The word Sway popped up for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 2001:
2003: 14 baby girls and 5 baby boys named Sway
2002: 12 baby girls named Sway
2001: 8 baby girls named Sway [debut]
For a long time I assumed the main influence was MTV personality Sway Calloway. But, while I still think Sway had an influence on male usage, I’ve since discovered a much better explanation for the 2001 debut as a female name.
One of the main characters in the 2000 car heist film Gone in 60 Seconds was mechanic-slash-bartender Sara “Sway” Wayland (played by Angelina Jolie). She was the love interest of protagonist Randall “Memphis” Raines (played by Nicolas Cage), who was tasked with stealing 50 specific, expensive cars inside of 72 hours.
The film didn’t get great reviews, but I do remember appreciating the fact that each of the 50 cars was assigned a feminine code-name:
Actress Neva Patterson, mentioned in yesterday’s post about Diana Lynn, was born in 1920 on a farm near Nevada [neh-VAY-duh], Iowa.
So she must have been named for her birthplace, right?
Nope. Neva, called “Nevada’s gift to acting” by the Des Moines register, “spent much of her life explaining that she really wasn’t named for her hometown.” Instead, she was named after one of her mother’s friends. (Her parents were named Marjorie and George, btw, and she also had a brother named Harlon.)
Do you like the name Neva? How would you pronounce it?
The baby name Dianalynn has been in the SSA data just twice, debuting in 1951, then popping up a second time in 1963.
The influence was surely American actress Diana Lynn (1926-1971), whose birth name was Dolores “Dolly” Loehr. But the reason the name debuted in that particular year — if there even is a reason — is hard to pin down.
In 1951 she co-starred with future president Ronald Reagan in the chimp movie Bedtime for Bonzo, which did well at the box office. But this was nothing new; she’d been appearing in well-received movies throughout the 1940s.
Also around 1951 she started appearing on TV, but, as LIFE mentioned in a mid-1952 article featuring Diana Lynn and five other leading ladies of television, “their faces are probably better known than their names. In the billings their names flash by so quickly that the audience is generally unable to identify them.” (The other five featured actresses were Stella Andrew, Rita Gam, Grace Kelly, Felicia Montealegre, and Neva Patterson.)
Jeanne d’Alcy was an actress who appeared in films from the 1890s to the 1900s. She was born in 1865 in France. Her birth name was Charlotte Lucie Marie Adèle Stephanie Adrienne Faës. Jeanne Eagels was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in 1890 in Missouri. Her birth name was Amelia Jean Eagles. Jeanne Aubert was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1960s. She was born in 1900 in France. Jeanne was also a character name in multiple films, including The Phantom’s Secret (1917) and The Flower of the North (1922).
Jinjur was a character played by actress Marie Wayne in the film The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914).
Jinx Jinx Falkenburg was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. She was born in Spain in 1919. Her birth name was Eugenia Lincoln Falkenburg. Jinx was also a character name in the film Juke Box Jenny (1942).
Josephita Guerrero was a character played by actress Renée Adorée in the film Tide of Empire (1929).
Josette Andriot was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1910s. She was born in France in 1886. Her birth name was Camille Élisa Andriot. Josette was also a character played by actress Tala Birell in the film Josette (1938).