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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Norita


Posts that Mention the Name Norita

The Top Baby Name Drops, 1881 to Today

top baby name drops by year

We looked at the top baby name rises last month, so this month let’s look at the opposite: the top drops. That is, the baby names that decreased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next in the Social Security Administration’s data.

Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year slides in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Clementine dropped 68% and usage of the boy name Neil dropped 76%.)

  • 1881: Clementine, -68%; Neil, -76%
  • 1882: Malissa, -56%; Verne, -67%
  • 1883: Minna, -67%; Morton, -74%
  • 1884: Roxy, -62%; Ellsworth & Newt, -60%
  • 1885: Sina, -68%; Clarance, -74%
  • 1886: Cordia, Dicie & Johnie, -64%; Adelbert, -69%
  • 1887: Faith, -69%; Hardy, -73%
  • 1888: Diana & Hope, -63%; Connie, -55%
  • 1889: Zilpha, -71%; Wendell, -71%
  • 1890: Buena, -60%; Alvie, -69%
  • 1891: Odie, -65%; Pierce, -76%
  • 1892: Eudora, -67%; Maude, -58%
  • 1893: Lollie, -65%; Levy, -64%
  • 1894: Macy, -64%; Lindsay, -76%
  • 1895: Gina, Laurel & Pennie, -69%; Alvie & Urban, -65%
  • 1896: Dagmar, -75%; Talmage, -67%
  • 1897: Myrta & Ouida, -75%; Benton, -68%
  • 1898: Fae, -71%; Fate, -74%
  • 1899: Rosia, -80%; Fitzhugh, -79%
  • 1900: Irva, -74%; Dora, -69%
  • 1901: Leonore, -75%; Judge, -81%
  • 1902: Veva, -74%; Davis, -72%
  • 1903: Littie & Samantha, -67%; Hunter, -67%
  • 1904: Genie, -71%; Bessie & Reynold, -67%
  • 1905: Luberta, -75%; Randall, -67%
  • 1906: Dulcie, -75%; Patsy, -69%
  • 1907: Libbie, -71%; Geo, -59%
  • 1908: Aurore, -75%; Elden & Minor, -67%
  • 1909: Arnetta, -68%; Tracy, -75%
  • 1910: Lollie, -67%; Hadley, -64%
  • 1911: Nada, -72%; Shelton, -73%
  • 1912: Carla, -71%; Rosendo, -67%
  • 1913: Vassie, -67%; Auburn, -67%
  • 1914: Coy & Maryelizabeth, -64%: Hosey, -78%
  • 1915: Thomasine, -67%; Giacomo, -67%
  • 1916: Zudora, -75%; Remus, -72%
  • 1917: Athalie, -78%; Tatsuo, -82%
  • 1918: Theta, -74%; Lennis, -72%
  • 1919: Liberty, -83%; Foch, -84%
  • 1920: Veatrice, -77%; Pershing, -73%
  • 1921: Fidela & Theone, -70%; Cleven, -71%
  • 1922: Angelyn & Renata, -75%; Dail, -73%
  • 1923: Odilia, -83%; Ugo & Waino, -74%
  • 1924: Gladine, -71%; Masayuki, -72%
  • 1925: Williemae, -72%; Emitt, -72%
  • 1926: Patrice, -75%; Ann, -78%
  • 1927: Vila, -75%; Boston, -76%
  • 1928: Kazue, -79%; Shoji, -93%
  • 1929: Livia, -81%; Tatsuo, -82%
  • 1930: Ivalee, -71%; Deforest, -72%
  • 1931: Emaline, -76%; Audley, -75%
  • 1932: Zulema, -80%; Hale, -77%
  • 1933: Dessa, -78%; Burleigh, -79%
  • 1934: Nira, -81%; Overton, -71%
  • 1935: Claudean, -73%; Hester, -74%
  • 1936: Norita, -79%; Kenley, -79%
  • 1937: Adel & Berdine, -71%; Grace, -78%

The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does become more accurate in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…

  • 1938: Ever, -75%; Casimiro, -75%
  • 1939: Walda, -74%; Butler, -74%
  • 1940: Avalon & Ellouise, -75%; Jacque, -71%
  • 1941: Lassie, -71%; Faye & Lemar, -71%
  • 1942: Voncille, -75%; Meyer, -70%
  • 1943: Mahala, -76%; Ewing, -76%
  • 1944: Kyle, -77%; Griffith, -77%
  • 1945: Sherrianne, -74%; Ellwood, Kern & Pascal, -67%
  • 1946: Bettyjo, -71%; Adrien, -77%
  • 1947: Judye, -76%; Bernardino, -72%
  • 1948: Tilda, -78%; Saverio, -74%
  • 1949: Vickii, -77%; Alphonza, -75%
  • 1950: Ranelle, -78%; Agapito, -68%
  • 1951: Vallorie, -90%; Skippy, -72%
  • 1952: Laural, -76%; Edson, -74%
  • 1953: Annelle & Otilia, -72%; Gerrit, -70%
  • 1954: Trenace, -81%; Celso, -76%
  • 1955: Jyl, -79%; Garrie & Robet, -74%
  • 1956: Cerise, -79%; Orlin, -74%
  • 1957: Angelene, -77%; Ruby, -76%
  • 1958: Seneca, -80%; Darryel & Richerd, -72%
  • 1959: Elfrida, -82%; Dietrich, -75%
  • 1960: Jinny, -72%; Ardis, -74%
  • 1961: Perian, -91%; Cully, -84%
  • 1962: Chantay, -80%; Torin, -73%
  • 1963: Marnita, -82%; Isidore, -75%
  • 1964: Julann, -79%; Tandy, -75%
  • 1965: Tonjua, -90%; Jaimie, -86%
  • 1966: Charlet & Desi, -77%; Glennon, -74%
  • 1967: Jeryl, -83%; Haskell, -72%
  • 1968: Millette, -88%; Daneil, -77%
  • 1969: Lya, -81%; Athony, -73%
  • 1970: Cinamon, -77%; Aldrin, -77%
  • 1971: Chimene, -77%; Garet, -74%
  • 1972: Jurea, -83%; Rayvon, -77%
  • 1973: Dayatra, -86%; Keelan, -70%
  • 1974: Shondell, -78%; Efraim, -71%
  • 1975: Natonya, -78%; Imari, -76%
  • 1976: Okema, -87%; Nakia, -79%
  • 1977: Liberty, -79%; Tierre, -81%
  • 1978: Farrah, -78%; Quint, -77%
  • 1979: Danetta, -77%; Kinte, -84%
  • 1980: Vernee, -77%; Kendra, -75%
  • 1981: Santresa, -80%; Jerritt, -74%
  • 1982: Andres, -75%; Stavros, -78%
  • 1983: Tremaine, -81%; Nicanor, -75%
  • 1984: Tyechia, -81%; Jeris, -77%
  • 1985: Gricel, -89%; Duron, -76%
  • 1986: Celenia, -83%; Damiano, -76%
  • 1987: Tareva, -86%; Krystal, -75%
  • 1988: Jeree, -82%; Jammal, -80%
  • 1989: Neyva, -77%; Derrel, -76%
  • 1990: Catherin, -93%; Salvator, -88%
  • 1991: Tichina, -80%; Arsenio, -76%
  • 1992: Unnamed, -88%; Unnamed, -86% [2nd place: Emilce & Symba, -83%; Quayshaun, -80%]
  • 1993: Akeiba, -88%; Evelyn & Jawara, -71%
  • 1994: Kebrina, -86%; Farrell, -79%
  • 1995: Noheli, -84%; Ajee, -79%
  • 1996: Shatasha, -81%; Unknown, -77%
  • 1997: Hydia, -80%, Halston, -79%
  • 1998: Ajaysia, -77%; Jachai, -91%
  • 1999: Naidelyn, -86%; Denzil, -79%
  • 2000: Shanequa, -82%; Giovan, -75%
  • 2001: Berania, -78%; Devontre, -75%
  • 2002: Anallely, -86%; Nkosi, -72%
  • 2003: Jnaya, -88%; Tyheim, -81%
  • 2004: Nayzeth, -89%; Myzel, -75%
  • 2005: Nathaniel, -80%; Hannah, -87%
  • 2006: Babygirl, -86%; Infant, -91% [Counting legit names only: Mikalah, -82%; Jakyri, -79%]
  • 2007: Bethzy, -91%; Brasen, -83%
  • 2008: Lizania, -86%; Duvan, -79%
  • 2009: Aideliz, -88%; Kesan, -78%
  • 2010: Chastelyn, -95%; Yanixan, -87%
  • 2011: Samuel, -79%; Tiger, -80%
  • 2012: Thaily, -78%; Vadhir, -88%
  • 2013: Shanik, -88%; Oneil, -77%
  • 2014: Audris & Avalie, -80%; Sy, -73%
  • 2015: Rion, -83%; Rawley, -79%
  • 2016: Yazaira, -84%; Treysen, -79%
  • 2017: Brucha, -76%; Makana, -79%

(Did you catch the doubles? Alvie, Tatsuo, and Fae/Faye.)

Top drops aren’t quite as exciting as top rises, but certain ones become much more intriguing when you notice that they were also top rises:

  • Rose-then-dropped: Clarance, Lollie, Lindsay, Zudora, Tatsuo, Liberty, Norita, Vallorie, Krystal, Seneca, Nakia, Mikalah, Bethzy, Thaily
  • Dropped-then-rose: Clementine, Malissa, Diana, Alvie, Pierce, Judge, Rosendo

I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about a few of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it — leave a comment and let us know why you think any of these names saw dropped in usage when they did.

The Top Baby Name Rises, 1881 to Today

top baby name rises by year

Many years ago, I published a list of the top debut baby names. A few years after that, I posted a list of the top one-hit wonder baby names.

So today let’s check out another fun set of “top” names: the top rises. The names below are those that increased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next according to the SSA data.

Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year jumps in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Isa grew 240% and usage of the boy name Noble grew 333%.)

  • 1881: Isa, 240%; Noble, 333%
  • 1882: Clementine, 300%; Clarance, 300%
  • 1883: Malissa, 243%; Alf, 150%
  • 1884: Belva, 1220%; Grover, 532%
  • 1885: Phebe, 220%; Bryant, 200%
  • 1886: Felicia, 180%; Thornton, 240%
  • 1887: Ossie, 240%; Aubrey, 240%
  • 1888: Bennie, 250%; Thurman, 414%
  • 1889: Diana, 233%; Grady, 267%
  • 1890: Easter, 238%; Isaiah, 215%
  • 1891: Lutie, 200%; Colonel, 217%
  • 1892: Lollie, 271%; Pierce, 340%
  • 1893: Annabell, 240%; Lindsay, 320%
  • 1894: Versie, 320%; Alvie, 233%
  • 1895: Glenn, 283%; Alma, 220%
  • 1896: Vernice, 217%; Hobart, 744%
  • 1897: Sigrid, 200%; Roswell, 183%
  • 1898: Manila, 1386%; Dewey, 606%
  • 1899: Tula, 280%; Rogers, 220%
  • 1900: Rosia, 480%; Wilber, 417%
  • 1901: Dellie, 180%; Kermit, 183%
  • 1902: Lolita, 420%; Judge, 260%
  • 1903: Rafaela, 280%; Jordan, 250%
  • 1904: Amber, 314%; Adelbert, 260%
  • 1905: Orma, 300%; Armand, 222%
  • 1906: Ena, 456%; Sheldon, 240%
  • 1907: Lota & Tula, 240%; Quincy, 183%
  • 1908: Bernetta & Nila, 260%; Taft, 288%
  • 1909: Laverna & Nevada, 267%; Toney, 300%
  • 1910: Cleopatra, 240%; Arturo & Sammy, 283%
  • 1911: Maryellen, 280%; Vincenzo & Wyman, 320%
  • 1912: Marina, 420%; Woodrow, 1423%
  • 1913: Carroll, 263%; Rosendo, 320%
  • 1914: Lucyle, 280%; Irvine, 333%
  • 1915: Zudora, 460%; Charlton, 320%
  • 1916: Aldena, 291%; Tatsuo, 850%
  • 1917: Liberty, 617%; Masami, 338%
  • 1918: Kazuko, 320%; Quentin, 567%
  • 1919: Verbie, 300%; Belvin, 360%
  • 1920: Marcene, 386%; Harding, 718%
  • 1921: Elwanda, 1860%; Gareth, 560%
  • 1922: Carley, 320%; Colie, 340%
  • 1923: Eris, 1313%; Coolidge, 820%
  • 1924: Janeth, 517%; Phyllis, 260%
  • 1925: Murlene & Normalee, 260%; Estell & Unknown, 214%
  • 1926: Ileana, 633%; Jarrell & Lenoard, 240%
  • 1927: Charmaine, 825%; Lindbergh, 867%
  • 1928: Jeannine, 1147%; Hoover, 522%
  • 1929: Dorla, 800%; Davey, 889%
  • 1930: Arlayne, 317%; Derl, 1060%
  • 1931: Marlene, 745%; Colbert, 280%
  • 1932: Harlene, 270%; Delano, 1057%
  • 1933: Sharleen, 425%; Delano, 289%
  • 1934: Adriana, 283%; Kelvin, 360%
  • 1935: Norita, 1171%; Darwyn, 458%
  • 1936: Shelba, 2667%; Lonzie, 320%
  • 1937: Deanna, 2009%; Tyrone, 788%

The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot better in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…

  • 1938: Danielle, 878%; Dion, 355%
  • 1939: Brenda, 308%; Hall, 280%
  • 1940: Scarlett, 743%; Clemmie, 257%
  • 1941: Jerilyn, 1250%; Rulon, 250%
  • 1942: Michal, 1520%; Macarthur, 2740%
  • 1943: Shaaron, 456%; Suzanne, 240%
  • 1944: Dorinda, 568%; Kennedy, 280%
  • 1945: Lauren, 709%; Dorian, 220%
  • 1946: Jacalyn, 740%; Cornel, 533%
  • 1947: Jolinda, 388%; Brock, 364%
  • 1948: Sharman, 275%; Kevan, 260%
  • 1949: Lorry, 360%; Hanson, 240%
  • 1950: Vallorie, 717%; Brion, 400%
  • 1951: Krystal, 588%; Denise, 350%
  • 1952: Pandora, 1100%; Corby & Wilhelm, 240%
  • 1953: Angelique, 1157%; Shane, 392%
  • 1954: Sheree, 756%; Dain, 360%
  • 1955: Sabrina, 711%; Davy, 509%
  • 1956: Venetia, 543%; Cheyenne, 680%
  • 1957: Tammy, 1591%; Tammy, 467%
  • 1958: Keely, 1100%; Bret, 680%
  • 1959: Torri, 411%; Efrem, 963%
  • 1960: Lisha, 1096%; Stephon, 1200%
  • 1961: Marisol, 481%; Parrish, 1460%
  • 1962: Penne, 447%; Chance, 350%
  • 1963: Tamiko, 1440%; Tal, 617%
  • 1964: Deneen, 7191%; Temple, 420%
  • 1965: Fontella, 880%; Branden, 340%
  • 1966: Tabatha, 9900%; Heath, 1070%
  • 1967: Anisa, 1600%; Garrison, 320%
  • 1968: Coretta, 2485%; Dustin, 778%
  • 1969: Lalena, 640%; Jeromy, 514%
  • 1970: Shiloh, 540%; Jermaine, 3320%
  • 1971: Ashli, 1900%; Jermaine, 494%
  • 1972: Catina, 9033%; Demond, 3920%
  • 1973: Cicely, 1827%; Caine, 780%
  • 1974: Nakia, 16100%; Rashad, 1100%
  • 1975: Rasheda, 988%; Jamaal, 688%
  • 1976: Rhiannon, 1713%; Seneca, 1429%
  • 1977: Shawntae, 686%; Lavar, 5480%
  • 1978: Aja, 3407%; Dequan, 988%
  • 1979: Renada, 780%; Yoel, 525%
  • 1980: Genese, 1920%; Rayshaun, 440%
  • 1981: Krystle, 1623%; Cavin, 833%
  • 1982: Jere, 1000%; Colt, 1620%
  • 1983: Ciji, 2950%; Remington, 657%
  • 1984: Santana, 3467%; Ryne, 424%
  • 1985: Kayleigh, 2914%; Jaymes, 769%
  • 1986: Kyrie, 3180%; Orry, 789%
  • 1987: Janay, 1168%; Jareth, 400%
  • 1988: Whitley, 916%; Nico, 860%
  • 1989: Audriana, 3467%; Alexande, 4917%
  • 1990: Alannah, 1583%; Tevin, 4569%
  • 1991: Tanairi, 820%; Devante, 1356%
  • 1992: Darian, 703%; Jalen, 3980%
  • 1993: Coraima, 4320%; Savon, 2457%
  • 1994: Aaliyah, 6495%; Romario, 1940%
  • 1995: Iridian, 1845%; Tristin, 747%
  • 1996: Alanis, 1047%; Json, 880%
  • 1997: Yulisa, 2729%, Ennis, 620%
  • 1998: Jazsmin, 960%; Denilson, 900%
  • 1999: Tionne, 1100%; Sincere, 647%
  • 2000: Litzy, 1189%; Elian, 2413%
  • 2001: Nevaeh, 1111%; Jaheim, 5440%
  • 2002: Lashanti, 2060%; Omarion, 8260%
  • 2003: Azeneth, 1913%; Andon, 2200%
  • 2004: Betzaida, 1233%; Jakwon, 1260%
  • 2005: Mikalah, 1906%; Talan, 2130%
  • 2006: Bethzy; 2636%; Dereon, 1217%
  • 2007: Jaslene, 9920%; Leonidas & Renner, 700%
  • 2008: Dayami, 3464%; Barack, 940%
  • 2009: Baya, 1020%; Dhani, 520%
  • 2010: Collins, 1557%; Bentlee, 733%
  • 2011: Thaily, 1400%; Neymar, 900%
  • 2012: Cataleya, 2182%; Long, 740%
  • 2013: Daleyza, 1055%; Jaiceon, 1057%
  • 2014: Aranza, 1297%; Jameis, 720%
  • 2015: Vail, 700%; Rhydian, 667%
  • 2016: Kehlani, 571%; Kylo, 580%
  • 2017: Westlynn, 600%; Oseias, 1080%

(Did you catch all the doubles? Tula, Delano, Tammy, Jermaine, and Davey/Davy.)

I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about many of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it! Leave a comment and let us know what popularized Dorla in 1929, or Lauren in 1945, or Dustin in 1968, or Kayleigh in 1985, or Talan in 2005…

Week of Hair: Babies Named After Venida Hair Nets

The Rieser Company of New York started selling Venida hair nets around 1907. The company’s founder, Norvin Rieser, created the name Venida out of the Latin phrase ‘veni, vidi, vici.’

venida
Venida hair net (packaging)

In the ’20s, the baby name Venida started popping up on the SSA’s baby name list:

  • 1928: unlisted
  • 1927: 10 baby girls named Venida
  • 1926: unlisted
  • 1925: 9 baby girls named Venida
  • 1924: 6 baby girls named Venida
  • 1923: 10 baby girls named Venida
  • 1922: unlisted
  • 1921: 6 baby girls named Venida [debut]
  • 1920: unlisted

How much of this can be attributed to the hair product? It’s hard to say exactly, as the baby name Venida pre-dates the hair net, but I’d bet at least some of the increased usage of that decade can be linked to Venida advertisements, which included:

  • Venida contests, like this one mentioned in Popular Mechanics in mid-1921:

    In a contest open to women and girls only, prizes will be awarded for the greatest number of words made from any or all of the letters in the phrase “Venida Hair Net.”

    First prize was $1,000, second was $500, and third was $200.*

  • Venida billboards, like this Venida billboard on the Atlantic City boardwalk in 1920. (And it lit up at night!)

The Rieser Company eventually started selling other hair-related products (e.g., bobby pins, shampoo) but hair nets were always the main draw, judging by the Venida Hair Net ads that regularly appeared in major magazines like LIFE in the mid-20th century.

The hair nets continued to be sold at least until the early 1960s, but I’m not sure what became of the company after that.

What do you think of the baby name Venida?

Source: Hickerson, J. M., ed. How I Made the Sale that Did the Most for Me. New York: Prentice Hall, 1951.

*Speaking of baby names inspired by contests, check out Norita.

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.

The Double-Spike Baby Name Norita

baby name norita - graph
Usage of the baby name Norita spiked in ’35 and ’37.
Something unusual happened to the baby name Norita in the 1930s:

  • 1939: 34 baby girls named Norita
  • 1938: 47 baby girls named Norita
  • 1937: 155 baby girls named Norita
  • 1936: 19 baby girls named Norita
  • 1935: 89 baby girls named Norita
  • 1934: 7 baby girls named Norita
  • 1933: 6 baby girls named Norita

See how it spiked twice? Interesting, isn’t it?

A double-spike requires a double-explanation, and one of those explanations I’ve figured out. The other I’m still working on.

Norita’s 1935 Spike

Norita’s first spike can be traced back to a contest, believe it or not. Contests were all the rage in the mid-1930s according to Newsweek:

Almost every week, radio stations and newspapers announce new contests. Prizes of money, automobiles, and round-the-world trips incite listeners and readers to send in slogans and 50-word essays written on soap wrappers and cigar bands.

This particular contest, sponsored by Gold Medal Flour, was woven into the storyline of an old time radio show called “Betty and Bob.” After characters Betty and Bob Drake found a orphaned baby girl at their doorstep on Christmas Eve of 1934, they asked their audience to help choose a name for her.

Gold Medal Flour magazine advertisements from early 1935 gave detailed descriptions of the baby — “golden hair,” “blue eyes,” “happy disposition” — and hints on picking a name, which they stressed should be “original” and “unique.”

Thousands of cash prizes were offered, including a $10,000 grand prize. Here’s the full list (and what the prizes would be worth in today’s dollars):

  • 1st – $10,000 (equivalent to $170,713.14 in 2013)
  • 2nd – $1,500 ($25,606.97)
  • 3rd – $1,000 ($17,071.31)
  • 4th – $500 ($8,535.66)
  • 5th – $250 ($4,267.83)
  • 6th – $200 ($3,414.26)
  • 7th – $150 ($2,560.70)
  • 8th – $100 ($1,707.13)
  • 9th – $75 ($1,280.35)
  • 10th – $25 ($426.78)
  • 11th – $15 ($256.07)
  • 12th – $10 ($170.71)
  • 13th – $7 ($119.50)
  • 14th – $5 ($85.36)
  • 1,000+ other entrants – $1 each ($17.07)

That’s a lot of money, especially when you consider that the nation was still trying to pull itself out of the Great Depression in the mid-1930s.*

Hundreds of thousands of people entered the contest, which ran until mid-February. Some people really went out of their way to catch the attention of the judges:

One woman painstakingly embroidered a pillow with a name on it and could not understand why she got no prize. She even claimed the work had damaged her eyesight. A man sent an 8-foot, electrically-wired lighthouse with the entry-name over its door. A third contestant contributed a huge doll in an expensive bassinet; a nameplate hung on the doll’s neck.

More than 50,000 people suggested the name Goldie (a nod to Gold Medal Flour). Another 57,000 suggested Betty-Jane.

But only Mrs. E. M. Nelson of Minnesota suggested the grand prize-winning name Norita, a name she’d created from an Old English word for “foster child,” norie (also spelled nory, nurry, etc.). The word ultimately comes from Old French nourrir, meaning “nourish.”

The only other prize-winner I know of was a woman named Martha Hunt of Washington state who submitted the name “Adolla” and received $250 (5th place).

According to a newspaper article from 1942, the Gold Medal Flour “Radio’s Nameless Mystery Baby” contest was General Mills’ second-most successful contest ever. Seven years later, the company was still receiving entries.

Norita’s 1937 Spike

The second spike was higher than the first — 155 babies this time, versus 89 in 1935 — but I haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause.

One thing I can tell you about the 1937 spike is that, in contrast to the 1935 spike, it inspired a lot of variant forms:

Name 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938
Norita 7 89 19 155 47
Noretta 8 15 6 65 32
Noreta 7** 5 52 14
Noreda 17**
Norrita 16**
Noreeta 8**
Noreita 8**
Noritta 8**
Norietta 6**
Norreta 6**
Norretta 5**

**First appearance on the SSA’s list.

A sudden increase in variant forms always points me to an audio source — something that has a lot of people hearing a name, but not seeing it written down. This forces people to come up with their own spellings. The Deirdre and Casara spikes were caused by audio sources, for instance.

So the second Norita spike was likely caused either by radio or by a movie. (Television wasn’t widely adopted until well into the 1950s.)

One other thing I can tell you is that the 1937 spike was localized, just like the 1935 spike. In 1935, most of the babies named Norita were born in the Midwest:

  • 12 Noritas in Minnesota (1935)
  • 9 Noritas in Wisconsin (1935)
  • 7 Noritas in Indiana (1935)
  • 6 Noritas in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio (1935)
  • 5 Noritas in Texas (1935)

The story of a Minnesota woman winning $10,000 by inventing the name “Norita” was probably a lot bigger in this region than elsewhere.

Skipping ahead two years, we see something similar:

  • 17 Noritas in Ohio (1937)
  • 16 Noritas in Pennsylvania (1937)
  • 14 Noritas in California (1937)
  • 11 Noritas in Illinois (1937)
  • 10 Noritas in Texas (1937)
  • 9 Noritas in Indiana and Minnesota (1937)
  • 5 Noritas in Michigan, Oregon, and West Virginia (1937)

The localization isn’t quite as strong, but over 20% of the 1937 Noritas were born in Ohio and Pennsylvania, which is notable.

Thoughts?

My best guess is that the second spike is related to the “Betty and Bob” radio show somehow. Perhaps baby Norita became an on-air character in 1937?

But I have no clue why the name was disproportionately popular in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Do you have any ideas?

Also: Do you like the name Norita? Would you ever consider using it for a baby?

Sources/Tools:

  • BLS Inflation Calculator
  • “Contest: 57,000 American Listeners Have The Same Idea” Newsweek 11 May 1935: 38.
  • Hughes, Lawrence M. “Advertising news.” New York Sun 13 Feb. 1941: 23.
  • Whitney, William Dwight Whitney and Benjamin Eli Smith. The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia. New York: The Century Co., 1914.
  • “Wins Cash Award for Baby’s Name.” Spokane Daily Chronicle 18 Apr. 1935: 6.

*Did you know some kids were actually named Depression during the Great Depression?