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.

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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 Baby Name “Season”

lolly madonna, season hubley, baby name, 1970sIn 1973, the name “Season” debuted in the U.S. baby name data rather impressively. (It wasn’t the top debut of the year, but it was in the top 10, just above Sacheen.)

  • 1976: 61 baby girls named Season
  • 1975: 66 baby girls named Season
  • 1974: 68 baby girls named Season
  • 1973: 28 baby girls named Season
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: unlisted

Word-based baby names like “Season” are notoriously hard to figure out, but I eventually stumbled upon the influence: actress Season Hubley, whose birth name was Susan.

Her first major role was as the title character in the movie Lolly-Madonna XXX, which was released in early 1973. The film depicted two feuding families in rural Tennessee. It was based on the Sue Grafton novel The Lolly-Madonna War (1969).

Usage of the name peaked in 1979 — the year Season played Priscilla Presley in the made-for-TV movie Elvis, for which she is best remembered. She married her Elvis co-star Kurt Russell that year as well.

Season and Kurt had a son in 1980 (before divorcing in 1983) and named him Boston. Their usage of the name gave it a slight boost in ’81, but didn’t kick off the high usage that was to come in the early 2000s.

And now for the question of the day: If you were having a baby girl and had to choose either Susan or Season for the first name, which one would you pick?

P.S. One of Season’s siblings was actor Whip Hubley (birth name: Grant Hubley), who played “Hollywood” in Top Gun. So far, “Whip” has never been in the SSA data.

Mystery Monday: The Baby Name “September”

Here’s a good mystery name to post in September: September.

The name September — just like the name Staria from a couple of weeks ago — debuted in 1955 with 20 baby girls:

  • 1958: 7 baby girls named September
  • 1957: 24 baby girls named September
  • 1956: 15 baby girls named September
  • 1955: 20 baby girls named September [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: unlisted

Where did it come from? I don’t know.

At first I thought the movie September Affair (or the associated song, “September Song”) might have something to do with it, but the timeline is off. Plus, I feel like September would need to be used as a character name (or a stage name?) to recast it as a potential baby name in the eyes of expectant parents.

But, as usual, word-names are particularly hard to figure out. The origins of Memory and Treasure are still obscure, for instance. (They’re not impossible to solve, though! Check out Rise, or Strange.)

Any ideas about what happened in 1955 (or late 1954) to make people see September as more than month name?

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