How popular is the baby name Memory in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Memory and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Memory.

The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.


Popularity of the Baby Name Memory

Number of Babies Named Memory

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Memory

The Rise of Risë (ree-sah)

rise stevens, carmen, opera, the met
Risë Stevens as Carmen

This one took me years to figure out.

The curious name Rise debuted in the Social Security Administration data in 1942:

  • 1944: 13 baby girls named Rise
  • 1943: 7 baby girls named Rise
  • 1942: 15 baby girls named Rise [debut]
  • 1941: unlisted

“Rise”? Huh.

Rise was the 4th-most-popular debut name that year, and not far behind (in 7th place) was the somewhat similar Risa:

  • 1944: 12 baby girls named Risa
  • 1943: 5 baby girls named Risa
  • 1942: 12 baby girls named Risa [debut]
  • 1941: unlisted

Later in the ’40s, names like Reesa and Rissa popped up. And in the ’50s, names like Riesa and Reisa appeared. So there was definitely a minor Ris– trend going on in the mid-20th century, with “Rise” being the unlikely top variant.

But because “Rise” is also a vocabulary word, I had no luck pinning down the source. (It’s ridiculously hard to research word-names on the internet. I’m still stumped on Memory and Treasure.) Eventually I gave up.

Years later, as I was grabbing an image for the Finesse post, the answer landed right in front of me in the form of a cigarette ad:

Risë Stevens, Camels cigarettes, advertisement, 1953
Risë Stevens in a Camels ad © LIFE 1953

The full-page advertisement for Camels from a 1953 issue of LIFE magazine featured a “lovely star of the Metropolitan Opera” named Risë Stevens. I knew right away that this glamorous-looking lady — and her umlaut! — was the solution to the “Rise” puzzle.

Mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens was born Risë Steenberg in New York City in 1913. Her first name is pronounced “REE-sah” or “REE-suh.” Here’s how she explained it:

“It’s Norwegian; it was my grandmother’s name and my great-grandmother’s name. In school I was called everything but Rise; I was called Rose; I was called Rise {rhyming with “eyes”}; I was called Risé {rhyming with “play”}; even Teresa. In school, it was terrible; I would have arguments with the teachers. I would say, ‘I should know how to pronounce my own name.'”

One source suggested that Risë is related to the Latin word risus, meaning “laughter.”

So what was an opera singer doing in an national advertising campaign? Shouldn’t those be reserved for Hollywood stars? Well, turns out she was a Hollywood star — at least for time. She sang professionally from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s, but in the early 1940s she gave acting a shot.

Her first film, released in late 1941, was the musical The Chocolate Soldier. Notice how her umlaut was left off the movie poster:

chocolate soldier, musical, film, 1941, rise stevens

This film accounts for the 1942 debut of both “Rise” and the phonetic respelling Risa.

Risë Stevens ultimately left Hollywood and returned to the opera — and she managed to bring at least a portion of her movie audience with her:

“I probably would never have reached that vast public had I not done films,” she said. “At least, I won a lot of people over to opera.”

This explains why Risë Stevens, often called the greatest Carmen of her generation, was being featured in advertisements and on television talk shows more than a decade later. And why her unique name therefore saw peak usage in the 1950s.

If you want to know more about Risë (and hear her sing!) here’s a Risë Stevens Tribute video created by the National Endowment for the Arts.

P.S. Risë Stevens had a granddaughter named Marisa — a combination of the names of her grandmothers, Maria and Risë. Risë Stevens’ son told her that he went with the -a ending instead of the ending because he was “not going to put her through what you’ve been through.”

Sources:


Mystery Monday: The Baby Name Memory

Memory, like several of the baby names in this mystery series, comes from a vocabulary word. This makes it notoriously hard to trace.

To add another wrinkle, Memory’s debut on the SSA’s list in 1922 was a rare dual-gender debut:

  • 1925: 8 baby girls named Memory
  • 1924: 6 baby girls named Memory
  • 1923: unlisted
  • 1922: 11 baby girls and 6 baby boys named Memory [debut]
  • 1921: unlisted
  • 1920: unlisted

SSDI data (looking at first names only) shows a distinct uptick in usage the same year:

  • 1925: 6 people named Memory
  • 1924: 2 people named Memory
  • 1923: 6 people named Memory
  • 1922: 9 people named Memory
  • 1921: 3 people named Memory
  • 1920: 3 people named Memory

Do you have any idea what gave the name Memory a boost back in the early ’20s? If so, leave a comment!

Mystery Baby Names – Open Cases

I’m a baby name blogger, but sometimes I feel more like a baby name detective. Because so much of my blogging time is spent doing detective work: trying to figure out where a particular baby name comes from, or why a name saw a sudden jump (or drop) in usage during a particular year.

If a name itself doesn’t make the answer obvious (e.g., Lindbergh) and a simple Google search hasn’t helped, my first bit of detective work involves scanning the baby name charts. I’ve learned that many search-resistant baby names (like Deatra) are merely alternative spellings of more common names (Deirdre).

If that doesn’t do it, I go back to Google for some advanced-level ninja searching, to help me zero in on specific types of historical or pop culture events. This is how I traced Irmalee back to a character in a short story in a very old issue of the once-popular McCall’s Magazine.

But if I haven’t gotten anywhere after a few rounds of ninja searching, I officially give up and turn the mystery baby name over to you guys. Together we’ve cracked a couple of cases (yay!) but, unfortunately, most of the mystery baby names I’ve blogged about are still big fat mysteries.

Here’s the current list of open cases:

  • Wanza, girl name, debuted in 1915.
  • Nerine, girl name, debuted in 1917.
  • Laquita, girl name, debuted in 1930.
  • Norita, girl name, spiked (for the 2nd time) in 1937.
  • Delphine, girl name, spiked in 1958.
  • Leshia, girl name, debuted in 1960.
  • Lavoris, girl name, debuted in 1961.
  • Djuna, girl name, debuted in 1964.
  • Latrenda, girl name, debuted in 1965.
  • Ondina, girl name, debuted in 1968.
  • Khari, boy name, debuted in 1971.
  • Jelani, boy name, debuted in 1973.
  • Toshiba, girl name, debuted in 1974.
  • Brieanna, girl name, debuted in 1979.
  • Sumiko, girl name, spiked in 1980.
  • Tou, boy name, debuted in 1980.
  • Marquita, girl name, spiked in 1983.
  • Caelan, boy name, debuted in 1992.
  • Deyonta, boy name, debuted in 1993.
  • Trayvond, boy name, debuted in 1994.
  • Zeandre, boy name, debuted in 1997.
  • Yatzari, girl name, debuted in 2000.
  • Itzae, boy name, debuted in 2011.

If you enjoy sleuthing, please give some of the above a shot! I’d love to knock one or two off the list before I start adding more mystery names in the coming weeks…

Update, 1/23/15: Forgot to add Avenir from the distinctive baby names, state by state list (see Oregon & Washington). It debuted as a boy name in 2002.

Update, 7/13/16: More still-open cases from the Mystery Monday series last summer: Theta, Memory, Treasure, Clione, Trenace, Bisceglia, Genghis and Temujin.

Phone Book Fishing on Kauai – Flordeliz, Kuuipo, Scottland, Zenichi

I’ve been on the Hawaiian island of Kauai for the past few days, and — in between checking out various canyons, waterfalls, and lava-rock pools — I scanned the Kauai phone book for cool first names.

Here are the most interesting I found:

Alouette
Ariston
Asipeli
Benhur
Bienvenido
Bonifacio
Buenaventura
Buenoflora
Butac
Castro
Charming
Clisson
Cobina
Corazon
Danalan
Danvic
Delpidio
Dominador
Edelwisa
Ederline
Eleuterio
Emiteria
Ercelly
Estanislao
Eufracio
Eugemar
Expedita
Fakhry
Filsann
Flavra
Florafina
Flordeliz
Framil
Franchot
Fredinita
Fredlynn
Fualupe
Germilin
Geronimo
Gingerlynn
Granatanne
Guadencio
Haunani
Hedelisa
Heifara
Hermogenes
Huilani
Hulukape
Ilaise
Irvharc
Iwalani
Jhoane
Judhvir
Kai-nani
Kalani
Kananaikahaku
Katalika
Keikilane
Keohokui
Kilaina
Kuuipo*
Kuulei
Laninbwij
Laukona
Leialoha
Leimomi
Leilani
Leodigario
Lichelle
Linekona
Lockwood
Lodring
Loisi
Mariamagdalena
Masanori
Mavourneen
Memory
Michael-Michael
Milimili
Mimsy
Mitsuji
Monalisa
Myloyce
Nandanie
Naokichi
Nargis
Nathrene
Necoal
Nolemana
Norvin
Olegario
Oric
Otusia
Petroline
Porfiria
Primrose
Puanani
Rikito
Rizal
Rudra
Rustico
Sadhunathan
Sailor
Saturnina
Scottland
Shigenori
Shyronjon
Sioux
Sojourner-Truth
Surachat
Texas
Thanawat
Tirunathan
Tootsie
Trinidad
Trink
Utahua
Villamor
Vitaliama
Vrushali
Waihang
Waldemar
Wannapha
Warlito
Watoru
Welerico
Wiphada
Woonteng
Zenichi

The names in boldface are my favorites.

*Kuuipo is based on a Hawaiian word meaning “my sweetheart.” I’ve been seeing a lot of it in jewelry stores, engraved on rings, bracelets and pendants.

Hawaii Posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7