A couple of weeks ago, while my husband and I were on a short road trip to Dallas, I spotted a couple of interesting place names.
On the way there, we passed the town of Estelline (infamous for its speed traps). Estelline was established in the 1890s and named after Estelle de Shields, the daughter of an early settler.
While searching for the local pronunciation of Estelline (“ES tuh leen”), I found a pronunciation guide that concisely listed every Texas town, so of course I had to scan it for oddballs (e.g., Dime Box, Fair Play, Goodnight, Tarzan, Wink). And some of those weird town names also happen to be human names:
Brazoria: Beatrice Brazoria Mcleod, born in Texas in 1903.
Cotulla: Cotulla Ann Farr, born in Texas in 1982.
Flatonia: Jewell Flatonia Defoor, born in Texas in 1907.
Monthalia: Bertha Emma Monthalia Bahlmann, born in Texas circa 1899.
Splendora: Splendora, a one-hit wonder on the SSA’s list in 1923. (I don’t think this has anything to do with the town, though; the name Splendora is sometimes used in Italian families.)
Waxahachie: Waxahachie Arthur, born in Alabama in 1886. (But he was probably named after Alabama’s Waxahatchee Creek, not the Texas town.)
On the way back, we took a different route (through Oklahoma and Kansas). Near the Kansas/Colorado border, we passed a sign for the border town of Kanorado — a portmanteau created from the state names. I couldn’t find any humans with the name Kanorado, but I did track down people named for other border towns with portmanteau names:
Arkoma (Arkansas + Oklahoma), Oklahoma: Helena Arkoma Yost, born in Arkansas in 1908.
Calneva (California + Nevada), California: Calneva Wakeman, born in California in 1914.
Illmo (Illinois + Missouri), Missouri: Illmo Speer, born in Missouri circa 1907.
Kenova (Kentucky + Ohio + West Virginia), West Virginia: Virginia Kenova Woods, born in West Virginia in 1898.
Tennga (Tennessee + Georgia), Georgia: Tennga Conner, born in Georgia in 1914.
Though vast majority of the baby names on the Social Security Administration’s yearly baby name lists are repeats, every list does contain a handful of brand-new names.
Below are the highest-charting debut names for every single year on record, after the first.
Why bother with an analysis like this? Because debut names often have cool stories behind them, and high-hitting debuts are especially likely to have intriguing pop culture explanations. So this is more than a list of names — it’s also a list of stories.
Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!