My guess is Hollywood-based African-American fashion designer L’Tanya Griffin.
She started to become famous during the second half of the ’40s. Her name began appearing newspapers around 1946, and it was often spelled “LaTanya” and “La Tanya.” (Her birth name was Julia Bernice Hilbert, incidentally.)
In mid-1949, a specific event made L’Tanya Griffin front-page news: Her estranged husband Earl tried to assault her with a beer can full of lye at racetrack in Atlantic City. She was uninjured, but her friend Marshall Miles (former manager of boxer Joe Louis) and several other people suffered first degree burns. Worst off was Earl himself, as the lye had splashed back into his face. It got into his eyes and blinded him (not permanently, turns out).
L’Tanya was at the height of her fashion-fame during the 1950s. She was even on the cover of Jet in mid-1954. The magazine sometimes ran pictures of her young daughter L’Tanya as well.
I’m not sure what became of L’Tanya Griffin after her fame waned in the ’60s, but I did discover that one of the babies named “LaTanya” in 1949 was none other than Samuel L. Jackson’s wife LaTanya Richardson.
Do you like the name L’Tanya?
“Acid Toss by Hubby Backfires.” New York Age 20 Aug. 1949: 1.
“Fashions by L’Tanya” Ebony Aug. 1947: 24.
Kirkham, Pat and Shauna Stallworth. “”Three Strikes Against Me”: African American Women Designers.” Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000: Diversity and Difference, ed. by Pat Kirkham, The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, 2000, pp. 123-144.
“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 baby boy born on January 1st to Jessica Killian and Randy “Earl” Sain of Gaston County, North Carolina, was unique in several ways:
He was the first baby born in the county in 2019,
He was born in the passenger seat of a Chevrolet Cruze (that was cruising toward the hospital at the time), and
His name is Atom Bomb Sain.
Why “Atom Bomb”? Because the baby’s nickname in utero was “A Bomb,” and the couple ended up “decid[ing] that if the child was a boy, he would be named Atom Bomb.” The mother later confirmed that the baby “really did come out like a bomb.”
That fact aside…Atom Bomb?
I can understand why a modern parent might prefer Atom to Adam. But the middle name “Bomb”? That takes the combo to a whole new level. (But the pairing is weirdly on-trend, given the rise of weaponry baby names like Cannon, Gunner, Pistol, Shooter, Trigger, Rocket, Arrow, etc.)
Jemal David, an African-American character played by actor Otis Young on the single-season TV western The Outcasts (1968-1969).
The series was set in the decade following the Civil War, when “people of all creeds and colors were part of the West” (according to the narrated introduction). The two protagonists, both bounty hunters, were an unlikely pair: Jemal, an ex-slave freed by the Proclamation, and Earl Corey, a former slave owner from Virginia.
Young’s Jemal David was possibly television’s angriest African American protagonist; a defiant man who refused to forget the indignities and humiliations of slavery. He also never let his partner’s racism go unchallenged.
There was even an episode called “My name is Jemal” that drew extra attention to the name:
The similar name Jamal also saw a big boost in usage thanks to the character. But, unlike Jemal, which quickly petered out, Jamal’s usage continued to increase for several decades.
What are your thoughts on the name Jemal? Which spelling do you prefer?
Bogle, Donald. Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.
We haven’t done a Namestorm in a long time! The last one we did was for coffee lovers, so let’s follow that up with one for tea lovers.
Here are some tea-inspired baby names for all the tea lovers out there:
The Camellia genus gives us not only flowers, but also tea: the Camellia sinensis plant is our primary source of tea. The genus was named by Carl Linnaeus in honor of Czech missionary and botanist Georg Joseph Kamel (1661-1706).
Thomas Garway was the first person sell tea in London, in 1657.
Thomas Twining founded Twinings of London in the early 1700s.
Thomas Lipton founded Lipton Tea in the 1890s.
Thomas Sullivan of New York inadvertently invented teabags in 1907 when he distributed tea samples in loosely woven silk bags and people started using the bags to brew the tea.
Catherine (or Catarina)
Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza popularized tea-drinking among the British nobility in the mid-1600 upon her marriage to King Charles II in 1662. (FYI: The borough of Queens in New York City was named during Catherine’s tenure, so it was presumably named for her.)
Britain was obsessed with tea by the 1800s, but China controlled the tea trade. So in the late 1840s, the British East India Company sent Scottish botanist Robert Fortune (1812-1880) to China to learn the secrets of Chinese tea production and to smuggle tea plants and seedlings out of the country and take them to India.
Jasmine tea is a blend made with green tea and jasmine blossoms.
Grey (or Earl) (or Earl Grey)
Earl Grey tea is a blend made with black tea and oil of bergamot (a type of citrus fruit). It existed as far back as the 1880s and is thought to be named after former British Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey.
The famous song “Tea for Two” comes from the 1925 musical No, No, Nanette. It’s a duet sung during Act II by characters Nanette and Tom.
What other baby names with a tea association can you come up with?