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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Popularity of the Baby Name Helen

Number of Babies Named Helen

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Helen

California Family with 22 Children

Story family of California in 1940 U.S. census
The Story family on the 1940 U.S. Census
Marion and Charlotte “Lottie” Story of Bakersfield, California, had at least 22 children — including five sets of twins — from 1922 to 1946. Seventeen of their kids are listed on the 1940 U.S. Census (at right).

I don’t know the names of all the Story children, but here are 20 of them: Jean, Jane, Jack, Jacqueline, June, Eileen, Clyde, Robert, James, Jeannette, Steve, Jerry, Terry (sometimes “Terrytown”), Charlotte, Scotty, Sherrie, Garry, Joanne, Frances (called Lidwina), and Monica (called Sandy).

Charlotte Story herself was one of a dozen children, born from 1899 to 1919. Her 11 siblings were named Pearl, George, Rhea, Hazel, Fern, Ira, Myrtle, Dorothy, Helen, Russell, and Viola.

And Charlotte’s mother Elsie was one of 13 children, born from 1865 to 1892. Her 12 siblings were named Edward, Levi, William, Frank, Rosa, Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Margaret, Archibald, Gertrude, and Emma.

So here’s the question: If you had to choose all of your own children’s names from just one of the sibsets above, which set would you pick? Why?

Sources: Charlotte M Lacount Story – Find A Grave, Elsie E Dubay LaCount – Find A Grave


Round-up of Multiples from 1944

The Badgett Quadruplets in 1944
Jeraldine, Joan, Jean, and Janet Badgett © LIFE

Oodles of multiples — eight sets of twins, one set of triplets, six sets of quadruplets, and one set of quintuplets — were featured in an early 1944 issue of LIFE magazine. Most of these multiples had been born in the 1920s and 1930s.

Curious about the names? I knew you would be! Here they are, along with ages and other details.

Twins:

  • Marjorie and Mary Vaughan, 19.
  • Lois and Lucille Barnes, 21.
  • Betty and Lenore Wade, early 20s.
  • Robert “Bobby” and William “Billy” Mauch, 22.
    • They had starred in the 1937 movie The Prince and the Pauper.
  • Blaine and Wayne Rideout, 27.
    • They had been track stars at the University of North Texas in the late 1930s along with another set of twins, Elmer and Delmer Brown.
  • Charles and Horace Hildreth, 41.
    • Horace was elected Governor of Maine later the same year.
  • Ivan and Malvin Albright, 47.
  • Auguste and Jean Piccard, 60.
    • “Honors as the world’s most distinguished pair of twins must go to Jean and Auguste Piccard, stratosphere balloonists, who are so identical that not everyone realizes there are two of them.”

Triplets:

  • Diane Carol, Elizabeth Ann, and Karen Lynn Quist, 11 months.

Quadruplets:

  • Claire (boy), Cleo (boy), Clayton (boy), and Connie (girl) Brown, 3.
  • Janet, Jean, Jeraldine, and Joan Badgett, 5.
    • “The customary alliteration in multiple names accounts for the “J” in Jeraldine.”
  • Felix (boy), Ferdinand (boy), Frances (girl), and Frank (boy) Kasper, 7.
  • James (boy), Jay (boy), Jean (girl), and Joan (girl) Schense, 13.
  • Edna, Wilma, Sarah, and Helen Morlok — the Morlok Quads — 13.
  • Anthony, Bernard, Carl, and Donald Perricone, 14.
    • “Their Beaumont neighbors call them “A,” “B,” “C” and “D” for short.”

Quintuplets:

  • Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie, and Yvonne Dionne — the Dionne Quints — 9.

Which of these sets of names do you like best? Why?

Source: “Twins: Accident of Their Birth Sets Them Apart from Other People.” LIFE 6 Mar. 1944: 91-99.

Bernarr Macfadden, the Rebranded Bernard

Bernarr Macfadden
Bernarr Macfadden
(formerly Bernard McFadden)
Bernarr Macfadden (1868-1955) was an eccentric businessman and health crusader of the early 20th century.

His most successful business venture was his publishing empire, starting with Physical Culture magazine (1899-1955). This was followed by other magazines and over 100 books, including Virile Powers of Superb Manhood (1900) and Muscular Power and Beauty (1906).

He also organized bodybuilding competitions, opened health food restaurants, and even tried to found a community based on his beliefs called Physical Culture City. (It was in New Jersey.)

But he had plenty of detractors, including the editors of TIME magazine, who nicknamed him “Body-Love” Macfadden.

Speaking of names, Bernarr wasn’t born with the name Bernarr. His birth name was Bernard Adolphus McFadden. In his late 20s, while working in New York City as a personal trainer and physical therapist, he decided to rebrand himself. He ultimately settled on the distinctive “Bernarr Macfadden.” Here’s one version of the story:

Bernard Adolphus McFadden was a name that did not satisfy him. He had experimented with Bernard Adolphus, B. A. McFadden and B. Adolphus McFadden. Professor B. McFadden was not much of an improvement. Bernard sounded weak to him. If he accented the last syllable and substituted an R for the D, it would seem powerful, something like a lion’s roar — Bernarr, a unique name that people would remember. He dropped the Adolphus and, probably because there were so many McFaddens, he chose the name Macfadden, much to the resentment of his relatives scattered across the Midwest.

Bernarr Macfadden married several times and had a total of nine children — first six girls, then three boys. Their names were Helen, Byrne, Byrnece, Beulah, Beverly, Braunda, Byron, Berwyn, and Brewster. The B-names were clearly inspired by the “B” of Bernarr, and I suspect that Braunda was named with the word “brawn” in mind.

Sources:

How to Pronounce French Names – Anaïs, Étienne, Guillaume, Hélène

how to pronounce French names like anais, etienne, helene, guillaume

At first glance, Guillaume always looks like gobbledygook to me. It’s the French form of William — that much I know — but it takes a few seconds for me to remember that it’s pronounced ghee-ohm, not not gwill-awm or gwee-awm.

And it’s not just Guillaume that trips me up. I find many other French names (Étienne, Edwige, Anaïs, etc.) equally tricky to pronounce.

So for those of us who struggle with French names, here are some simplified rules of French pronunciation, plus names to illustrate each rule.

This list is far from comprehensive, and my pronunciations are just approximations, but hopefully my fellow non-French speakers out there will find it helpful nonetheless.

Rules of French Pronunciation + French Names

The vowel combination “AU” is pronounced like a long o.

  • Paul, in French, is pronounced pohl.
  • Margaux, a French form of Margaret, is pronounced mar-goh.

The letter combination “CH” is typically pronounced sh.

  • Charles, in French, is pronounced shahrl.

The six consonants “D,” “P,” “S,” “T,” “X” and “Z,” when at the end of a word, are typically silent.

  • Arnaud, the French form of Arnold, is pronounced ar-noh.
  • Denis, the French form of Dennis, is pronounced de-nee (remember the Blondie song?).
  • Lucas, in French, is pronounced loo-kah.
  • Louis, in French, is pronounced loo-ee (think Louis Vuitton).

They’re not always silent, though. Here are some exceptions:

  • Alois, the French form of Aloysius, is pronounced ah-loh-ees.
  • Anaïs, a French form of Anna, is pronounced ah-nah-ees.
  • David, in French, is pronounced dah-veed.

The pronunciation of “Ë” (E with a trema) is like the e in the English word “bet.”

  • Gaël and Gaëlle are pronounced gah-el or gai-el.
  • Joël and Joëlle are pronounced zhoh-el.
  • Maël and Maëlle are pronounced mah-el or mai-el.
  • Noël and Noëlle are pronounced noh-el.

The pronunciation of “É” (E with an acute accent) is somewhere between the ee in “see” and the e in “bet.”

  • Noé, the French masculine form of Noah, is pronounced noh-ee.
  • Salomé, in French, is pronounced sah-loh-mee.

The consonant “G” is soft (zh) when followed by “E” or “I” but hard (gh) otherwise.

  • Georges, the French form of George, is pronounced zhorzh.
  • Guy, in French, is pronounced ghee.

The consonant “H” is silent.

  • Hélène, the French form of Helen, is pronounced eh-lehn.

The vowel “I,” and the forms Ï, and Î, are all pronounced ee.

  • Loïc, a French form of Louis, is pronounced loh-eek.

The consonant “J” is pronounced zh.

  • Jacques, the French form of Jacob, is pronounced zhahk.

The letter combination “LL” is typically pronounced like an l.

  • Achille, the French form of Achilles, is pronounced ah-sheel.
  • Lucille, the French form of Lucilla, is pronounced loo-seel.

But in some cases “LL” is pronounced like a y.

  • Guillaume, the French form of William, is pronounced ghee-yohm or ghee-ohm.

The vowel combination “OI” is pronounced wah.

  • Antoine, the French form of Antony, is pronounced an-twahn.
  • Grégoire, the French form of Gregory, is pronounced gre-gwahr.

The vowel combination “OU” is pronounced oo.

  • Lilou is pronounced lee-loo.

The consonant “R,” when at the end of a word, is typically pronounced.

  • Clair, the French masculine form of Claire, is pronounced kler.
  • Edgar, in French, is pronounced ed-gahr.

When the “R” is preceded by an “E,” though, it is not pronounced.

  • Gauthier, the French form of Walter, is pronounced goh-tee-yay or goh-tyay (remember Gotye?).
  • Olivier, the French form of Oliver, is pronounced oh-lee-vee-yay or oh-lee-vyay (think Laurence Olivier).

The letter combination “TH” is typically pronounced like a t (which makes sense, since “H” is silent).

  • Thibault, the French form of Theobald, is pronounced tee-boh.

The letter combination “TI” is sometimes pronounced like an s or sy.

  • Laëtitia is pronounced lay-tee-sya.

The consonant “W” is pronounced like a v.

  • Edwige, the French form of Hedwig, is pronounced ed-veezh.

And finally, just a few more French names that I tend to have trouble with.

  • Anatole is pronounced ah-nah-tohl.
  • Étienne, the French form of Stephen, is pronounced eh-tyen.
  • Geoffroy, the French form of Geoffrey, is pronounced zho-fwah.
  • Ghislain and Ghislaine are pronounced either ghee-len or zheez-len.
  • Ignace, the French form of Ignatius, is pronounced ee-nyas.

*

Those aren’t too hard, right?

That’s what I tell myself…and then I come across Guillaume in the wild and my mind goes blank all over again. :)

If you know French and would like to add to the above (either another rule of pronunciation or a more precise pronunciation for a particular name) please leave a comment.

If you’re not a French speaker, here’s my question: Which French name gives you the most trouble?

Sources: Beginning French Pronunciation, French e, è, é, ê, ë – what’s the difference?, Google Translate

P.S. Interested in seeing how popular the French names above are in the U.S.? Here are some popularity graphs: Alois, Achille, Anaïs, Anatole, Antoine, Arnaud, Clair, Denis, Edwige, Étienne, Gaël, Gaëlle, Georges, Grégoire, Guillaume, Guy, Hélène, Ignace, Jacques, Laëtitia, Lilou, Loïc, Lucille, Maël, Maëlle, Margaux, Noé, Olivier, Salomé, Thibault.

Poll: Favorite “Edinburgh Seven” Name?

Sophia Jex-Blake, leader of the Edinburgh Seven
Sophia Jex-Blake
The Edinburgh Seven was a group of seven women — Sophia Jex-Blake, Edith Pechey, Isabel Thorne, Emily Bovell, Helen Evans, Matilda Chaplin, and Mary Anderson — who were the first women to matriculate at any British university.

They began studying medicine at University of Edinburgh in 1869, but they faced a great deal of discrimination, including a riot during which they were pelted with mud.

Ultimately, they were not allowed to graduate in Scotland. (Five of the seven did go on to earn MD’s abroad — three in Paris, two in Bern.) It wasn’t until 1892 that Scottish universities finally began to admit female students.

Which Edinburgh Seven name do you like best?

I like...

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Sources: Sophia Jex-Blake and the Edinburgh Seven – The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Seven – Wikipedia

The Baby Name Ramona

Ramona, movie
Dolores del Rio as Ramona
in Ramona (1928)
Actress Dolores del Rio was the star of not one but two silent films with theme songs that influenced the baby name charts.

In 1926 she played Charmaine in What Price Glory?, and two years later she played the titular character in Ramona, which was based on the book Ramona (1884) by Helen Hunt Jackson.

The book is a tragic romance set in mid-19th century Southern California, and the protagonists are Ramona, a mixed-race Scottish–Native American orphan, and her lover Alessandro.

Like Trilby a decade later, Ramona was a bestseller that inspired many namesakes: schools, streets, freeways, even towns (such as Ramona, California). The number of human namesakes is harder to gauge, though the U.S. Census of 1900 indicates that there was a moderate increase in the number Ramonas in 1884.

Still, the book’s impact on baby names can’t compare to the impact of its most successful film adaptation, Ramona (1928)…thanks in large part to the music.

The song “Ramona” was commissioned for the film in 1927, and released later that year — long before the film came out in May of 1928, interestingly. It was a big hit with more than two million copies sold and two different versions reaching #1 on the Billboard charts in 1928: first the Paul Whiteman version for 3 weeks, then the Gene Austin version for 8 more weeks.

This song, the first to borrow a film’s title, became the most successful movie theme song of the decade, and greatly enhanced the success of the film. Its popularity gave Hollywood producers much food for thought about how to publicize movies.

Usage of the baby name Ramona, already on the rise in the late 1920s, increased so much in 1928 that the name nearly reached the top 100:

  • 1931: 1,130 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 164th]
  • 1930: 1,410 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 149th]
  • 1929: 2,036 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 120th]
  • 1928: 2,237 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 117th]
  • 1927: 567 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 277th]
  • 1926: 467 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 307th]
  • 1925: 450 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 313th]

So where does the name Ramona come from?

Ramona and its masculine form, Ramón, are the Spanish versions of Raymond, which is ultimately based on the Germanic words ragin, meaning “advice, decision, counsel,” and mund, meaning “protection.”

Do you like the name Ramona? Would you use it?

Source: MacDonald, Laurence E. The Invisible Art of Film Music: A Comprehensive History. Lanham, MD: Ardsley House, 1998.

Girl Name Battle – Kathlyn, Helen, Pauline, Elaine, Myra, Ruth

Back in the 1910s, serial films with female protagonists were very trendy.

Many of these films had titles that followed the same formula: “The (Plural Noun) of (Female Name).”

Some examples:

the perils of pauline

  • The Adventures of Kathlyn* (1913-1914)
  • The Hazards of Helen (1914-1917)
  • The Perils of Pauline (1914)
  • The Exploits of Elaine* (1915)
  • The Mysteries of Myra (1916)
  • The Adventures of Ruth (1919)

First question: Using the same formula, can you create a serial title with your own name? (You don’t need to have a female name to play along, of course.) The Enigmas of Nancy, The Nuisances of Nancy, The Entanglements of Nancy, The Nail-Biters of Nancy…not that great, but I’m sure you guys can do better.

Second question: Of the six names listed above, which one do you like best?

I prefer:

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*The baby names Kathlyn and Elaine saw jumps in usage in 1914 and 1915, respectively.