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:
“Everly” is hot…”Beverly” is not. It’s a one-letter difference between fashionable and fusty.
If you’re sensitive to style, you’ll prefer Everly. It fits with today’s trends far better than Beverly does.
But if you’re someone who isn’t concerned about style, or prefers to go against style, then you may not automatically go for Everly. In fact, you may be more attracted to Beverly because it’s the choice that most modern parents would avoid.
If you’ve ever thought about intentionally giving your baby a dated name (like Debbie, Grover, Marcia, or Vernon) for the sake of uniqueness within his/her peer group — if you have no problem sacrificing style for distinctiveness — then this list is for you.
Years ago, the concept of “contrarian” baby names came up in the comments of a post about Lois. Ever since then, creating a collection of uncool/contrarian baby names has been on my to-do list.
Finally, last month, I experimented with various formulas for pulling unstylish baby names out of the SSA dataset. Keeping the great-grandparent rule in mind, I aimed for names that would have been fashionable among the grandparents of today’s babies. The names below are the best results I got.
Rafaela Rafaela Ottiano was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in Italy in 1888. Rafaela was also a character played by actress Alice Joyce in the short film The Bag of Gold (1912).
Reno Reno Browne was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1950s. She was born in (Reno) Nevada in 1921. Her birth name Josephine Ruth Clarke. Reno was also a character played by actress Ethel Merman in the film Anything Goes (1936).
Rosina Rosina Galli was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Italy in 1906. Rosina was also a character played by actress Jose Collins in the film The Last Stake (short, 1923).
Rosita Rosita Marstini was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in France in 1887. Rosita was also a character name in multiple films, including Hell’s Valley (1931) and Zoo in Budapest (1933).
Horseflies are fierce. Like mosquitoes, they require a blood meal before they can reproduce. But even for a horsefly, this one was special. Bryan Lessard first spotted her in the Australian National Insect Collection. As soon as he laid his eyes on her round, golden abdomen, draped in two translucent, honey-colored wings, he knew: “I figured, if I’m ever going to name a species after Beyoncé, this is it.”
Until then, it had been known to locals as the “golden bum fly” but had not been described scientifically. No longer. In 2011, the artist-formerly-known-as-golden-bum-fly officially got her new taxonomic name: Scaptia beyonceae. With this moniker, Lessard hoped, she “would become an ambassador for bootylicious biodiversity.”
Her crusade to include men’s names when meteorologists differentiated hurricanes placed her at the eye of an international storm.
Following a long naval tradition of giving storms women’s names, just as ships are referred to by female pronouns, government forecasters adopted the practice in 1953 and applied it alphabetically.
Soon, weathermen — and they were mostly men — were applying sexist clichés to the storms, like suggesting that they were unpredictable or “temperamental” and were “flirting” with barrier islands or coastlines.
But a generation after Ms. Bolton began her campaign, the weathermen finally capitulated.
My sister’s name is September, and today is her 32nd birthday. Yes, that’s right. My parents named my sister September even though she was born in January, and she has consequently suffered years of obvious questions. Of course, these are the same people who named their only son Ranger.
Gal’s first name is pretty much pronounced how it’s written (think “gal pal”). You’ve also probably found yourself pronouncing her last name as “Guh-dough” or “Gah-dot” thinking you’ve got it all down, but sorry to disappoint you: both of those are wrong. … During her interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Gal explained that the correct way to pronounce her last name is “Gah-dote.” Say it with me: “Gah-dote.” Gadot means river bank, while Gal means wave in Israeli.
From Nina Sankovitch’s memoir Tolstoy and the Purple Chair (2011):
For my father, the consequences of war brought him far from home, and eventually across an ocean, to start over in a new world. My parents tell me I was named after the members of the corps de ballet of the Bolshoi, most of whom were named Nina. They went to see a performance of the Bolshoi just days before I was born. But I also know that my name is another ripple effect of the war, coming from my father’s sister Antonina, who was murdered that night in 1943.
(Three of her father’s siblings — Sergei, Antonina, and Boris — were all killed one night during WWII.)
Adelman and his colleagues came up with a new naming convention that incorporates the mom’s first name. Instead of Babygirl Hobson, my daughter would instead be tagged as Katherinesgirl Hobson. Twins would be called 1Katherinesgirl and 2Katherinesgirl, rather than the conventional BabygirlA and BabygirlB. (Another system using temporary names like CutiePie and BuggyBear was rejected, says Adelman.)
Mark begins her classes by telling the story behind her name. “For just a few moments after I was born, [my parents] thought that Marsha Mark was a really nice name. But a couple of hours passed and then they said, ‘No wait, it’s a terrible name!’ and they went to try and change it, but the folks at the hospital said, ‘No, sorry, you signed the papers, so that’s the name,'” Mark recounted. “To my mind, the name Marsha either belongs to a sister in The Brady Bunch or to someone who wears, maybe, pink ruffles. And neither of those applies to me. So, I’ve been called M my whole life, and I’m happy with it.”
Have you spotted any good name-related quotes/articles lately? Let me know!
If you like the idea of anagrams but want to avoid sound-alike sets, I recommend anagrams with different numbers of syllables. Pairs like “Etta and Tate” and “Clay and Lacy” are a far more subtle than pairs like “Enzo and Zeno” and “Mary and Myra.”