Around 1920, a 15-year-old Montana boy named Reindeer Coffman was in the news.
Reindeer’s baby brother had died while Reindeer was babysitting. At first, murder was suspected. Later, it was revealed that Reindeer had simply neglected the baby, who proceeded to accidentally strangle himself. (The baby’s shirt collar got caught on a protruding nail.)
One article about the case included a few lines about Reindeer’s name:
The boy’s unusual name caused [Humane Officer A. E. Decew] to make inquiries as to its genuineness. He found not only that Reindeer was called by his correct name but that there was a still more unusual name in the family. Reindeer has a brother named Rainbow.
Sure enough, both Rainbow and Reindeer (spelled “Rainder”) were listed together on the 1920 U.S. Census:
Their parents were William and Mina, and their siblings had the more common names Warren, Emery, Frances, Iona, Henry, Myrtie, Charles, and Allen.
Source: “Nail catches dress, baby is strangled, is brother’s tale.” Great Falls Daily Tribune 13 Mar. 1920: 13.
The baby name Iona isn’t very popular these days, but it saw a moderate amount of usage in the early 1900s. It has several potential origins, including the Scottish island of Iona and the ancient Greek name Ione.
Beyond usage and origin, though, there’s the fascinating fact that the name Iona sounds just like the start of this sentence: “I own a…”
So have you ever wondered what all the Ionas have owned?
I was curious about this. So I checked census records, birth records, marriage records, etc., looking for Ionas who (ostensibly) owned things — that is, Ionas who had nouns as surnames. And I found lots of them.
Here are over 100 of the things that various historical Ionas have “owned,” according to their surnames:
Which one of these combinations did you like best?
And, do you think the name Iona could become trendy again one day soon? (Usage of the name has been creeping upward since the 1990s.)
Finally, here’s a video with all the funny Iona combinations above, plus a few extras:
Years ago I posted about Livonia, a baby both born on and named after a Pullman car. Recently I wondered: What other Pullman car names would have made good baby names?
So I downloaded a big spreadsheet of over 12,000 Pullman car names from The Pullman Project and was slightly surprised to see that thousands of them could have been baby names, if we allow for the splitting of compound car names (like Fort Miley, Glen Norman, Meredith College, and West Willow).
Here are a handful of examples. On the left are relatively common/familiar names, and on the right are some unexpected choices.