So far, the baby name Petehn has only appeared in the U.S. baby name data a single time, in 2017:
2017: 5 baby girls named Petehn [debut]
What was the influence?
A little girl from Chicago named Pe’Tehn Jackson, whose first name is pronounced “pey-ten.”
In early 2015, when she was 3, she recited the poem “Hey Black Child” by Useni Eugene Perkins on local Chicago talk show Windy City Live (vid). A year later, in March of 2016, she performed the same poem for a national audience via the NBC show “Little Big Shots.” Several months later, in September, as a 5-year-old, Pe’Tehn made an appearance on Steve Harvey’s talk show to recite a poem written by her parents called “Affirmations” (vid).
Kansas newspaper editor Edgar Watson “E. W.” Howe published his first novel, The Story of a Country Town, in his own newspaper, the Atchison Daily Globe, in 1883.
Encyclopedia Britannica said the novel “was the first realistic novel of Midwestern small-town life,” but an early 20th-century review said that the realism wasn’t, in fact, very realistic at all: “[T]he test of veracity fails in the unrelieved gloom of the story, which is bereft of all sunshine and joyousness, and even of all sense of relation to happier things.”
One of the characters in the novel was pretty-but-shallow Mateel Shepherd, the daughter of a Methodist minister (named Rev. Goode Shepherd, naturally).
E. W. Howe must have liked the name “Mateel” quite a bit, because he named one of his children Mateel in 1883.
Readers must have like it, too, becase the number of U.S. babies named Mateel rose in the 1880s and was at its highest from the 1890s to the 1910s, judging by the records I’ve seen.
But the rare name Mateel didn’t appear in the U.S. baby name data until 1927, and it only stuck around for a single year:
1927: 6 baby girls named Mateel [debut]
Well, Mateel Howe went on to become a writer like her father. Her career seems to have peaked with her debut novel, Rebellion, which won the Dodd, Mead & Co. and Pictorial Review “First Novel Prize” of $10,000 in 1927.*
What was Rebellion about? Essentially, the book was about “the difficulties of a daughter living with a depressed, authoritative and demanding father.” (Hm…)
Though both Edgar and Mateel publicly denied that the characters and conflict were inspired by real life, Edgar cut Mateel out of his will soon after the book was published. Here’s how Time put it:
Left. By Editor-Author Ed Howe, an estate valued at $200,000; in Atchison, Kans. To Society Editor Nellie Webb of his Globe, he left $1,500. To Niece Adelaide Howe he left $50,000. To Sons Eugene Alexander and James Pomeroy he left the remainder except for $1, which went to Daughter Mateel Howe Farnham who in 1927 won a $10,000 prize for Rebellion, a novel in which she satirized her father.
Old-timey drama aside, I’m still left wondering about the name Mateel. Did E. W. Howe create it for the character, or discover it somewhere? (I do see a couple of early Mateels in Louisiana. “Cloteal” was often used for Clotilde there, so I wonder if “Mateel” arose as a form of Matilde…?)
The unusual Irish name Oona first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the 1940s:
1944: 5 baby girls named Oona
1943: 7 baby girls named Oona
1942: 5 baby girls named Oona [debut]
It was thanks to Oona O’Neill, daughter of Eugene and Agnes O’Neill, both writers. Oona was born in Bermuda in 1925, five years after her father won his first Pulitzer Prize.
In the early 1940s, Oona was a teenage socialite with famous friends. And in April of 1942, when the 16-year-old debutante was selected as the top “glamour girl” of New York society at the Stork Club, she became famous.
Oona got offers from film studios, and if she had gone in that direction, her name might have become more popular during the 1940s. Instead, she became the wife of Charlie Chaplin in June of 1943, when she was 18 and he was 54. Not long after that, her name dropped back off the charts.
(Oona and Charlie went on to have eight children, named: Geraldine, Michael, Josephine, Victoria, Eugene, Jane, Annette, and Christopher. Geraldine’s daughter Oona Chaplin played the part of Talisa Maegyr on Game of Thrones a few years ago.)
These days, the name Oona (which is actually a spelling variant of Úna) is relatively close to the U.S. top 1,000:
2017: 93 baby girls named Oona [rank: 2,085th]
2016: 111 baby girls named Oona [rank: 1,856th]
2015: 131 baby girls named Oona [rank: 1,634th]
2014: 63 baby girls named Oona [rank: 2,761st]
2013: 38 baby girls named Oona [rank: 3,977th]
Do you think it will ever get there?
What are your thoughts on the baby name Oona?
P.S. “Oona” was back in the baby name data in 1954, the year a character named Oona could be seen on the big screen in the movie Taza, Son of Cochise.
This might be my favorite photo on the entire internet.
The shot, which depicts a playful little Texas boy pretending to ride a dead catfish on someone’s front porch, was taken by photographer Neal Douglass in April of 1941.
The Portal to Texas History calls it “Mrs. Bill Wright; Boy Riding Catfish.” So I’m guessing that “Mrs. Bill Wright” was the boy’s mother. But there’s no other identifying information, so I don’t know the boy’s name, nor do I have any way of tracking it down.
So let’s turn this into a name game!
First, let’s suppose our little catfish-rider was not named “Bill” (or “William,” or “Willie,” etc.) after his father. With that rule in place, here are the questions:
What do you think Mrs. Bill Wright named her son?
What would you have named him?
Just for reference, popular names for Texas newborns in the late ’30s included:
For extra credit, what do you think the boy named his catfish? And, what would you have named his catfish? ;)