How popular is the baby name Jean in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Jean and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Jean.
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We already know how Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, came up with her stage name — “Marilyn” was from Marilyn Miller, and “Monroe” was her mother’s maiden name.
But why was she named “Norma Jeane” as a baby?
In 1922, her mother Gladys, originally from California, moved to Kentucky to try to get her first two children (Robert and Berniece) back from her former husband’s family.
While there, Gladys worked as a housekeeper in the home of Harry and Lena Cohen of Louisville. She also helped care for the couple’s young daughters, Dorothy and Norma Jean.
She eventually returned to California, alone.
In 1926, Gladys had her third and final baby. “She named the child after the little girl she had looked after whilst in Kentucky and, for the sake of respectability, also gave the surname of her former husband, hence naming her Norma Jeane Mortenson (she added an ‘e’ to Norma Jean and changed Mortensen to Mortenson on the birth certificate).”
Which first name do you like more, Marilyn or Norma? Vote below, then leave a comment with your reason…
Source: Morgan, Michelle. Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. London: Little, Brown Book Group, 2012.
We’ve talked about Faron, so now let’s talk about Ferlin — a similar name that debuted for a similar reason during the very same decade.
1959: 22 baby boys named Ferlin
1958: 26 baby boys named Ferlin (peak)
1957: 15 baby boys named Ferlin
1956: 17 baby boys named Ferlin
1955: 9 baby boys named Ferlin
1954: 7 baby boys named Ferlin [debut]
The name Ferlin was inspired by American country singer Ferlin Husky. His 1953 singles “A Dear John Letter” and “Forgive Me, John” — both duets with Jean Shepard — are what put him, and his name, on the map.
But the name Ferlin would never have come to anyone’s attention if Ferlin Husky had stuck with the stage name Terry Preston, which he’d been using since the late ’40s. Some sources say he began using a stage name because he felt his real name “sounded too rural.” He was convinced by record producer Ken Nelson to revert to his birth name in the early ’50s:
[Nelson] pushed Terry Preston to drop his stage name and use his given name, Ferlin Husky. “I thought, ‘Oh, my god, Terry Preston, my goodness’ sake’ — it sounded too sweet for a country singer. So I said, ‘Ferlin, why don’t you use your right name? It’s a good masculine name, and it’s an unusual name.’ And he didn’t want to do it. One day, he and his father and I were riding in the car, and I mentioned it to his father, and his father said, ‘Ferlin, you’re never gonna be a success until you use your right name.'”
Ironically, Ferlin’s “right name” was invented by a wrong spelling. His father had intended to name him Ferland after a friend, but the name was misspelled “Ferlin” on the birth certificate.
Do you like the name Ferlin? Do you like it more or less than Faron?
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).
Compound names (Anne-Marie, Jean-François) are falling out of style.
Once-taboo English names (Elliot, Mia) are seeing new acceptance.
Similarly, French names are flipping languages (Anne to Anna, Guillaume to William).
Names are also flipping gender (Ariel, Noa).
Pop culture is influencing names (Shania, Logan).
Unique names are on the rise.
Speaking of unique names, sociologist Laurence Charton of the INRS (Institut national de la recherche scientifique) suggested that the rise of unique names starting in the early 1980s was fueled in part by a 1981 change in Quebec’s Civil Code that loosened restrictions on babies’ surnames.
This claim makes me wish the article had included data from the ’60s and ’70s. I don’t doubt that parents felt liberated by the law change, but I do suspect that unique names were already on the rise by 1981.
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?