The name Dagmar (based on the Old Norse words dagr, meaning “day,” and mær, meaning “maid”) peaked in usage in the mid-1910s. But it returned for a secondary peak in 1951:
1953: 16 baby girls named Dagmar
1952: 21 baby girls named Dagmar
1951: 28 baby girls named Dagmar
1950: 18 baby girls named Dagmar
1949: 15 baby girls named Dagmar
What gave it a boost that particular year?
An American actress known simply as Dagmar. She became one of television’s first stars — and its very first sex symbol — in 1951.
She was born Virginia Ruth Egnor in West Virginia in 1921. When she began modeling and acting in the 1940s, she adopted the stage name “Jennie Lewis.”
But that stage name was changed to “Dagmar” when she was hired to appear on NBC’s Broadway Open House (1950–51), which was the first late-night variety show on network television. The bosomy* actress was instructed by the show’s host, Jerry Lester, to “act dumb” on the air. Justin Peters of Slate described the Dagmar segments of Broadway Open House as “gleefully sexist and unfunny, yet somehow redeemed by Dagmar’s odd, icy sense of dignity.”
Dagmar soon became more popular than the host himself. Lester ended up quitting, and Dagmar hosted the show during its final month on the air.
Around the same time, she began appearing on other TV variety shows (like Texaco Star Theater and the Bob Hope Show). She even landed on the the cover of Life magazine.
What are your thoughts on the name Dagmar? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?
*Fun fact: The two conical front bumper guards of various ’50s Cadillacs (and other GM cars) — originally modeled after artillery shells — came to be known as “Dagmar bumpers” or simply “Dagmars” in reference to the actress.
“Everly” is hot…”Beverly” is not. It’s a one-letter difference between fashionable and fusty.
If you’re sensitive to style, you’ll prefer Everly. It fits with today’s trends far better than Beverly does.
But if you’re someone who isn’t concerned about style, or prefers to go against style, then you may not automatically go for Everly. In fact, you may be more attracted to Beverly because it’s the choice that most modern parents would avoid.
If you’ve ever thought about intentionally giving your baby a dated name (like Debbie, Grover, Marcia, or Vernon) for the sake of uniqueness within his/her peer group — if you have no problem sacrificing style for distinctiveness — then this list is for you.
Years ago, the concept of “contrarian” baby names came up in the comments of a post about Lois. Ever since then, creating a collection of uncool/contrarian baby names has been on my to-do list.
Finally, last month, I experimented with various formulas for pulling unstylish baby names out of the SSA dataset. Keeping the great-grandparent rule in mind, I aimed for names that would have been fashionable among the grandparents of today’s babies. The names below are the best results I got.
Both her parents were curlers, members of a tight-knit sport where an intense reverence for the game tends to bleed over into the players’ personal lives. And so it was only natural that Joe and Kristin Polo decided to name their future daughter Ailsa, after the Scottish island where the granite that makes curling rocks is mined.
After Randall’s birth on Dec. 31, 1982, Ronn wanted to name her Kikki, after Kiki Cutter, the first American skier, male or female, to win a rase in a World Cup event, a slalom in 1968. Deborah preferred Meghan. They compromised on Kikkan.
When I was eight, I changed my name. Until then, I was called Johanna Louise, because my youthful parents, huge Bob Dylan fans, had named me after his mystical 1966 ballad, Visions of Johanna. In mid-70s south Manchester, sadly, the mysticism was somewhat lost. I hated explaining my name […] and thought it sounded clunky and earthy, when I longed to be ethereal and balletic.
From an essay about ethnic names by Australian-born Turkish author Dilvin Yasa
“Have you ever considered changing your name to something more ‘white’?” asked a literary agent the other day. “It’s been my experience that authors with strong, Anglo names tend to do better at the cash registers than those who have ethnic or even Aboriginal names.”
“Leave your name as it is!” [Jane Palfreyman] wrote. “I can tell you that their names have affected the popularity of Anh Do*, Christos Tsiolkas, Kevin Kwan or Munjed Al Muderis – and indeed may well have contributed to their success.”
*Misspelled “Ahn Do” in the original text.
From an article called “Restore Yamhill!” in the March 30, 1917, issue of The New York Sun:
The City Commission of Portland, Ore., has succumbed to an attack of mock elegance and under its influence has erased from the map the excellent, juicy and meaningful name of Yamhill street, substituting for it the commonplace and sordid Market street.
Yamhill is ancient, respectable, typical, historic. Alexander Henry, a fur trader of the Northwest Company, traversing the then unknown Willamette country, met at Willamette Falls, January 10, 1814, seven “ugly, ill formed Indians” leading a horse. They were of the Yamhela tribe, as Henry spelled it in his diary, the name being derived from the Yamhela, or yellow river.
From an article about Rose Collom in True West Magazine:
Rose was the perfect name for the Grand Canyon’s first official botanist, because self-taught Rose Collom blossomed when exposed to the state’s flora.
Rose discovered several varieties of plants previously unknown, and each was named after her.
Have you heard of “Kevinism”? It’s Europe’s bias against people who have first names that are “culturally devalued” like Kevin, Chantal, Mandy and Justin — names that were popularized by American pop culture, typically.
In the case of Kevin, actors like Kevin Costner and Kevin Bacon — not to mention the very successful 1990 Christmas movie Home Alone, in which the lead character was a young Kevin — made the name very trendy overseas in the early 1990s. In fact, it hit #1 in several European countries, including France and Switzerland.
But after the trend cooled off, the backlash began. And it’s so bad now that, just a few years ago, a German schoolteacher told researchers that Kevin is “not a name, but a diagnosis.”
Which makes this recent observation by Andrew Gruttadaro of The Ringer all the more interesting: “Of the scripted shows on the four major [U.S.] networks that currently include a first name in the title–Kevin Can Wait, Young Sheldon, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Bob’s Burgers, Will & Grace, and Marlon–33 percent of them feature a Kevin.”
It’s a fascinating juxtaposition. Kevin has apparently hit some sort of nostalgic sweet-spot for American TV audiences, and, at the same time, it’s so disliked overseas that an entirely new word has been coined to describe the prejudice.
I wonder if those American shows are being seen in Europe and, if so, whether they’ll affect Kevinism. Will they exacerbate it? Eradicate it? Hm…
Where do you live, and how do you feel about the name Kevin?