How popular is the baby name Normandie 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 Normandie.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Normandie


Posts that Mention the Name Normandie

The Baby Name “Raven”

comic, terry and the pirates, 1941, raven sherman, baby name
The death of Raven Sherman (1941)

The name Raven has been given to babies of both genders for decades, but I find its female usage particularly interesting because girl-name Raven has gotten three distinct boosts from popular culture so far.

The first boost happened in 1941, when Raven debuted as a girl name in the data. (It had already popped up a few times as a boy name.)

Year Female usage Male usage
1943 5 babies 7 babies
1942 5 babies 5 babies
1941 6 babies [debut] .
1940 . .

In October of that year, in the comic strip Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff, a female character named Raven Sherman died in a dramatic and memorable sequence.

Raven, “a WASP clearly modeled on Katharine Hepburn” according to one source, was an American heiress who was working at a camp for war refugees in China. She was pushed off a moving truck, died of her injuries, and was buried on an isolated Chinese hillside. “Caniff was flooded with flower deliveries, mock memorial services, petitions of condolence signed by disparate groups as factory workers and entire colleges, as well as a lot of irate letters.”

(Terry and the Pirates also influenced the names Normandie and Merrily.)

The second pop culture boost happened in the 1970s:

Year Female usage Male usage
1978 342 babies
[rank: 533rd]
25 babies
1977 299 babies
[rank: 579th]
20 babies
1976 100 babies 10 babies
1975 17 babies 9 babies
1974 15 babies 12 babies

In 1976, the soap opera The Edge of Night introduced a female character named Raven Swift (first played by Juanin Clay, then played by Sharon Gabet). She was described as “the show’s delightful young vixen-heroine” in The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. The character remained on the show until it was canceled in 1984.

(The soap also influenced the names Teal and Laurieann.)

And the most recent (and biggest) pop culture boost happened in the early 1990s:

Year Female usage Male usage
1992 2,016 babies
[rank: 152nd]
89 babies
1991 2,026 babies
[rank: 150th]
53 babies
1990 1,758 babies
[rank: 166th]
62 babies
1989 476 babies
[rank: 495th]
27 babies
1988 327 babies
[rank: 612th]
19 babies

It went on to peak at 139th in 1993.

The reason? Actress Raven-SymonĂ©, who first found fame as a four year old when she started playing Olivia (Denise’s step-daughter) on the The Cosby Show in 1989. The compound name Ravensymone debuted in the data in 1990, and the spelling variant Ravensimone followed in 1991. (Her Disney Channel show That’s So Raven didn’t come along until much later.)

What are your thoughts on the name Raven? Would you use it?

Sources:

Sharlie, Take Two

Sharlie debuted rather impressively as a girl name in the SSA data in the year 1933.

Initially, my best guess regarding Sharlie’s sudden appearance was the trendy radio catchphrase, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?”

But a few months ago, I serendipitously discovered a much better explanation: a serialized newspaper story simply called Sharlie. It was written by Beatrice Burton and appeared in the papers in late 1932 and early 1933. The main character was “pretty, vivacious Sharlie Dunn.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned researching thousands of pop culture-inspired baby names over the years, it’s this: personification is key. A name attached to a person (real or fictional) carries far more weight with the baby-naming public than a free-floating name/word.

So, while I don’t doubt that the catchphrase did indeed draw attention to “Sharlie” back in the early 1930s, I think the female character was what helped expectant parents see “Sharlie” as a potential baby name. And that makes all the difference.

What are your thoughts on this?

P.S. I had to update my theory on the name Normandie for the very same reason. It’s much more likely that it was influenced by the comic strip character than by the ocean liner.

Normandie, Take Two

comics, normandie, 1930sLast year I guessed that the 1935 debut of Normandie on the SSA’s list was inspired by the maiden voyage of the SS Normandie.

Just a few weeks ago, though, I stumbled upon a theory that makes a lot more sense.

I was in the middle of researching the name Terrylea (a one-hit wonder from 1948 — any guesses?) when I found myself on the IMDB page for Terry and the Pirates (1940).

IMDB pages are full of names, so whenever I land on one I feel compelled to skim. And on this particular page I happened to spot the character name “Normandie Drake.”

It made me think of the baby name Normandie, of course, but the release year didn’t match up to any of the SSA data, so…dead end, right?

Well, turns out the movie was based on a popular comic strip of the same name by cartoonist Milton Caniff. The strip was first published in late 1934.

And which character was introduced in January of 1935? Normandie Drake.

Very intriguing — especially when you consider that a number of baby name debuts from that era were inspired by comic strip characters (e.g., Clovia, Dondi).

Another interesting point: Normandie Drake wasn’t featured in every storyline, and her comings and goings in the comic seem to correspond with the fluctuating usage of the name.

In 1942, for instance, she reappeared after an absence. That same year, the usage of Normandie increased:

  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 9 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1943: 9 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1942: 14 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1941: unlisted
  • 1940: unlisted
  • 1939: unlisted
  • 1938: unlisted
  • 1937: 11 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1936: unlisted
  • 1935: 7 baby girls named Normandie [debut]
  • 1934: unlisted

Not only that, but she brought along her young daughter Merrily* and the baby name Merrily** promptly skyrocketed into the top 1,000:

  • 1944: 71 baby girls named Merrily
  • 1943: 120 baby girls named Merrily [ranked 914th]
  • 1942: 201 baby girls named Merrily [ranked 698th]
  • 1941: 13 baby girls named Merrily [ranked 513th]
  • 1940: unlisted

A magazine interview with Milton Caniff from a few years later (1945) included a photo of two little girls named Merrily after the character. The caption also mentioned young girls named Normandie after Normandie Drake and April after another Terry character, April Kane.

So, in light of all this new information, I have to admit that my first theory was probably not the strongest theory. The debut was much more likely caused by Normandie Drake than by the SS Normandie. Though the ship (and related novelty items, like Normandie perfume) could have been a secondary influence here.

(That said…heiress Normandie Drake herself may have been named with the luxurious ocean liner in mind. So maybe my initial theory wasn’t so far off after all?)

Anyway, sorry I didn’t have the full story on this one before posting. Better late than never!

*Milton Caniff named and modeled Merrily after Mary Lee Engli, the daughter of fellow cartoonist Frank Engli.
**The baby names Merrilee and Merrilie were also affected.

Sources:

The Baby Name Normandie

normandie linerWhen I first noticed the name Normandie on the SSA’s 1944 baby name list, I thought the name must have something to do with the Battle of Normandy.

But two things weren’t right. First, the English version of the word, Normandy, was nowhere to be found that year. Second, as I worked backwards through the lists, I noticed more and more baby girls named “Normandie.” So, my Battle of Normandy theory was blown.

But that’s fine, because the theory I have now is a lot more interesting.

The name Normandie debuted on the list in 1935, and appeared on the list a total of 5 times:

  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 9 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1943: 9 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1942: 14 baby girls named Normandie
  • …unlisted…
  • 1937: 11 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1936: unlisted
  • 1935: 7 baby girls named Normandie [debut]
  • 1934: unlisted

Where did it come from?

My guess is the French ocean liner the SS Normandie, which was the largest and most luxurious passenger ship of the late 1930s.

Unlike other ships of that era, the Normandie was built to cater to the wealthy. Most of the opulent Art Deco interior was specifically designated for first-class use:

Here was a ship where the first class dining room accommodated 700 guests sitting under 12 pillars of illuminated Lalique glass and 38 matching columns along the walls. There was a winter garden filled with exotic flora and fauna, a swimming pool, and a theatre.

First class suites had pianos, multiple bedrooms and their own decks.

In mid-1935, the Normandie crossed the Atlantic on its maiden voyage. One of the passengers was Madame Lebrun, wife of French president Albert François Lebrun.

Tens of thousands of people saw the ship off from Le Havre, France, and tens of thousands more lined the docks at New York Harbor to watch it arrive just 4 days and 3 hours later — a new westbound speed record.

All of [the Normandie-related] events, the mere presence of Normandie in New York and the atmosphere that she created fueled the media and popular obsession with the ocean liner and the famous passengers she had on board.

Two years later, in 1937, the Normandie broke the westbound speed record again, this time completing the trip in just under 4 days.

The ship ended up crossing the Atlantic a total of 139 times, ferrying notable passengers like Marlene Dietrich, Walt Disney, Ernest Hemingway, Cary Grant and Bob Hope back and forth between Europe and the U.S.

But the ship’s career was cut short when, just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941, U.S. authorities seized control of the Normandie while it was docked at Pier 88 on the Hudson River. While being converted into a troopship in early 1942, it caught fire and capsized onto its port side. The Normandie was righted in 1943, but was ultimately scrapped in 1946.

What do you think of the baby name Normandie?

UPDATE, 7/29/15: Normandie, Take Two

Sources: Art deco ocean liner exhibition opens in New York, The Rich and Famous Creating a Buzz for Normandie, United States seizes French liner Normandie