Oenone (Œnone) is a female name pronounced ee-NOH-nee.
Oeneus (Œneus) is a male name pronounced EE-nee-us.
Both names come from Greek mythology:
Oenone was a mountain nymph who was the first wife of Paris of Troy. (Paris later left her and took up with Helen — a move that eventually led to the Trojan War.)
Oeneus was a mortal king who, after learning how to make wine from the god Dionysus, introduced it to the region of Aetolia.
And both names are based on the same word: the ancient Greek oinos, meaning “wine.” (The modern words oenology and oenophile are also based on oinos.)
Since it’s St. Valentine’s Day, and I bet many of us will end up having a glass of wine at some point, I thought today would be the perfect day to talk about wine-based names.
I first spotted Oenone while reading about English author Daphne du Maurier, who had a research assistant named Oenone Rashleigh around the time she was writing her bestselling book The King’s General (1946). Interestingly, Daphne’s grandfather was George du Maurier, writer of Trilby (1894).
In terms of real-life usage, I’ve found very few people named Oeneus, but dozens named Oenone, mainly in England and America. I would have assumed that the usage of Oenone was kicked off by the poem “The Death of Oenone” (1829) by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, but records suggest that usage didn’t pick up until the last decades of the 19th century.
So now for the question of the day. Oenone (ee-noh-nee) and Oeneus (ee-nee-us) are clearly unique, and they have a meaning that would appeal to many…but they’re also very difficult to pronounce and spell. Do you think either one is a usable first name for a modern baby?
Did you know that the teenage characters of the cartoon Scooby Doo, Where Are You! — Fred, Shaggy, Daphne, and Velma — were based directly on four of the teenage characters in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis — Dobie, Maynard, Thalia, and Zelda?
(And, did you know that Shaggy’s real name was Norville?!)
So let’s try a poll. Which set of names do you like better, the Dobie Gillis names or the Scooby Doo names?
On February 22, 1944, Spencer and Easter Hutto of rural Alabama welcomed quadruplets: Dianne, Yvonne, Spencer and Sherianne.
The quads were born about 30 days premature, and though they were said to be in “good condition” at first, none of them lived very long. Dianne, the first-born, was the only one that lived longer than 24 hours.
For the short time they were alive, their story was front-page news. And that was enough for expectant parents to pick up on the baby name Sherianne (and several variant spellings) in 1944:
The other three names saw decreased usage that year, ironically.
The Huttos, who had already lost a baby named Daphne prior to having the quads, did go on to have three babies that lived to adulthood: Gloria, Felton, and Cornelia.
“Three Quadruplets Died in Decatur Hospital.” Tuscaloosa News 23 Feb. 1944: 2.
It said that a “correspondent of leisure” had kept track of all the female names that appeared in the Marriages and Deaths column of the Glasgow Herald during the second half of 1913. He spotted a total of 208 different names (shared among 3,500 women) during that time. The two most popular? Margaret and Mary. The next-most-popular were Elizabeth, Agnes, Janet and Isabella. The least popular were the 73 that appeared only once, including:
The Social Security Administration’s annual baby name list only includes names given to 5 or more U.S. baby girls (or baby boys) per year.
Most rare names never make the list, but a select group have appeared a single time. I like to call these the one-hit wonder baby names.
One-hit wonders tend to pop up with a relatively low number of babies — 5 or 6 — but a handful are given to dozens of babies…only to disappear again the next year! Intriguing, no?
Below are the highest-charting one-hit wonder names for every year on record before 2013. (We won’t know which 2013 names are one-hit wonders until later lists come out.) The format is: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.”