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).
Looking for an uncommon K-name for your baby girl? Here’s the next installment of rare female names collected from very old films (released from the 1910s to the 1940s). For those names that saw enough usage to register in the national data set, I’ve included links to the popularity graphs.
Kabirah was a character played by actress Emily Seville in the film Kismet (1920).
Kalaniweo was a character played by actress Enid Markey in the film Aloha Oe (1915).
Kalora was a character played by actress Ruth Stonehouse in the film The Slim Princess (1915) and by actress Mabel Normand in the remake The Slim Princess (1920).
Kaluna was a character played by actress Betty Schade in the short film Isle of Abandoned Hope (1914).
Kamamamalua was a character played by actress Hilo Hattie in the film Miss Tatlock’s Millions (1948).
Kameela was a character played by actress Ann Rork in the film The Notorious Lady (1927)
Karamaneh was a character played by either of two actresses, Joan Clarkson and Dorinea Shirley, in various short films, including The Shrine of the Seven Lamps and The Cafe L’Egypte, during the 1920s.
Karanina “Nina” Novak was a character played by actress Anne Shirley in the film Four Jacks and a Jill (1942).
Karin Touzac was a character played by actress Merle Oberon in the film This Love of Ours (1945).
Kathe was a character played by actress Dorothy Tree in the film Sky Murder (1940).
Usage of the baby name Kathe (which debuted in the data the year Sky Murder came out).
Kathlyn Williams was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1930s. She was born in Montana in 1879. Her birth name was Kathleen Mabel Williams. Kathlyn was also a character played by actress Bessie Eyton in the film The City of Purple Dreams (1918).
Katina Paxinou was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1970s. She was born in Greece in 1900. Her birth name was Ekaterini Konstantopoulou. Katina was also a character played by actress Sonja Henie in the film Iceland (1942).
Katuma was a character played by actress Tsuru Aoki in the short film A Relic of Old Japan (1914).
Katyusha Maslova was a character played by various actresses (such as Florence Lawrence, Pauline Frederick, Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez) in various movies called Resurrection, all based on the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy.
Kawista was a character played by actress Edith Storey in the short film Return of Ta-Wa-Wa (1910).
Kay Laurel was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1890. Her birth name was Ruth Leslie. Kay Aldridge was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. Aldridge was born in Florida in 1917. Kay was also a character name in multiple films, including The Scarlet Honeymoon (1925) and Mrs. Miniver (1942).
Kittens Reichert was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1910. Her birth name was Catherine Alma Reichert. Kittens was also a character played by actress Dorothy Abril in the film Rouge and Riches (1920).
Kittie Swasher was a character played by actress Madge Kennedy in the film The Girl with the Jazz Heart (1921).
Kitty Gordon was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in England in 1878. Her birth name was Constance Blades. Kitty was also a character name in multiple films, including Five Star Final (1931) and The Challenge (1948).