I’m a baby name blogger, but sometimes I feel more like a baby name detective. Because so much of my blogging time is spent doing detective work: trying to figure out where a particular baby name comes from, or why a name saw a sudden jump (or drop) in usage during a particular year.
If a name itself doesn’t make the answer obvious (e.g., Lindbergh) and a simple Google search hasn’t helped, my first bit of detective work involves scanning the baby name charts. I’ve learned that many search-resistant baby names (like Deatra) are merely alternative spellings of more common names (Deirdre).
If that doesn’t do it, I go back to Google for some advanced-level ninja searching, to help me zero in on specific types of historical or pop culture events. This is how I traced Irmalee back to a character in a short story in a very old issue of the once-popular McCall’s Magazine.
But if I haven’t gotten anywhere after a few rounds of ninja searching, I officially give up and turn the mystery baby name over to you guys. Together we’ve cracked a couple of cases (yay!) but, unfortunately, most of the mystery baby names I’ve blogged about are still big fat mysteries.
The name Lavoris debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1961:
1966: 6 baby girls named Lavoris
1965: 18 baby girls named Lavoris
1964: 20 baby girls named Lavoris
1963: 28 baby girls named Lavoris
1962: 40 baby girls and 7 baby boys named Lavoris
1961: 36 baby girls and 6 baby boys named Lavoris [debut]
Was the name inspired by Lavoris mouthwash?
That’s my only theory so far, but it’s not a great one.
Lavoris mouthwash, which has been around since 1903, was popular in the middle of the 20th century. But this doesn’t explain why dozens of babies suddenly got the name “Lavoris” in 1961. I haven’t found any evidence of a big Lavoris mouthwash advertising campaign in 1960/1961; the ads seem to run consistently throughout the ’50s and ’60s.
Like Toshiba, another name that also happens to be a popular brand, the brand could either be the answer, or be masking the answer (when I do internet searches). Very frustrating.
In the 1970s, Everett H. Williams–director of the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Jacksonville, Florida–compiled lists of the most unusual baby names he saw on Florida birth certificates. Here’s a sampling:
Bigamy and Larceny [twins]
End of the Line
First Time Benjamin
Full Dress Coat
Gospel Lilly Floweryvine Virgin Mary Lord Caroline
January Snow White
Kekoalauliionapalihauulioliokeloolau David Kaapuawaokamehameha
I checked for some of these names in the SSDI and discovered one more Lasagne, two more Cigars, two more Larcenys, eight more Gospels, and 17 more Stranges. I also spotted a Full Price (1912-1990), an Easy Fortune (1922-2009) and a Flowery Tutor (1890-1965).
“Everett: what a name!” Miami News 13 Sept. 1973: 1.
“Speaking Of Names.” St. Joseph News-Press 5 Jul. 1970: 1.
“What’s in a Name?” Gadsden Times 23 May 1974: 3.
“What’s in a Name?” Ocala Star-Banner 16 May 1977: 2B.
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!