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, see baby names similar to Norita and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Norita.
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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.’
In the ’20s, the baby name Venida started popping up on the SSA’s baby name list:
1927: 10 baby girls named Venida
1925: 9 baby girls named Venida
1924: 6 baby girls named Venida
1923: 10 baby girls named Venida
1921: 6 baby girls named Venida [debut]
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.*
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.
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.
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, no?
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:
**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.
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?