A week ago I posted about a baby who was named for the air raid shelter he was born in. Here’s a somewhat similar story:
A baby girl was born to an Irish mother living in London around the start of The Blitz, which lasted from September 1940 to May 1941.
[The] baby girl was named “Sireen” because, her mother explained, the “all clear” siren was wailing when the child was born.
That “-een” ending reminds me of familiar Irish girl names like Cathleen and Maureen, which are Anglicized forms of Caitlín and Máirín. In these names, the “-ín” is a diminutive suffix. If Sireen’s mother created the name with this suffix in mind, we could interpret it as meaning “little siren.”
“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.
Richard Llewellyn’s 1939 novel How Green Was My Valley told the story of a Welsh coal-mining family during the late 19th century. The story’s narrator was schoolboy Huw Morgan, eighth of nine* siblings, and the symbolic greenness of the valley referred to the fact that, over the course of the Huw’s life, the valley where he lived changed color from green to black due to the mining.
In 1940, How Green Was My Valley was the best-selling book of the year and won the National Book Award for fiction the same year. In late 1941, a Hollywood film based on the book was released. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and ended up winning in five categories, including Best Picture.
Thanks to the book and the movie, two Welsh names (and one sort-of Welsh name) ended up appearing in the SSA’s baby name data…
Let’s go alphabetically, starting with Angharad, pronounced ahn-HAHR-ahd, roughly. In the story, Angharad (played by Maureen O’Hara in the film) was Huw’s older sister.
American audiences heard this name loud and clear within the first few minutes of the movie:
While the name didn’t catch on in the U.S., one name-book notes that it “has been strongly revived in Wales since the 1940s.”
The middle element of Angharad has the same root as the Welsh word caru, meaning “love.”
Next we have the names Bronwen and Bronwyn. The first appeared in 1941:
1945: 10 baby girls named Bronwen
1944: 8 baby girls named Bronwen
1943: 9 baby girls named Bronwen
1942: 8 baby girls named Bronwen
1941: 7 baby girls named Bronwen [debut]
And the second followed in 1942:
1945: 20 baby girls named Bronwyn
1944: 9 baby girls named Bronwyn
1943: 10 baby girls named Bronwyn
1942: 9 baby girls named Bronwyn [debut]
In the story, Bronwen/Bronwyn was Huw’s sister-in-law (the wife of his brother Ivor).
For the book, the name was spelled Bronwen, which is the traditional form of the name. It can be traced back to Welsh elements meaning “breast” (bron) and “white, fair; blessed, holy” (gwen).
But for the movie, the name was respelled Bronwyn, inexplicably. The film character Bronwyn (played by Anna Lee**) was typically called “Bron.”
Notably, one of the babies named after the character was Maureen O’Hara’s only child, Bronwyn, born in 1944. Her birth is likely what boosted the -wyn spelling ahead of the -wen spelling in 1945.
Which Welsh name do you like more, Angharad or Bronwen?
*The nine Morgan siblings in order were Ivor, Ianto, Davy, Owen, Gwilym Jr., Angharad, Ceridwen, Huw, and Olwen.
**Anna Lee’s five children were named Joanna Venetia, Caroline, John, Stephen, and Timothy.
Next Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, 30-year-old identical (and alliterative) triplets Leila, Liina, and Lily Luik of Estonia are expected to run the women’s marathon. This will make the “Trio in Rio,” as they call themselves, the first set of triplets to compete in an Olympics.
In comparison, about 200 sets of twins have competed in the Olympics over the years. Here are some of the Olympic twins with similarly alliterative names:
Åke & Arne (Sweden) [not technically alliterative; see JJ’s comment]
A set of quadruplets was delivered via Caesarean section for the first time ever on November 1, 1944. The quads — 3 girls and 1 boy — were born to Kathleen and Joseph Cirmnello of Philadelphia. TIME magazine noted several weeks later that the quadruple C-section was “a feat unique in medical history.”
The foursome had been known as A, B, C and D. However, Cirminello named the boy Michael on Saturday and the mother picked Kathleen for girl B’s name. The other two Monday were named Maureen and Eileen.
Kathleen, Maureen, Eileen, and…Michael. Do you think Michael ever felt left out because his name didn’t rhyme with his sisters’ names?