“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.
The two-season TV show Topper, which aired on CBS from October of 1953 to mid-1955. Though it isn’t well remembered today, Topper was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Situation Comedy in 1954 (it lost to I Love Lucy) and ranked the 24th in the Nielsen ratings during the 1954-55 season.
But the tale of Topper actually began three decades earlier, in the form of a book. The comic fantasy Topper (1926) was written by Thorne Smith, who the New York Times called “one of America’s most significant humor writers.”
The title character, Cosmo Topper, is a “law-abiding, mild-mannered bank manager [who] decides to buy a secondhand car, only to find it haunted by the ghosts of its previous owners–the reckless, feckless, frivolous couple who met their untimely demise when the car careened into an oak tree.” The mischievous ghosts, named George and Marion, proceed to take Topper on series of adventures.
Smith followed the first book with a sequel, Topper Takes a Trip (1932).
His two books were eventually turned into three films: Topper (1937), Topper Takes a Trip (1938), and Topper Returns (1941). The first movie starred Cary Grant (as a ghost, not as Topper) and it later became the very first black-and-white motion picture to be digitally colorized (by Hal Roach Studios, in 1985).
There was also short-lived radio sitcom called The Adventures of Topper that aired in 1945, from June to September. In the radio show, Topper’s wife is named Malvena — I’ll bet this is what accounts for Malvena jumping back onto the charts one final time in 1946.
What are your thoughts on the baby name Topper? (Do you like it more or less than Tinker?)
P.S. Hopalong Cassidy (played by actor William Boyd from the 1930s to the 1950s) rode a horse called Topper, likely named after the book character.
I had to follow yesterday’s post about Nydia with a post about Cherrill. Why? Because both names were inspired by fictional blind girls selling flowers. How random is that?
While Nydia came from a 19th-century book, Cherrill comes from a 20th-century film. But not just any film — one of the best romantic comedies of all time, according to those in the know.
The baby name Cherrill popped up on the SSA’s baby name list for the very first time in 1931. (This was more than a decade before the similar-sounding name Cheryl started becoming popular.)
1935: 10 baby girls named Cherrill
1934: 6 baby girls named Cherrill
1933: 8 baby girls named Cherrill
1932: 6 baby girls named Cherrill
1931: 9 baby girls named Cherrill [debut]
The reason? Charlie Chaplin’s silent film City Lights, which was released in early 1931 and featured Hollywood newcomer Virginia Cherrill as a blind flower-seller (the romantic interest of Chaplin’s famous “Little Tramp” character).
Chaplin had auditioned many young actresses before he noticed twenty-year-old Virginia Cherrill when they both sat ringside at a boxing match at the Hollywood Legion Stadium. Although a beautiful blonde, it was the manner in which she coped with her near-sightedness that earned her the role.
Despite the fact that talkies had largely replaced silent films by 1931, City Lights did extremely well at the box office.
And the film has stood the test of time. In 1991, the Library of Congress inducted City Lights into the National Film Registry. In 2008, the American Film Institute ranked City Lights the #1 romantic comedy of all time.
Virginia Cherrill, who was born in Illinois in 1908, never aspired to be a film star. (She was only visiting California when she was spotted by Chaplin.) She appeared in several more films after City Lights, but stopped acting after marrying actor Cary Grant in 1934. (They divorced the next year. Grant went on to marry Barbara Hutton and become a father figure to Barbara’s son Lance.)
When I first noticed the name Normandie on the SSA’s 1944 baby name list, I thought the name must have something to do with the Battle of Normandy.
But two things weren’t right. First, the English version of the word, Normandy, was nowhere to be found that year. Second, as I worked backwards through the lists, I noticed more and more baby girls named “Normandie.” So, my Battle of Normandy theory was blown.
But that’s fine, because the theory I have now is a lot more interesting.
The name Normandie debuted on the list in 1935, and appeared on the list a total of 5 times:
1944: 9 baby girls named Normandie
1943: 9 baby girls named Normandie
1942: 14 baby girls named Normandie
1937: 11 baby girls named Normandie
1935: 7 baby girls named Normandie [debut]
Where did it come from?
My guess is the French ocean liner the SS Normandie, which was the largest and most luxurious passenger ship of the late 1930s.
Unlike other ships of that era, the Normandie was built to cater to the wealthy. Most of the opulent Art Deco interior was specifically designated for first-class use:
Here was a ship where the first class dining room accommodated 700 guests sitting under 12 pillars of illuminated Lalique glass and 38 matching columns along the walls. There was a winter garden filled with exotic flora and fauna, a swimming pool, and a theatre.
First class suites had pianos, multiple bedrooms and their own decks.
In mid-1935, the Normandie crossed the Atlantic on its maiden voyage. One of the passengers was Madame Lebrun, wife of French president Albert François Lebrun.
Tens of thousands of people saw the ship off from Le Havre, France, and tens of thousands more lined the docks at New York Harbor to watch it arrive just 4 days and 3 hours later — a new westbound speed record.
All of [the Normandie-related] events, the mere presence of Normandie in New York and the atmosphere that she created fueled the media and popular obsession with the ocean liner and the famous passengers she had on board.
Two years later, in 1937, the Normandie broke the westbound speed record again, this time completing the trip in just under 4 days.
The ship ended up crossing the Atlantic a total of 139 times, ferrying notable passengers like Marlene Dietrich, Walt Disney, Ernest Hemingway, Cary Grant and Bob Hope back and forth between Europe and the U.S.
But the ship’s career was cut short when, just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941, U.S. authorities seized control of the Normandie while it was docked at Pier 88 on the Hudson River. While being converted into a troopship in early 1942, it caught fire and capsized onto its port side. The Normandie was righted in 1943, but was ultimately scrapped in 1946.