Barnes, Doris Bruce, Alice Harper, Grace Gardner, Chloris Deane, and Marie Blaire. Colman herself suggested Pamela Drake or Erin Drake. On May 15, Jack Cooper wrote DeMille that he had tried several names on seventeen people. Eleven voted for the name Doris Manning; the other six held out for Doris Drake. Somehow, the name ultimately bestowed upon her was Judith Allen. DeMille and Paramount had high hopes for Allen, and she was even seen around town in the company of Gary Cooper, one of the studio’s biggest stars.
Nowadays, most names borne by individuals in Madagascar are a particular mix of foreign names (mainly Christian, French, or British but sometimes Muslim) and Malagasy names. This is because the spread of the Christian faith in the nineteenth century resulted in people increasingly giving names from the Bible to their children. These biblical names were often modified to follow the phonological and morphological rules of the Malagasy language (e.g., John becomes Jaonina or Jaona), and often the honorific particle Ra-, the word andriana (lord), or both were added to them (e.g., Rajaonina and Randrianarijaona). While at the beginning of Christian evangelization most people still had, in traditional Malagasy fashion, only one name, progressively the most common structure of names became “binomial,” as Gueunier calls it (Gueunier 2012, 197). In this case, a Christian name (or other foreign name) is often juxtaposed to a Malagasy name, although sometimes both names are of Malagasy origin or, more rarely, both names are foreign.
Names were reduced in length when French colonization began in 1896 — the shortest names today include Rakotoarisoa, Rakotonirina, Andrianjafy or Andrianirina, and tend to have around 12 characters minimum.
And here are the late bloomers — names that were part of the 2019 game, but didn’t rise/debut until 2020.
Donna increased by 20%.
Nipsey debuted with 7 baby boys.
Luce returned to the data with 7 baby girls.
Maleficent returned to the data with 5 baby girls.
Miren returned to the data with 5 baby girls.
Finally, regarding our theories about how Covid might have affected 2020’s names…I didn’t notice anything definitive. For instance, both Gheba and Skizzo mentioned “prestige” names (e.g., King, Legend, Major, Messiah and Royal). What I found was that some went up, some went down. Same with the modern virtue names (e.g., Courage, Honor, Brave, Bravery, Freedom).
What are your thoughts on these results? Which name surprised you the most?
[Disclaimer: Some of the names above were already moving in the direction indicated. Others were influenced by more than a single pop culture person/event. In all cases, I leave it up to you to judge the degree/nature of pop culture influence.]
It’s now more than a decade since Congolese job hopeful Guy Goma found himself offering his not-so-expert analysis of a legal dispute between Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) and Apple Corp, The Beatles’ record label, over trademark rights.
Goma, after arriving at the BBC’s West London headquarters for an interview for a job in the IT department on May 8, 2006, was mistaken for a studio guest, British technology journalist Guy Kewney, and ushered all the way into a live BBC News 24 studio.
This was Guy Goma’s unplanned TV appearance:
[The mix-up happened just a couple of months after I started this name blog, incidentally.]
From a 1979 People article about the “eerie similarities” between two Ohio men who discovered, at age 39, that they were twins separated at birth:
Curiously, both had been christened James by their adoptive parents [who lived 40 miles apart]. As schoolboys, both enjoyed math and carpentry — but hated spelling. Both pursued similar adult occupations: Lewis is a security guard at a steel mill, and Springer was a deputy sheriff (though he is now a clerk for a power company). Both married women named Linda, only to divorce and remarry — each a woman named Betty. Both have sons: James Alan Lewis and James Allan Springer.
Penn Jillette, speaking to contestant Paul Gertner during a mid-2020 episode of Penn & Teller: Fool Us:
You gave me this pen. And you gave me the pen with a joke — a joke about my name. You said, “Here’s a pen, Penn.”
When I was in grade school, it would be, “Hey Penn, got a pencil?” “Hey Penn, how’s pencil?” I should have an index of all those pen jokes that were told to me. I’d have over fifty, maybe more than that. It was amazing.
Even her name, pronounced “Ma-veen,” requires a politically charged translation. Christened Marvyne, Betsch added an extra e for the environment, and dropped the r in the 1980s to protest the environmental policies of the Reagan administration.
My family had chosen “Linda” in part because it sounded incontrovertibly American to their Soviet ears, practically an idiom of assimilation unto itself. According to a 2018 study, it is the “trendiest” name in U.S. history, having experienced a sharp rise and precipitous fall in popularity amid the postwar baby boom. By naming me Linda, my parents hoped they were conferring an easy American life upon me, a life free of mispronunciations and mistakes. For them, such a life would be forever out of reach.
Most of the Lindas I have encountered in my age group are also millennial daughters of immigrants; our name is a reminder of our parents’ aspirations and of the immense promise with which our name is laden.
As a 61-year-old man, I have suffered all my life with the name Lynn. My mother simply named me after a little-known celebrity of the early 50s because she wanted a name that was not capable of being shortened. For a while I had people such as Welsh long jumper Lynn Davies to allay the perpetual claims that “it was a girl’s name”. But this led others to believe that it had to be of Welsh derivation. But there are no new male “Lynns” to correct either opinion. All this despite the fact that in the 1930s and 1940s, I believe that Lynn was more popular as a man’s name – especially in America. ~Lynn Jonathan Prescott, Birmingham
From the 2009 book Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity by Leigh H. Edwards:
In [the autobiography] Cash, he explicitly addresses how he represents his identity differently in different contexts, noting how he uses different names for the different “Cashes” he played in different social settings, stating that he “operate[s] at various levels.” He stages a struggle between “Johnny Cash” the hell-rais[ing], hotel-trashing, pill-popping worldwide star and “John R. Cash,” a more subdued, adult persona.
The name Neysa first popped up in the U.S. baby name data in 1917. It began seeing regular usage during the 1920s:
1924: 10 baby girls named Neysa
1923: 8 baby girls named Neysa
1922: 12 baby girls named Neysa
1921: 7 baby girls named Neysa
1918: 9 baby girls named Neysa
1917: 9 baby girls named Neysa [debut]
What put this name on the map?
Illustrator Neysa McMein, whose creations — typically drawings of pretty young women — were featured prominently in magazines and advertisements during the 1920s and 1930s. For instance, Neysa drew every single McCall’s magazine cover from 1923 to 1937, 62 Saturday Evening Post covers from 1916 to 1939, and gave a face to Betty Crocker in 1936.
Beyond her art, Neysa McMein was also a well-known personality of the Roaring Twenties. She was “mentioned or quoted in magazine articles, fiction, and in advertisements with some regularity.” According to theater director George Abbott, “every taxi-cab driver, every salesgirl, every reader of columns, knew about the fabulous Neysa.”
Interestingly, though, she didn’t start out as a Neysa. She was born a Marjorie.
In 1911, after growing up in Illinois and graduating from art school in Chicago, she moved to New York City to both launch her career and forge a new identity — which included adopting a new name.
Though she told the press that “Neysa” had been suggested by a numerologist, she told her husband a different story: that “Neysa” was the name of an Arabian filly she’d encountered while visiting cartoonist/horse breeder Homer Davenport in New Jersey.
Regardless of the source, she did say that she believed the name Neysa had more “commercial value” than the name Marjorie.
What are your thoughts on the name Neysa? Would you use it?