How popular is the baby name Helen in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Helen and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Helen.
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In 1910, the Boston-based publisher H. M. Caldwell Co. ran the following ad for its “My Own Name” series of books in American Motherhood magazine.
It is the purpose of these charming little books to tell girls all about their names, information about the name, its origin, the name in history, the name in poetry, fiction and romance is given, also notable namesakes past and present.
It wasn’t much of a series, though. Customers only had 25 names to choose from:
Alice (ranked 10th nationally in 1910)
Clearly three more names could have fit on that last line (next to Winifred), so let’s turn this into a game. Which three girl names would you add to this list? That is, give us three names you like that would also be logical additions to this list, given the time period. For instance, I think I’d add Iola, Della, and Bonnie. How about you?
(If you want to access the national rankings for 1910, click over to the SSA’s site and scroll down to “Popular Names by Birth Year.”)
Looking for a rare girl name with a retro feel? Here are dozens of ideas. All came straight from very old films that were released from the 1910s to the 1940s.
This post is part of a series of posts featuring female names from early cinema. I’m going backwards, so the other lists so far are U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. The names below are the second half of the T-list (Ti- to Ty-). The first half has the Ta- to Th- names. Enjoy!
Tiare was a character name in multiple films, including The Leopardess (1923) and The Moon and Sixpence (1942).
Trixie Trixie Friganza was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in Kansas in 1871. Her birth name was Delia O’Callahan. Trixie was also a character name in multiple films, including Falling Leaves (short, 1912) and The Good Bad Girl (1931).
Tsakran was a character played by actress May Robson in the film Turkish Delight (1927).
Tsuru Tsuru Aoki was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1960s. She was born in Japan in 1892.
Tui Bow was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1980s. She was born in New Zealand in 1906. Her birth name was Mary Lorraine Tui.
Tuila was a character played by actress Conchita Montenegro in the film La Melodia Prohibida (1933).
Tula Belle was a child actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Norway in 1906. Her birth name was Borgny Erna Bull Høegh. Tula was also a character name in multiple films, including The Vengeance of Najerra (short, 1914) and Kongo (1932).
“My youngest daughter is Jane, and my wife is Jen, so [Jyn] is sort of mashup of them. And growing up my aunt was Aunt Ginny, [short] for Virginia, so there’s a little bit of that, too. It’s a mix up of a lot of my favorite women in my life.”
[Do you think Jyn will debut in the SSA data in 2017?]
Dre’s point that names like Matthew, David, and Kevin don’t mean anything to him is fair. He wants to name his son after the actual culture and people he grew up around, and he hates the fact that when “something is black the world thinks that it’s bad.” Appeasing white culture with a name that has no cultural signifiers creates the type of internalized hatred that causes characters like Ruby and Charlie to respond so negatively to black names.
But it’s enormously character building, being given an absurd name. It teaches you fortitude and tolerance because you will have to explain it 73 times a day. No use in labelling your children as George and Amal Clooney have just done. They’ve called their twins Ella and Alexander. I mean, they’re all right. Ella will probably grow up to be a florist or a yoga teacher and Alexander sounds like he might sell houses in Fulham. But what is life if you don’t grow up justifying your name to everyone you meet? Being called something silly means you can never take yourself too seriously.
Even though she’s never been on the receiving end of any commands or jokes, [Alexa] Wakefield remembers her first reaction to Alexa being, “How are they [Amazon] sort of allowed to use somebody’s name, like a more common name, as something like a robotic command,” she says, “It seems like a little bit of a violation.”
Later, she adds, “It’s placing your name in a subservient manner.”
These days, Wakefield says she’s learned to “look on the bright side.” “It’s sort of a feeling of pride,” she says, “Like a person named Alexa is very helpful!”
My friend gave her baby the middle name “Swift” because her labor was so quick.
Our friends chose the middle name “Buffalo” for their son because it was his dad’s nickname growing up. “It took my husband nine months to convince me,” my friend told me. “Then, in the middle of the night after signing the birth certificate, I had a mild panic attack at the hospital. Now I love it.”
There is a very simple reason why it’s so easy for the names of new acquaintances to slip right out of your head within moments of being introduced: Names are kind of meaningless. Memory experts say that the more pathways back to a memory you have, the easier it becomes to retrieve that memory, and this just doesn’t often happen naturally with names.
Sure, there may be family history or a great deal of sentimental meaning behind a person’s first name, but when you meet someone at a party, there’s no readily apparent reason why this guy should be named Mike and that guy should be named Max.
When I was born, my oldest sister (who was a difficult child) insisted I be named “Florence” after a movie actress she idolized. My sister threatened consequences if I weren’t. On the other hand, the tradition of my tribe dictated that I be named after my dad’s eldest sister. Fearing whiplash from in-laws, my mother was wary to skip naming me after my aunt. At the same time, my mother was concerned about a daughter who said she would have nothing to do with me if I weren’t named Florence. So my mother shortened my aunt Jennifer’s name to “Jane” and Florence to “Flora” and gave me both.
We all tend associate certain qualities to people’s names, usually on the basis of people we have known. Helen, for example, is a very sensible name. I associate it with practical, dependable people I have known. You can rely on a Helen. A quick look at the ONS data for girls’ names in England and Wales tells me that it reached a high point of number 8 in the list of baby names in both 1964 and 1974. It’s also the technical term for a hyolith appendage: a hyolithid has a pair of helens. I think this is utterly brilliant. The original paper from 1975 says “We term these … structures helens because the word has no functional connotations, and they were first described under the generic name Helenia by Walcott”. Really? Or did they know a Helen?
Valeska Suratt was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Indiana in 1882. Valeska was also a character name in multiple films, including For a Woman’s Honor (1919) and Broadway Scandals (1929).
Valli Valli was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Germany in 1882. Her birth name was Valli Knust. Alida Valli, often credited simply as Valli, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 2000s. She was born in Italy (now Croatia) in 1921. Valli was also a character played by actress Margaret Livingston in the film What a Widow! (1930).
Vedah Bertram was an actress who appeared in films in the early 1910s. She was born in Massachusetts in 1891. Her birth name was Adele Buck.
Vedah, who died of appendicitis at the age of 20 in 1912, “became the first noted film player to be mourned by the movie-going public.” According to the San Francisco Call, her East Coast family had not been aware of her film career. “Hoping to keep her actions from her friends and relatives, she assumed the name under which she has been acting.”
Vee Newell was a character played by actress Olive Borden in the film Hello Sister (1930).
Velma Whitman was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Ohio in 1885. Velma was also a character name in multiple films, including The Greatest Menace (1923) and The Lone Wolf’s Daughter (1929).
Vermuda was a character played by actress Martha Sleeper in the short film Sure-Mike! (1925).
Verna Mersereau was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in 1894. Verna was also a character name in multiple films, including His Temporary Wife (1920) and Here Comes Carter (1936).
Vesta Tilley was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1910s. She was born in England in 1864. Her birth name was Matilda Alice Powles. Vesta was also a character name in multiple films, including The House in Suburbia (short, 1913) and The Duke of Chimney Butte (1921).
Vilma Banky was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in Austria-Hungary (now Hungary) in 1898. Vilma was also a character name in multiple films, including Federal Agent (1936) and Meet the Boy Friend (1937).
A baby name becomes trendy for one generation. For the next two generations, while those initial babies are parent-aged and grandparent-aged, you can expect the name to go out of style. But during the third generation, once the cohort reaches great-grandparent age, the name is free to come back into fashion.
Evelyn is a name with a usage pattern that fits this description well.
I’ve seen it described elsewhere as the 100-Year Rule, but I prefer to call it the Great-Grandparent Rule, as it makes more sense to me to frame it in terms of generations.
Essentially, the pattern has to do with a name’s main generational association shifting from “a name that belongs to real-life old people” to “a name that sounds pleasantly old-fashioned.”
I used to think the pattern was one we’d only recently discovered — something we needed the data to see — but it turns out that at least one observant person noticed this trend and wrote about it in The San Francisco Call more than 100 years ago (boldface mine):
Time was — and that not very long ago — when old fashioned names, as old fashioned furniture, crockery and hand embroideries, were declared out of date. The progress of the ages that replaced the slower work of hand by the speed of machines cast a blight on everything that betokened age.
Spinning wheels were stowed away in attics, grandmothers’ gowns were tucked into cedar chests, old porcelain of plain design was replaced by more gaudy utensils and machine made and embroidered dresses and lingerie lined the closets where formerly only handwork was hung.
So with given names. Mary, Elizabeth, Jane, Sarah, Hannah and Anne, one and all, were declared old fashioned and were relegated to past ages to be succeeded by Gladys, Helen, Delphine, Gwendolyn, Geraldine and Lillian and a host of other more showy appellations.
Two generations of these, and woman exercised her time honored privilege and changed her mind.
She woke suddenly to the value of history, hustled from their hiding places the ancient robes and furnishings that were her insignia of culture, discarded the work of the modern machine for the finer output of her own fair hands, and, as a finishing touch, christened her children after their great-grandparents.
Old fashioned names revived with fervor and those once despised are now termed quaint and pretty and “quite the style, my dear.”
Pretty cool that this every-third-generation pattern was already an observable phenomenon three generations ago.
The article went on to list society babies with names like Barbara, Betsy, Bridget, Dorcas (“decidedly Puritan”), Dorothea, Frances, Henrietta, Jane, Josephine, Lucy, Margaret, Mary, Olivia, and Sarah (“much in vogue a century ago”).
Have you see the 100-Year Rule/Great-Grandparent Rule at play in your own family tree? If so, what was the name and what were the birth years?
Source: “Society” [Editorial]. San Francisco Call 17 Aug. 1913: 19.
Image: Frances Marie via Morguefile