In the 1950s, Ramón Sanchez was a Mexican-American student attending elementary school in southern California.
By the second grade, his name had been Anglicized to “Raymond.” Similarly, students named Maria and Juanita had become “Mary” and “Jane.”
Then a new student named Facundo [fah-COON-do] arrived.
When he came to school we noticed they called an emergency administrative meeting. You could kind of hear them talking through the door, you know, “What are we going to do with this guy, man? How are we going to change his name?”
Someone suggested that they shorten Facundo to “Fac,” but it was decided that “Fac” was too close to a dirty word.
You can’t be saying ‘Fac where’s your homework,’ ‘Where’s Fac at,’ you know what I mean?
And so, at Ramón’s elementary school, Facundo ended up being the only kid who never got his name changed.
The Spanish/Portuguese name Facundo comes from the Roman name Facundus. In Latin, facundus means “eloquent, fluent.”
Actress Dolores del Rio was the star of not one but two silent films with theme songs that influenced the baby name charts.
In 1926 she played Charmaine in What Price Glory?, and two years later she played the titular character in Ramona, which was based on the book Ramona (1884) by Helen Hunt Jackson.
The book is a tragic romance set in mid-19th century Southern California, and the protagonists are Ramona, a mixed-race Scottish–Native American orphan, and her lover Alessandro.
Like Trilby a decade later, Ramona was a bestseller that inspired many namesakes: schools, streets, freeways, even towns (such as Ramona, California). The number of human namesakes is harder to gauge, though the U.S. Census of 1900 indicates that there was a moderate increase in the number Ramonas in 1884.
Still, the book’s impact on baby names can’t compare to the impact of its most successful film adaptation, Ramona (1928)…thanks in large part to the music.
The song “Ramona” was commissioned for the film in 1927, and released later that year — long before the film came out in May of 1928, interestingly. It was a big hit with more than two million copies sold and two different versions reaching #1 on the Billboard charts in 1928: first the Paul Whiteman version for 3 weeks, then the Gene Austin version for 8 more weeks.
This song, the first to borrow a film’s title, became the most successful movie theme song of the decade, and greatly enhanced the success of the film. Its popularity gave Hollywood producers much food for thought about how to publicize movies.
Usage of the baby name Ramona, already on the rise in the late 1920s, increased so much in 1928 that the name nearly reached the top 100:
1931: 1,130 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 164th]
1930: 1,410 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 149th]
1929: 2,036 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 120th]
1928: 2,237 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 117th]
1927: 567 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 277th]
1926: 467 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 307th]
1925: 450 baby girls named Ramona [rank: 313th]
So where does the name Ramona come from?
Ramona and its masculine form, Ramón, are the Spanish versions of Raymond, which is ultimately based on the Germanic words ragin, meaning “advice, decision, counsel,” and mund, meaning “protection.”
Do you like the name Ramona? Would you use it?
Source: MacDonald, Laurence E. The Invisible Art of Film Music: A Comprehensive History. Lanham, MD: Ardsley House, 1998.
P.S. I forgot to mention that Dolores herself helped popularize the name Dolores in the late 1920s. She was also possibly the influence behind the steep rise of Dorla in 1929, though I’m not 100% sure.
If you like the idea of anagrams but want to avoid sound-alike sets, I recommend anagrams with different numbers of syllables. Pairs like “Etta and Tate” and “Clay and Lacy” are a far more subtle than pairs like “Enzo and Zeno” and “Mary and Myra.”
Two of these, Hannah and Ava, happen to be very popular for baby girls at the moment.
Need two names? You could consider a pair of names that become a palindrome when written side-by-side (i.e., names that are anagrams of one another):
Aidan & Nadia
Aileen & Neelia
Alan & Nala
Allan & Nalla
Allen & Nella
Amin & Nima
Ariel & Leira
Arik & Kira
Aron & Nora
Avram & Marva
Axel & Lexa
Aydan & Nadya
Ari & Ira
Cam & Mac
Eliah & Haile
Eliam & Maile
Ellen & Nelle
Etan & Nate
Flor & Rolf
Gem & Meg
Iris & Siri
Leon & Noel
Linus & Sunil
Miles & Selim
Nazar & Razan
Nero & Oren
It’s also possible to come up with your own palindromic pairs by flipping traditional names to create brand new names. For instance, I’ve seem James, Kevin, Manuel and Ramon flipped to become Semaj, Nivek, Leunam and Nomar.