According to Wikipedia, Stedman Graham is an “educator, author, businessman and speaker.” But without Wikipedia’s help, how would you describe Stedman? That’s right: “Oprah’s boyfriend.”
Oprah began dating Stedman in mid-1986, a few months before The Oprah Winfrey Show premiered. We’ve already seen how the baby name Oprah debuted on the national list that year, but did you know that the talk show gave the baby name Stedman a boost as well?
1991: 28 baby boys named Stedman
1990: 38 baby boys named Stedman
1989: 82 baby boys named Stedman
1988: 29 baby boys named Stedman
1987: 20 baby boys named Stedman
Not only did Stedman reappear on the national baby name list in 1987 after a 48-year absence, but the variant names Steadman, Stedmen, Stedmon and Stedmond all followed suit in 1988.
And what accounts for the Stedman spike of 1989?
In February of that year, Stedman appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time. The episode was about “men who marry or date famous women, and how they cope with it.” The other guests were actress Susan Lucci and her husband Helmut, and singer Barbara Mandrell and her husband Ken. (Here’s the episode, if you want to watch.)
While usage of the name Stedman has tapered off since 1989, the relationship between Oprah and Stedman is still going strong nearly 3 decades later. They attended the Oscars together last month, in fact.
Stedman is one several “significant other” baby names I’ve spotted on the SSA’s baby name list so far. Others include Josanne, Movita and Tarita (all associated with Marlon Brando), Syreeta and Londie (both associated with Stevie Wonder), Loray and Altovise (both associated with Sammy Davis, Jr.), Kayatana (girlfriend of Flip Wilson), Marva (first wife of Joe Louis) and Sonji (first wife of Muhammad Ali). Stedman is unique, though, in that it’s a male name that was popularized by a famous female — not a common scenario, it seems.
Willis and Esther Scott of Beloit, Wisconsin, welcomed twins (one boy, one girl) on the evening of September 24, 1935 — the day heavyweight boxer Joe Louis both got married to his girlfriend Marva Trotter and defeated fellow heavyweight Max Baer at Yankee Stadium.
What did they name the twins? Joseph Louis and Josephine Marva, of course.
And they weren’t the only ones to opt for Marva that year. Usage of the girl name rose significantly following the marriage:
1937: 343 baby girls named Marva (ranked 342nd)
1936: 350 baby girls named Marva (ranked 334th)
1935: 187 baby girls named Marva (ranked 466th)
1934: 74 baby girls named Marva (ranked 785th)
1933: 60 baby girls named Marva (ranked 873rd)
Source: “Wisconsin Twins Named After Joe Louis and Bride.” Afro-American 5 Oct. 1935: 1.
Two of these, Hannah and Ava, happen to be very popular for baby girls at the moment.
Need two names? You could consider a pair of names that become a palindrome when written side-by-side (i.e., names that are anagrams of one another):
Aidan & Nadia
Aileen & Neelia
Alan & Nala
Allan & Nalla
Allen & Nella
Amin & Nima
Ariel & Leira
Arik & Kira
Aron & Nora
Avram & Marva
Axel & Lexa
Aydan & Nadya
Ari & Ira
Cam & Mac
Eliah & Haile
Eliam & Maile
Ellen & Nelle
Etan & Nate
Flor & Rolf
Gem & Meg
Iris & Siri
Leon & Noel
Linus & Sunil
Miles & Selim
Nazar & Razan
Nero & Oren
It’s also possible to come up with your own palindromic pairs by flipping traditional names to create brand new names. For instance, I’ve seem James, Kevin, Manuel and Ramon flipped to become Semaj, Nivek, Leunam and Nomar.