The name Rannah was a two-hit wonder on the U.S. baby name charts in the mid-1950s:
1956: 5 baby girls named Rannah
1955: 16 baby girls named Rannah [debut]
Where did it come from?
The film Dawn at Socorro (1954), which included a female character named Rannah Hayes, played by Piper Laurie.
New York Times movie reviewer Bosley Crowther wasn’t too impressed with the film — “everything in this picture is plainly and properly contrived to satisfy those Western addicts who like conformance to the traditional grooves” — but expectant parents were clearly impressed by Rannah.
Though it looks a lot like Hannah, “Rannah” was actually pronounced to rhyme with Juana in the film.
Who is he? He’s an indigenous Brazilian who lives in the Amazon. He appears to be the last survivor of his tribe, as he’s been living alone since the mid-1990s, maybe earlier.
No one’s been able to establish contact with him. No one knows what language he speaks. And no one knows what his name is. (They’ve taken to calling him the “Man of the Hole” because he digs deep, rectangular holes in each of his huts).
Specifically, the things I wonder are…
Does he have a name? If so,
Does he ever use it? (In thought? In speech, if he speaks to himself?) And, more generally,
Is it possible that a person who has no one left to communicate with, but decades left to live, could eventually forget his or her name?
I only know of two other lone survivors, and both have interesting name stories.
1. Ishi was the last of the Yahi, a sub-group of the Yana, a people indigenous to northern California. His tribe was decimated during the last half of the 1800s. He lived alone for three years before emerging from the wilderness and making contact with European-Americans in 1911, at about the age of 49.
I’ve seen several conflicting tales about the origin of Ishi’s name. The most plausible is that tribal tradition prevented him from revealing his real name, so “Ishi” was chosen for him:
Under pressure from reporters who wanted to know the stranger’s name, [anthropologist] Alfred Kroeber called him “Ishi,” which means “man” in Yana. Ishi never uttered his real name.
2. Juana Maria was the last of the Nicoleño, a people indigenous to San Nicolas Island. She was left behind after her tribe was relocated to the mainland. She lived alone for 18 years (1835-1853) before finally being taken to the mainland as well.
She passed away just seven weeks later. During those seven weeks, no one learned what her real name was. (I’m not sure why. Maybe, like Ishi, she couldn’t share it. Or maybe she just couldn’t remember it.) She was baptized Juana Maria just before she died.
Today, “Ishi” and “Juana Maria” are the names we use to refer to these two people, but these names aren’t their real names. They’re names bestowed by outsiders. Just as “Man of the Hole” was coined by outsiders.
Do you think we’ll ever learn the name of the “Man of the Hole”? And, do you think it’s possible that a person living in isolation could forget his/her name, if given enough time? (If so, how long?)
I finished reading The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos earlier this week. On the penultimate page, I spotted:
Floating on a sea of tender feelings, under a brilliant starlit night, he fell in love again: with Ana and Miriam and Verónica and Vívian and Mimi and Beatriz and Rosario and Margarita and Adriana and Graciela and Josefina and Virginia and Minerva and Marta and Alicia and Regina and Violeta and Pilar and Finas and Matilda and Jacinta and Irene and Jolanda and Carmencita and María de la Luz and Eulalia and Conchita and Esmeralda and Vívian and Adela and Irma and Amalia and Dora and Ramona and Vera and Gilda an Rita and Berta and Consuelo and Eloisa and Hilda and Juana and Perpetua and María Rosita and Delmira and Floriana and Inés and Digna and Angélica and Diana and Ascensión and Teresa and Aleida and Manuela and Celia and Emelina and Victoria and Mercedes and…
That’s 58 names. (Vívian’s in there twice, though. The total is 57 if you count Vívian only once.)
I think that’s the most names I’ve ever seen in a single sentence.