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Popularity of the Baby Name Return

Number of Babies Named Return

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Return

Ono Titchiner’s Curious Name

Ono Titchiner was born in south London the late 1730s. He became a carpenter, married a woman named Sarah in 1764, had several children, and passed away in 1799. He was buried somewhere on the grounds of St. Giles’ Churchyard in Camberwell.

Graves at St. Giles' Church, Camberwell
Graves at St. Giles’ Church, Camberwell

Ono’s headstone was intact at least until the mid-1880s, when, according to one source, it could be “plainly read from the public footpath which crosses the churchyard.” (I’m not sure if it’s still there.)

Nothing was written about Ono’s curious name while he was alive, but plenty has been written about it since then.

The earliest explanation for “Ono” I could find was in the 1875 book Ye Parish of Camberwell, in which a footnote explains:

Mr. Ono Titchener came by his Christian name in rather a peculiar way. When taken to be christened, the clergyman was about to make a mistake in his name, and his sponsors were proceeding to put the Rev. gentleman right, by remarking, leisurely, “Oh, no.” — “Ono,” remarked the too impetuous parson, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father,” &c.

The story was eventually picked up by the papers. Over the next few decades, it ended up traveling all over the world.

Here’s one version, published in 1885 in a New Zealand newspaper:

With reference to a note upon the subject of curious names that appeared in the St James’ Gazette recently, a correspondent writes:— Possibly there is no stranger baptismal name than one which may be seen in Camberwell churchyard on an old tombstone which is sacred to the memory of a certain Mr Titchener. There is a tradition, and I believe a well-founded one, to the effect that, at the christening of Mr Titchener, the god-parents were unable to agree upon a name for the child. One suggested one name; and another exclaimed, “O no!” and suggested another; and this kind of thing went on for so long that at last the officiating clergyman, declaring that in spite of themselves the sponsors had come to a unanimous decision, baptized the victim Ono.

Here’s another version, published in 1900 in a New York newspaper:

Ono Titchiner, of Peckham, was named under the following circumstances: On arriving at the church his name was not settled upon, and when the clergyman said: “Name this child,” one of the friends said “John,” and another said: “Oh, no,” meaning not John; and as no one else spoke the clergyman thought that was his named and baptized him Ono.

And here’s another, published in 1909 in a Utah newspaper:

“An example of a curious Christian name may be found,” says a correspondent, “nearer your offices than most of the cases you have printed. The facts are these. The father of a boy baby wished him to be christened Thomas. The mother favored the name of Robert. When they arrived at the church the matter was still undecided. The father informed the curate that the child’s name was Thomas. “Oh, no” gasped the mother distressfully. The curate regarding the woman as the ruling spirit promptly baptized the infant Ono.”

So is the “oh no” explanation legit?

It’s plausible, I suppose. Naming errors caused by confusion and miscommunication weren’t unheard of back then. (Remember the baby girl named Robert?)

But I doubt it’s legit. More likely it was just a made-up story that grew into a rumor that got twisted a bit more with every retelling (similar to what happened to Return).

The real source?

I’m guessing the Bible, in which the word “Ono” — the name of both a town and a valley — appears several times, mostly in the Book of Nehemiah.

Sources:

  • Bax, Alfred Ridley. Allegations for Marriage Licences Issued by the Commissary Court of Surrey Between 1673-1770. Norwich: Goose & Son, 1907.
  • Blanch, William Harnett. Ye Parish of Camberwell. London: E. W. Allen, 1875.
  • “Good Baptismal Stories.” Massena Observer 4 Oct. 1900: 6.
  • “How Ono Got His Name.” Deseret News 17 Mar. 1909: 4.
  • “Latest Locals.” Star [New Zealand] 7 Oct. 1885: 3.

Image: Gravestones, St Giles Churchyard by Peter Gasston


My Top 40 Baby Name Stories

Open BookOf the hundreds of baby name stories I’ve posted so far, these are my 40 favorites (listed alphabetically).

  1. Actsapostles
  2. Airlene
  3. Aku
  4. Carpathia
  5. Cleveland
  6. Dee Day
  7. Dondi
  8. Emancipation Proclamation
  9. Frances Cleveland
  10. Georgia
  11. Grant
  12. Guynemer
  13. Ida Lewis
  14. Independence & Liberty
  15. Inte & Gration
  16. Invicta
  17. Iuma
  18. Jesse Roper
  19. Job-Rakt-Out-of-the-Asshes
  20. Karina
  21. Legal Tender
  22. Livonia
  23. Louisiana Purchase
  24. Maitland Albert
  25. Maria Corazon
  26. Mary Ann
  27. Medina
  28. Pannonica
  29. Pearl
  30. Poncella
  31. Return
  32. Robert
  33. Saarfried
  34. Salida
  35. Seawillow
  36. Speaker
  37. Speedy
  38. States Rights
  39. Thursday October
  40. Zeppelina

My favorite baby name stories tend to be those that I find most memorable. Several of them (e.g., Aku, Karina, Maitland) even taught me something new. In a few cases, it’s not the original story I like so much as something that happened later on in the tale (as with Georgia, Salida, Speaker).

Baby Name Story: Return

In 1708, a baby boy named Return was born in Guilford, CT.

His parents were Janna Meigs* (1672-1739) and Hannah Willard (1674-1749), and he was the fifth of ten children: Janna, Josiah, Jehiel, Hannah, Return, Hester, Silence and Submit (twin girls), Timothy and Eunice.

There’s a story behind Return’s name. That much I know. But so many different versions of the story exist that there’s no telling which one is true.

The most common version starts with Janna proposing marriage to Hannah. She rejects him. (Many sources say this happened repeatedly.) Just as he’s about to ride off, she changes her mind and calls after him, “Return, Janna, return!” He does. They wed. And when they welcome their fifth child, they name him Return in honor of that moment.

Other versions of the story are quite different. One patriotic attempt claims the baby was born during the Battle of Concord (1775), and that “Return, Janna, return” was Hannah’s cry for her husband to come home from battle. Too bad the baby was already 67 years old at that point.

The name has since been handed down to more than a dozen of Return’s descendants, including Return’s son Return Jonathan Meigs, Sr. (1740-1823) and grandson Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr. (1764-1825).

*Either Janna or Junna, depends on the source.

Sources:

Long List of Unusual Real Names

I took a few dozen of my oldest “unusual real names” lists and combined them here:

  1. Abolhassan Bani-Sadr (born in 1933) – First president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  2. Adonijah Strong Welch (born in 1821) – U.S. Senator from Florida.
  3. Aeriwentha Faggs “Mae” Starr (1932-2000) – American athlete.
  4. Anning Smith Prall (1870-1937) – U.S. Representative from New York.
  5. Arphaxed Loomis (1798-1885) – U.S. Representative from New York.
  6. Atoosa Rubenstein (born in Iran in 1972) – Former editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine.
  7. Baskerville Holmes (born in 1964) – American basketball player named for The Hound of the Baskervilles.
  8. Batman bin Suparman (b. 1990) – Singaporean man of Javanese descent whose ID card was posted at Language Log. (Thanks to Nancy F. for this one!)
  9. Bird Segle Mcguire (1865-1930) – U.S. Delegate and representative from Oklahoma.
  10. Bourke Blakemore Hickenlooper (1896-1971) – U.S. Senator from Iowa. (Previously the Governor of Iowa.)
  11. Brazilla Carroll Reece (1889-1961) – U.S. Representative from Tennessee.
  12. Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse (born circa 1944) – Halliburton whistleblower.
  13. Burrhus Frederic “B.F.” Skinner (born in 1904) – American psychologist, author and inventor.
  14. Canvass White (1790-1834) – American civil engineer.
  15. Chamintney Stovall Thomas (born in 1899) – Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame inductee.
  16. Chase Going Woodhouse (1890-1984) – U.S. Representative from Connecticut.
  17. Cherubusco Newton (1848-1910) – U.S. Representative from Louisiana.
  18. Cleanth Brooks (born in 1906) – Literary critic and Yale professor.
  19. Cree Summer Francks (born in 1969) – Actress and musician. (Her brother is Rainbow, below.)
  20. Cydnor Tompkins (1810-1862) – U.S. Representative from Ohio.
  21. Delloreese Patricia Early (b. 1931) – American actress (stage name Della Reese).
  22. Devra Lee Davis (born in 1946) – Professor of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh.
  23. Donelson Caffery (1835-1906) – U.S. Senator from Louisiana.
  24. Dunkinfield Henry Scott (born in 1854) – English paleobotanist who established the class Pteridospermeae.
  25. Elbridge Thomas Gerry (born in 1744) – Fifth Vice President of the United States.
  26. Elgin Gay Baylor (born in 1934) – NBA Hall-of-Famer who was named after the Elgin National Watch Company.
  27. Eliphalet Dyer (1721-1807) – U.S. Delegate from Connecticut.
  28. Epiphanny Prince (born in the 1980s) – Set the U.S. high school girls’ basketball record by scoring 113 points in a single game on February 1, 2006.
  29. Espy Van Horne (1795-1829) – U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania.
  30. Eudald Carbonell i Roura (born in 1953) – Spanish archaeologist, anthropologist and paleontologist.
  31. Falconer Madan (born in 1851) – Librarian of the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. (His granddaughter was Venetia Burney, below.)
  32. Felissa Rose Esposito (born in 1969) – Actress.
  33. Fiorello Henry LaGuardia (1882-1947) – U.S. Representative from New York. (Later the Mayor of New York.)
  34. Foxhall A. Parker (born 1821) – U.S. Navy officer during the American Civil War. (His father was also a Foxhall, and he had a brother named Dangerfield.)
  35. Ginery Twichell (1811-1883) – U.S. Representative from Massachusetts.
  36. Godlove Stein Orth (1817-1882) – U.S. Representative from Indiana.
  37. Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) – U.S. Senator from New York. (Previously a Delegate from Pennsylvania.)
  38. Green Berry Raum (1829-1909) – U.S. Representative from Illinois.
  39. Harlow Shapley (born in 1885) – American astronomer.
  40. Harmanus Peek (1782-1838) – U.S. Representative from New York.
  41. Heartsill Ragon (1885-1940) – U.S. Representative from Arkansas.
  42. Hoagland Howard “Hoagy” Carmichael (1899-1981) – American composer, singer, actor, and band leader.
  43. Holiday Reinhorn (born in 1964) – fiction writer and wife of Rainn Wilson (see below).
  44. Hubbard Hinde Kavanaugh (born in 1802) – Methodist Episcopal bishop.
  45. Huw Wheldon (born in 1916) – Welsh broadcaster and Royal Television Society president. (Huw is the Welsh version of Hugh.)
  46. Idawalley Zorada “Ida” Lewis (1842-1911) – American lighthouse keeper.
  47. Isambard Kingdom Brunel (born in 1806) – English engineer who created the Great Western Railway, along with a number of steamships, bridges and tunnels.
  48. Ithamar Conkey Sloan (1822-1898) – U.S. Representative from Wisconsin.
  49. Itimous Thaddeus Valentine (born in 1926) – U.S. Representative from North Carolina.
  50. Jacquetta Hawkes (born in 1910) – British archaeologist and writer.
  51. Jagadish Chandra Bose (born in 1858) – Bengali physicist and science fiction writer.
  52. Jascha Heifetz (born in 1901 in Lithuania) – Violinist.
  53. Jawaharlal Nehru (born in 1889) – First Prime Minister of India. Served for 4 terms, from 1947 until 1964.
  54. Jeduthun Wilcox (1768-1838) – U.S. Representative from New Hampshire.
  55. Jetur Rose Riggs (1809-1869) – U.S. Representative from New Jersey.
  56. Kirkpatrick Macmillan (1813-1878) – Scottish blacksmith who invented the pedal bicycle (circa 1840).
  57. Kirtland Irving Perky (1867-1939) – U.S. Senator from Idaho.
  58. Kittredge Haskins (1836-1916) – U.S. Representative from Vermont.
  59. Le Gage Pratt (1852-1911) – U.S. Representative from New Jersey.
  60. Lilialyce Akers (born in 1927) – first female professor at the University of Louisville.
  61. Loammi Baldwin (born in 1744) – Engineer, politician, and American Revolutionary War soldier.
  62. Loleatta Holloway (born in 1946) – American singer.
  63. Lystra Gretter (born in 1858) – Nurse and public health care innovator.
  64. Magloire Pélage (born in 1769 in Martinique) – Soldier and leader of the resistance movement against the English.
  65. Mamphela Aletta Ramphele (born in 1947) – South African doctor and activist.
  66. Mattiwilda Dobbs (born in 1925) – American opera singer.
  67. Marmaduke Williams (1774-1850) – U.S. Representative from North Carolina.
  68. Melquiades R. Martinez (born in 1946) – U.S. Senator from Florida.
  69. Middleton Barrow (1839-1903) – U.S. Senator from Georgia.
  70. Milward Lee Simpson (1897-1993) – U.S. Senator from Wyoming. (Previously the Governor of Wyoming.)
  71. Miquita Oliver (born in 1984) – British TV presenter and actress.
  72. Nanaline Holt Inman Duke (born in 1871) – Mother of Doris Duke.
  73. Naphtali Daggett (born in 1727) – Pastor, professor, and Yale’s second president.
  74. Narsworthy Hunter (c1802) – U.S. Delegate from Mississippi Territory.
  75. Nelleke Noordervliet (born in 1945) – Dutch novelist.
  76. Nunnally Hunter Johnson (born in 1897) – American filmmaker.
  77. Odalys García (born in 1975) – Cuban actress and singer.
  78. Orrice Abram Murdock, Jr. (1893-1979) – U.S. Senator from Utah. (Previously a U.S. Representative from Utah.)
  79. Ossian Ray (1835-1892) – U.S. Representative from New Hampshire.
  80. Ottorino Respighi (born in 1879) – Italian composer, musicologist and musician.
  81. Outerbridge Horsey (1777-1842) – U.S. Senator from Delaware. (Previously the Attorney General of Delaware.)
  82. Owsley Brown Frazier (born in 1935) – businessman and philanthropist.
  83. Pantazi Ghica (born in 1831) – Wallachian-born Romanian politician, lawyer and writer.
  84. Phanor Breazeale (1858-1934) – U.S. Representative from Louisiana.
  85. Philadelph Van Trump (1810-1874) – U.S. Representative from Ohio.
  86. Phyllida Law (born in 1932) – Scottish actress. Also the mother of actress Emma Thompson.
  87. Pierpont Edwards (1750-1826) – U.S. Delegate from Connecticut.
  88. Pitcairn Morrison (1795-1887) – American army officer.
  89. Porochista Khakpour (born in 1978) – Iranian-American writer.
  90. Powhatan Ellis (1790-1863) – Senator from Mississippi.
  91. Quirinus Kuhlmann (1651-1689) – German Baroque poet and mystic.
  92. Rainn Wilson (born in 1966) – actor and husband of Holiday Reinhorn (see above).
  93. Rainbow Sun Francks (born in 1979) – Canadian actor and songwriter. (His sister is Cree, below.)
  94. Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr. (1764-1825) – U.S. Senator from Ohio. (Later, the Governor of Ohio. Later still, Postmaster General.)
  95. Rienzi Melville Johnston (1849-1926) – U.S. Senator from Texas.
  96. Rousseau Owen Crump (1843-1901) – U.S. Representative from Michigan. (Previously the Mayor of West Bay City.)
  97. Rulon Gardner (b. 1971) – American Greco-Roman wrestler.
  98. Rychacviana Coffie (unknown birth year) – Miss Curaçao 2005.
  99. Sacheverell Sitwell (1897-1988) – English poet and art critic.
  100. Shirin Ebadi (born in 1947) – Iranian lawyer and human rights activist. First Iranian and first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (in 2003).
  101. Smoloff Palace Love (born in 1826) – Soldier, teacher, and lawyer from Kentucky.
  102. Sobieski Ross (1828-1877) – U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania.
  103. Spessard Lindsey Holland (1892-1971) – U.S. Senator from Florida. (Previously the Governor of Florida.)
  104. Spruille Braden (born in 1894) – Diplomat and businessman with an interest in Latin America.
  105. Stanyarne Wilson (1860-1928) – U.S. Representative from South Carolina.
  106. Stevenson Magloire (born in 1963) – Haitian painter named after U.S. politician Adlai Stevenson.
  107. Sunshine Hillygus (born ca. 1976) – associate professor at Harvard.
  108. Tapping Reeve (born in 1744) – law professor, jurist and writer. Opened the first law school in the United States.
  109. Tench Coxe (1755-1824) – U.S. Delegate from Pennsylvania.
  110. Tilghman Mayfield Tucker (1802-1859) – U.S. Representative from Mississippi. (Previously the Governor of Mississippi.)
  111. Trevenen Huxley (born in 1889) – Huxley brother (born after Julian, but before Aldous).
  112. Turbutt Wright (1741-1783) – U.S. Delegate from Maryland.
  113. Tzovfit Grant (born in 1964) – Israeli actress and TV show host. (Her first name is sometimes spelled Tzufit.)
  114. Urhines Kendall Icy Eight Special K (born in 2003) – baby boy from Topeka, Kansas.
  115. Uzodinma Iweala (born 1982) – American novelist with Nigerian roots.
  116. Venetia Phair (née Burney, born in England in 1919) – Suggested the name for the planet Pluto when she was 11 years old. (Her grandfather was Falconer Madan, above.)
  117. Vespasian Warner (1842-1925) – U.S. Representative from Illinois.
  118. Victory Birdseye (1782-1853) – U.S. Representative from New York.
  119. Voltairine de Cleyre (born in 1866) – Anarchist and feminist.
  120. Wallingford Constantine Riegger (born in 1885) – American composer.
  121. Wangari Muta Maathai (born in 1940 in Kenya) – Doctor, environmental and political activist, and the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
  122. Wealthy Babcock (born in 1895) – professor at the University of Kansas.
  123. Wentworth Miller (born in 1972) – American actor.
  124. Wigbolt Ripperda (born around 1535) – Governor of Haarlem (in the Netherlands) while the city was under siege by the Spanish army during the Eighty Years’ War.
  125. Wilmot Redd (died 1692) – one of the (female) victims of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
  126. Yellow Light Breen (born in the 1970s) – lawyer and senior VP of Bangor Savings Bank.
  127. Zadock Pratt (1790-1871) – U.S. Representative from New York.

Here are the rest of the original lists:

And here’s a more recent one you might like:

Have you encountered any unusual or rare names lately? (In the phone book? In the paper? On TV?) If so, let me know!