“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.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
Here’s a girl name that might be a good fit for a Halloween baby…
The name is Rhoda, which comes from the ancient Greek word rhodon, meaning “rose.” Which is lovely…but, for many, the strongest association isn’t roses but Rhoda Penmark, the “murderous moppet so cold she could practice her piano lessons methodically while her latest victim was burning to death in the basement below.” Not so lovely.
The character of Rhoda was played by 11-year-old Patty McCormack in the movie The Bad Seed (1956), which was successful at the box office and earned McCormack an Oscar nomination. McCormack had originated the role* in the 1954 Broadway play, which was adapted from the 1954 book by Alabama author William March.
Evil children are now a horror trope, but back in the ’50s, Rhoda was breaking new ground. She “was a character with no precedent in film history” who had inherited her homicidal tendencies from her serial killer grandmother.
The movie gave the name Rhoda a lot of exposure, and as the result — despite the character’s sinister nature and obnoxiously perfect braids — the name saw a temporary rise in usage in 1957:
1959: 259 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 619th]
1958: 265 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 611th]
1957: 356 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 504th]
1956: 241 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 617th]
1955: 238 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 598th]
What are your thoughts on the name Rhoda?
*Another young actress who played Rhoda early on was Kimetha Laurie, who we talked about yesterday.
The name Kimetha appeared for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 1955:
1960: 5 baby girls named Kimetha
1959: 16 baby girls named Kimetha
1958: 16 baby girls named Kimetha
1957: 9 baby girls named Kimetha
1956: 20 baby girls named Kimetha
1955: 15 baby girls named Kimetha
The influence? Child actress Kimetha Laurie.
She had appeared on television and in theater productions throughout the 1950s, but her most high-profile role was as sociopathic Rhoda Penmark in the play The Bad Seed (based on the classic thriller of the same name written by William March and published in 1954).
But, wait a minute…how is that right? We’ve all seen images of the little girl from in The Bad Seed. She was played by actress Patty McCormack — wearing those long blonde braids — in both the successful Broadway play (Dec. 1954 to Sept. 1955) and the equally successful movie (released Sept. 1956).
Ah, but in between the play and the film a touring company took the show on the road for 31 weeks. The first performance was in Delaware on December 1, 1955. In this production, Rhoda the “murderous moppet” was played by Kimetha Laurie — wearing long brunette braids. She had won the part of Rhoda “over 90 other applicants.”
So how did Kimetha Laurie come to have that name? Kimetha was her birth name, coined by her mother, who took “Kim” from her husband’s name (Arthur Kimble Ouerbacker) and added a fanciful ending. She began acting as Kimetha Ouerbacker, but soon switched to the easier-to-pronounce stage name Kimetha Laurie. (Laurie was a family name; the influence wasn’t Piper Laurie.)
A handful of girls born in 1955 and over the next few years got her full stage name, “Kimetha Laurie,” as their first and middle name. One example is Kimetha Laurie Ramler (b. 1959).
Two other baby names that debuted in the data around this time, Kennetha and Kenetha, may have showed up thanks to the combined influences of Kimetha and then-trendy Kenneth.
Do you like the name Kimetha?
Alonso, Harriet Hyman. Robert E. Sherwood: The Playwright in Peace and War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.
“Did You Ever Dine With a Murderess?” Detroit Free Press 18 Jan. 1956: 22.