How popular is the baby name Finesse in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Finesse and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Finesse.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Finesse

Number of Babies Named Finesse

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Finesse

The Rise of Risë (ree-sah)

rise stevens, carmen, opera, the met
Risë Stevens as Carmen

This one took me years to figure out.

The curious name Rise debuted in the Social Security Administration data in 1942:

  • 1944: 13 baby girls named Rise
  • 1943: 7 baby girls named Rise
  • 1942: 15 baby girls named Rise [debut]
  • 1941: unlisted

“Rise”? Huh.

Rise was the 4th-most-popular debut name that year, and not far behind (in 7th place) was the somewhat similar Risa:

  • 1944: 12 baby girls named Risa
  • 1943: 5 baby girls named Risa
  • 1942: 12 baby girls named Risa [debut]
  • 1941: unlisted

Later in the ’40s, names like Reesa and Rissa popped up. And in the ’50s, names like Riesa and Reisa appeared. So there was definitely a minor Ris– trend going on in the mid-20th century, with “Rise” being the unlikely top variant.

But because “Rise” is also a vocabulary word, I had no luck pinning down the source. (It’s ridiculously hard to research word-names on the internet. I’m still stumped on Memory and Treasure.) Eventually I gave up.

Years later, as I was grabbing an image for the Finesse post, the answer landed right in front of me in the form of a cigarette ad:

Risë Stevens, Camels cigarettes, advertisement, 1953
Risë Stevens in a Camels ad © LIFE 1953

The full-page advertisement for Camels from a 1953 issue of LIFE magazine featured a “lovely star of the Metropolitan Opera” named Risë Stevens. I knew right away that this glamorous-looking lady — and her umlaut! — was the solution to the “Rise” puzzle.

Mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens was born Risë Steenberg in New York City in 1913. Her first name is pronounced “REE-sah” or “REE-suh.” Here’s how she explained it:

“It’s Norwegian; it was my grandmother’s name and my great-grandmother’s name. In school I was called everything but Rise; I was called Rose; I was called Rise {rhyming with “eyes”}; I was called Risé {rhyming with “play”}; even Teresa. In school, it was terrible; I would have arguments with the teachers. I would say, ‘I should know how to pronounce my own name.'”

One source suggested that Risë is related to the Latin word risus, meaning “laughter.”

So what was an opera singer doing in an national advertising campaign? Shouldn’t those be reserved for Hollywood stars? Well, turns out she was a Hollywood star — at least for a time. She sang professionally from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s, but in the early 1940s she gave acting a shot.

Her first film, released in late 1941, was the musical The Chocolate Soldier. Notice how her umlaut was left off the movie poster:

chocolate soldier, musical, film, 1941, rise stevens

This film accounts for the 1942 debut of both “Rise” and the phonetic respelling Risa.

Risë Stevens ultimately left Hollywood and returned to the opera — and she managed to bring at least a portion of her movie audience with her:

“I probably would never have reached that vast public had I not done films,” she said. “At least, I won a lot of people over to opera.”

This explains why Risë Stevens, often called the greatest Carmen of her generation, was being featured in advertisements and on television talk shows more than a decade later. And why her unique name therefore saw peak usage in the 1950s.

If you want to know more about Risë (and hear her sing!) here’s a Risë Stevens Tribute video created by the National Endowment for the Arts.

P.S. Risë Stevens had a granddaughter named Marisa — a combination of the names of her grandmothers, Maria and Risë. Risë Stevens’ son told her that he went with the -a ending instead of the ending because he was “not going to put her through what you’ve been through.”

Sources:


Finesse, Another Shampoo Baby Name

Ad for Stopette and Finesse from Life Magazine, 1953
© LIFE
The baby name Finesse debuted on the U.S. baby name charts in 1953, then disappeared again (until the 1980s).

  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: 7 baby girls named Finesse [debut]
  • 1952: unlisted

What inspired the debut?

Finesse, the “flowing cream shampoo” that was introduced to American consumers in late 1952.

It was the creation of cosmetic chemist Jules Montenier, whose first product had been the best-selling spray deodorant Stopette, introduced in the late 1940s.

Advertisements for both Stopette and Finesse ran in major magazines and also on television, which was still relatively new in the early ’50s. The print ad to the right appeared in LIFE magazine in early 1953, and here’s a Finesse commercial that aired as part of the game show What’s My Line? in late 1952. (For most of the 1950s, Montenier was the main sponsor of What’s My Line?)

Both products were notable because of their innovative polyethylene packaging. Stopette’s squeeze-bottle allowed the product to be sprayed upward (as opposed to being dabbed on manually, like most deodorants of the era) and Finesse’s “accordion” bottle and flip-cap were much safer in the shower than typical glass shampoo bottles.

In 1956, Montenier sold his brands to Helene Curtis. Stopette was eventually taken off the shelves, but Finesse is still available today. (The brand is currently owned by Lornamead.)

Curiously, Finesse wasn’t the first shampoo-inspired name on the baby name charts. The earliest was Drene, which debuted in 1946, and next came Shasta, which was given a boost in 1948.

The word finesse has several definitions, including “refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture.” It can be traced back to the Old French word fin, meaning “subtle, delicate.”

Sources:

Image: Ad from LIFE 9 Feb. 1953: 32.

Corelle, the Dishware-Inspired Baby Name

corelle, dish, 1970s, corningDid your family own a set of Corelle?

Corelle dishware was introduced to consumers in 1970 by Corning Glass Works of New York. The product was aimed at middle-class Americans who wanted “a long-desired middle ground between paper plates and good china.”

The original marketing made sure to emphasize that a Corelle dish was translucent “like fine china” and “even rings like fine china.” But Corelle wasn’t fine china — it made from a lightweight, durable tempered glass product called Vitrelle (which was originally intended for first-generation television screens in the 1940s). This made it easy to handle, hard to break, and very affordable.

corelle, cup, 1970s, corningPopular Corelle patterns included Butterfly Gold, Old Towne Blue, Woodland Brown, and the wonderfully retro Spring Blossom Green. Clever hook-handles on the cups not only allowed for compact stacking, but also kept “your husband’s big fingers away from the bowl, so they can’t get burned.”

But enough with the nostalgia…what does all this have to do with baby names? Well, the year after Corelle hit the market, the baby name Corelle appeared in the SSA’s baby name data for the first and only time:

  • 1973: unlisted
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: 5 baby girls named Corelle [debut]
  • 1970: unlisted
  • 1969: unlisted

corelle, cups, 1970s, corningThis means that the Corelle marketing campaign not only boosted sales, but also boosted the brand name onto the baby name charts.

And this wasn’t an isolated case — there are many other examples of historical marketing campaigns inspiring American parents to name their babies after brands and products (such as Finesse, Jordache, Calizza, Monchel, L’erin, and dozens of perfumes).

What do you think of the baby name Corelle?

For you, is the association with vintage dishware a pro or a con? ;)

Sources: Corelle.com – History, Here’s why these plates make millions of people nostalgic, History of Stylish and Durable Dishware