“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.
My dad came out to visit us in Colorado recently. He loves geology, so we made sure to take him to several different places with impressive rocks/terrain.
One place we visited was Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. In this park we spotted the above sign, which described how the park got its name back in the 1850s:
As they looked over this area of cathedral-like rock spires, one man, Malancthon Beach, commented that the spot would be a great place for a beer garden someday. His friend, a poetic young man named Rufous Cable, replied that it was a place “fit for the Gods.”
It’s a cool story, but, to me, that first name “Malancthon” is way more interesting than the origin of the park name. Where did it come from?
My best guess is that Malancthon is a tribute to 16th-century German theologian Philipp Melanchthon, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. His surname at birth was Schwartzerd (“black earth” in German), but as a young man he Latinized his name to the classical equivalent Melanchthon (“black earth” in Greek).
We also saw some names at Red Rocks, which is both a park and a famous amphitheater.
The amphitheater was constructed from 1936 to 1941 by men in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a work relief program that existed during the Great Depression. One display included a photo of 124 of the men in the local CCC. Here are their first names, sorted by frequency:
Years ago I posted about Livonia, a baby both born on and named after a Pullman car. Recently I wondered: What other Pullman car names would have made good baby names?
So I downloaded a big spreadsheet of over 12,000 Pullman car names from The Pullman Project and was slightly surprised to see that thousands of them could have been baby names, if we allow for the splitting of compound car names (like Fort Miley, Glen Norman, Meredith College, and West Willow).
Here are a handful of examples. On the left are relatively common/familiar names, and on the right are some unexpected choices.
In April of 1937, the film A Star Is Born was released. It starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March as a married couple at opposite ends of their Hollywood careers: hers beginning, his ending.
The husband was named Norman Maine. The wife, on the other hand, had several identities. At first she was North Dakota farm girl Esther Victoria Blodgett. Then she morphed into movie star Vicki Lester for most of the film. Finally, in that memorable last line, she said: “Hello everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.”
So how did she go from Esther Blodgett to “Vicki Lester”? Here’s the scene:
Press Agent: Do you know what her name is? Esther Victoria Blodgett.
Producer: Gee, we’ll have to do something about that right away.
Press Agent: …Esther Victoria Blodgett…
Producer: Well that Blodgett’s definitely out. See, uh…Esther Victoria, Victoria, Vicki…how about Vicki?
Producer’s Secretary: Oh I think that’s terribly cute.
Producer: Let’s see, Vicki…Vicki what?
Press Agent: Vicki Vicki, pronounced Vicki Vicki. [sarcasm]
Producer: Siesta, Besta, Sesta, Desta, Fester…
Press Agent: Oh that’s very pretty.
Producer: …Jester, Hester, Jester, Lester…Vicki Lester!
Secretary: Oh I like that!
Everyone in the office started chanting the newly minted name Vicki Lester…and with that the star was born.
On the name charts, the entire name-group — Vicki, Vickie, Vicky, Vickey, and so forth — rode a wave of trendiness that started in the ’30s, peaked around 1957, and was over by the ’80s. It’s hard to say how much of this trendiness (if any of it) was fueled by the movie, but one thing definitely attributable to the movie is the higher-than-expected usage of “Vicki” in the late ’30s:
1941: 542 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 274th]
1940: 405 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 316th]
1939: 334 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 355th]
1938: 367 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 332nd]
1937: 148 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 555th]
1936: 82 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 738th]
1935: 70 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 822nd]
Notice how the number adjusted downward in 1939 before the name was picked back up by the wave.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that several baby girls born in the late ’30s were named “Vicki Lester.” In 1940, for instance, the Seil family of Washington included parents Orval (26 years old) and Beryl (25) and daughters Arlene (4) and Vicki Lester (1).
History repeated itself in 1954 upon the release of the first A Star is Born remake, which starred Judy Garland as Esther/Vicki. The name Vicki was again nudged upward a few years ahead of schedule:
1958: 7,434 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 57th]
1957: 8,101 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 51st]
1956: 7,762 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 57th]
1955: 7,978 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 52nd]
1954: 8,220 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 50th]
1953: 6,822 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 61st]
1952: 6,774 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 61st]
And, again, records from the mid-1950s reveal a handful of baby girls named “Vicki Lester.”
In the second remake — the 1976 Barbra Streisand version — the character was called Esther throughout the film. Even if there had been a name change, though, the popularity of Vicki was plummeting by the ’70s and I doubt the film could have done much to boost its image/usage.
Currently the name Vicki is only given to about a dozen baby girls in the U.S. per year. But another version of A Star is Born is in the works — a Lady Gaga version slated for 2018. If this third remake materializes, and if it features the name Vicki, do you think it will influence the baby name charts?
(While we wait for 2018, check out the original version of A Star is Born (1937), which is in the public domain.)
In late 1935, photographs of 21-year-old Mardee Hoff started appearing in the newspapers. She’d been selected from a pool of 2,600 models by the American Society of Illustrators as the girl with “the most beautiful figure in America.”
The papers said she would compete against Rosemary Andree, “Britain’s Venus,” for the international title in 1936. Many published side-by-side photos of the two women. I can’t find any record of this event actually happening, though.
But one thing that did happen in 1936 was the debut of Mardee on the SSA’s baby name list:
The usage spike in 1941, plus the debut Mardi in 1941, were likely influenced by Mardee Hoff’s appearance on a late 1940 LIFE cover. She’s identified by name inside the magazine: “Mardee Hoff, photographed in one of the new torso-length cardigans on this week’s cover, has for the past three years been one of the most popular models with both photographers and illustrators.”
Interestingly, Mardee Hoff also posed for Norman Rockwell in the 1930s. She was the model for “Hollywood Starlet,” which appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in March of 1936.
(And here’s another model name, Twiggy, that debuted about three decades later…)