A few weeks ago, I watched the Khmer-language film First They Killed My Father (2017), which essentially portrays the horrors of life under the Khmer Rouge through the eyes of a 5-year-old girl.
The movie was based on a memoir of the same name by Loung Ung. It was directed and co-produced by Angelina Jolie, and one of the executive producers was her son Maddox (who was adopted from a Cambodian orphanage in 2002).
Late in the movie, a scene set at a refugee camp showed a woman giving birth, then (a few moments later) holding a newborn. As I watched, I didn’t necessarily think the actress was pregnant in real life…but then I saw this in the credits:
This implies (to me, at least) that Cambodian actress Thanet(h) Thorn was indeed pregnant during filming, and that she named her baby “Jolie.”
I’m a little confused about the baby’s full name, though. “Jolie” is in the spot where the surname should be, but I don’t think it’s the surname in this case. Then again, “Thaneth” is also an odd choice for a surname — not because first names aren’t passed down as surnames in Cambodia (they are), but because typically it’s the father’s first name that gets passed down.
If anyone out there happens to know more about this mysterious Cambodian baby named Jolie, please comment and let us know!
In the meanwhile, here’s a photo of Thanet and Angie from a few years ago (posted to Twitter by another of the film’s co-producers, Rithy Panh).
These days, main association for the name Jolie, from the French word for “pretty,” is actress Angelina Jolie (who single-handedly turned Maleficent into a baby name a few years ago). But Angie — though she’s certainly influenced the usage of the name recently — didn’t put the name on the map in the late ’40s:
1952: 22 baby girls named Jolie
1951: 19 baby girls named Jolie
1950: 26 baby girls named Jolie
1949: 6 baby girls named Jolie
1948: 9 baby girls named Jolie
1947: 7 baby girls named Jolie [debut]
In 2006, name expert Cleveland Kent Evans noted that the name “was first brought to the attention of Americans by Jolie Gabor…the mother of actresses Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor.” I don’t think this is wrong — I think Jolie Gabor may account for some of the usage of the name during the ’50s — but I also don’t think it’s right, as Zsa Zsa wasn’t terribly famous in ’40s. (The name Zsa Zsa first appeared in the data in 1957.)
My guess on the 1947 debut of Jolie is the song “New Jolie Blonde” by country singer Red Foley. That, plus a couple of the similar songs: “New Pretty Blonde (Jole Blon)” by Aubrey “Moon” Mullican and “(Our Own) Jole Blon” by Roy Acuff. All three saw heavy play on juke boxes in 1947, according to Billboard. Red’s rendition, which featured the “Jolie” spelling in the title, was the most successful.
The song is ultimately based on the old (pre-1900) Cajun song “Jole Blon.” In 1946, Cajun fiddler Harry Choates came out with an updated version of the song that saw moderate success. Other performers then followed Harry’s lead with their own versions.
(According to one source, the title of the version by Harry Choates was initially misspelled jolie blonde, “thus forever altering the song title among Anglophone audiences,” but I haven’t seen any evidence of this misspelling, so I doubt it would have had much impact. The Choates version was only ever called “Jole Blon” in Billboard magazine, for example.)
But she wasn’t just becoming a familiar face in the movie theaters — she was also having a strong influence on baby names. In 2000, the name Jolie broke into the U.S. top 1,000 for the first time, and, a year later, the name Angelina entered the top 100 for the first time:
Angelina usage (ranking)
Jolie usage (ranking)
4,271 baby girls (71st)
377 baby girls (691st)
3,979 baby girls (74th)
412 baby girls (620th)
3,368 baby girls (93rd)
385 baby girls (655th)
2,140 baby girls (157th)
275 baby girls (820th)
1,327 baby girls (237th)
152 baby girls (1,241st)
1,167 baby girls (268th)
109 baby girls (1,536th)
Best of all, though, are the debuts of Anjolina and Anjolie — names that cleverly blend “Angelina” with “Jolie” — in 2000. I know of other actresses (e.g., Cyd Charisse, Pier Angeli) who popularized both their first and last names, but Angie is the only one I know of to inspire mash-ups like this.
Which name do you like better for a baby girl, Angelina or Jolie? (Or do you prefer one of the portmanteaus?)
What’s My Line? (1950-1967) was one of the longest-running game shows on television — not to mention one of the earliest.
The word “line” in the title didn’t refer to a line of script, but to a line of work. Essentially, the show consisted of four celebrity panelists trying to guess a contestant’s occupation — typically something unexpected, e.g., “lipstick demonstrator,” “makes kilts,” “vaccinates chickens.”
Given the popularity of the show, and the fact that contestants’ names were emphasized (each one signed in on a chalkboard at the start of his/her segment), it’s not surprising that some of the more unusual contestant names ended up influencing U.S. baby names. For example…
Rondi Contestant Rondi Stratton, whose job was demonstrating mattresses in store windows, was on the show in October of 1952. The baby name Rondi saw increased usage in 1952-1953.
Barbi Contestant Barbi Nierenberg, who was a maternity dress buyer, was on the show in November of 1952. The baby name Barbi debuted in the data in 1953. (Barbie dolls weren’t launched until 1959.)
Wynelle Contestant Wynelle Davis, who was a fireworks seller, was on the show in June of 1953. The baby name Wynelle saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Sunee Contestant Sunee Parker, who was a men’s barber, was on the show in October of 1953. The baby name Sunee debuted in the data the same year.
Rozana Contestant Rozana Ruehrmund, who was a bill collector, was on the show in August of 1954. The baby name Rozana debuted in the data the same year.
Zana Contestant Zana Stanley, who handled bad checks at a District Attorney’s office, was on the show in November of 1954. The baby name Zana saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Lili Contestant Lili Lisande Wieland, who was a Christmas shopper at Saks Fifth Avenue, was on the show in December of 1954. The baby name Lili saw increased usage the same year.
Thor Contestant Thor Thors, who was the Icelandic ambassador to the United States, was on the show in November of 1955. The baby name Thor saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Evonne Contestant Evonne Gaines, who owned a dog grooming salon, was on the show in March of 1957. The baby name Evonne saw increased usage the same year.
Bunny Contestant Bunny Yeager, who was a “cheesecake photographer,” was on the show in July of 1957. The baby name Bunny saw increased usage the same year. (Bunny, born Linnea Eleanor Yeager, was a former pin-up model herself.)
Darris Contestant Darris Miller (f), who made one-piece pajamas for dogs, was on the show in August of 1959. The baby name Darris saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Perian Contestant Perian Conerly, who wrote a football column for newspapers, was on the show in December of 1959. The baby name Perian debuted in the data the next year. (Her growing visibility as a columnist may have been an influence here as well.)
Sherrylyn Contestant Sherrylyn Patecell, who was a Rockette — not to mention the recently elected Miss New York City — was on the show in July of 1960. The baby name Sherrylyn debuted in the data the same year. (Her pageant win may be a confounding factor here.)
LaVelda Contestant LaVelda Rowe and her identical twin sister LaVona Rowe, both news photographers, were on the show in July of 1960. The baby name LaVelda was a one-hit wonder in the data the same year.
Sita Contestant Sita Arora, who was a high school English teacher originally from Bombay, was on the show in September of 1960. The baby name Sita debuted in the data the same year.
Dorinda Contestant Dorinda Nicholson, who taught hula dancing, was on the show in August of 1962. The baby name Dorinda saw an uptick in usage the same year.
Candi Contestant Candi Brasovan, who was a salami seller, was on the show in January of 1963. The baby name Candi saw increased usage the same year.
Sheva Contestant Sheva Rapoport, who was a dentist, was on the show in February of 1966. The baby name Sheva debuted in the data the same year.
…And here are some other interesting What’s My Line? contestant names. These didn’t influence the data, but they caught my eye nonetheless.