Halloween is a few days away, so here’s a pair of horror-imbued baby names, each of which got a boost from the same scary film.
That film was The Ring, released in October of 2002. The film’s main character was a journalist dealing with a cursed videotape (that killed anyone who watched it). But the film’s memorable character — as in all good horror films — was the villain: the vengeful spirit of a little girl named Samara (sah-MAHR-ah) Morgan. Samara was played by young actress Daveigh (dah-VAY) Chase.
The year after The Ring came out, the name Samara saw a steep rise in usage, and the name Daveigh debuted in the U.S. data:
825 baby girls (rank: 380th)
12 baby girls
857 baby girls (rank: 365th)
21 baby girls
656 baby girls (rank: 456th)
22 baby girls [debut] [peak]
242 baby girls (rank: 929th)
261 baby girls (rank: 883rd)
The Ring did well at the box office, and it was followed by two successful sequels: The Ring Two (released in March of 2005) and Rings (February of 2017).
Daveigh Chase was not actively involved in either sequel, so her name didn’t see any subsequent boosts in the data. But Samara Morgan was central to both films (of course) and we can see the corresponding peaks in usage of “Samara” in 2006 and 2018:
(The rise that began in 2016 may have been kicked off by Australian actress Samara Weaving, who was being called a “newcomer” in Hollywood around that time.)
The Ring was a remake of the 1998 Japanese film Ringu, which was based on the 1991 Japanese novel Ringu by Koji Suzuki. In the novel and the original film, the little girl was named Sadako Yamamura. I couldn’t find any information on why the American version of the character was renamed “Samara” specifically, but my guess is that “Samara” was chosen simply because it was a 3-syllable S-name like Sadako.
What are your thoughts on the name Samara? Would you use it (despite the horrific association)?
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).
Rafaela Rafaela Ottiano was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in Italy in 1888. Rafaela was also a character played by actress Alice Joyce in the short film The Bag of Gold (1912).
Reno Reno Browne was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1950s. She was born in (Reno) Nevada in 1921. Her birth name Josephine Ruth Clarke. Reno was also a character played by actress Ethel Merman in the film Anything Goes (1936).
Rosina Rosina Galli was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Italy in 1906. Rosina was also a character played by actress Jose Collins in the film The Last Stake (short, 1923).
Rosita Rosita Marstini was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in France in 1887. Rosita was also a character name in multiple films, including Hell’s Valley (1931) and Zoo in Budapest (1933).
In June of 1982, the Toledo Blade ran a short article about two local brothers who “enjoy the distinction of having initials which spell their names.” One was Thomas Owen Matzinger (T.O.M.), the other was James Irvin Matzinger (J.I.M.). Their dad Mike said it was “just as well” that he didn’t have any more kids, because he couldn’t think of any other sets of names to fit the pattern.
My guess is that Mike was joking, because there are several other sets of initials that could work with an M-surname like Matzinger, one of which, T.I.M., is just a letter away from T.O.M.
In fact, there are at least a couple of combinations that would work with every type of surname.
So today, in honor of the Matzingers of Toledo, I’ve come up with a long list of name-spelling initials. They’re sorted by third initial (that is, the first letter of the last name) so you can scroll straight to the set that matches up with your own surname.
Initials that Spell Names & Nicknames
Surname starts with:
Potential full initials (& example combo):
A.D.A. (Adelaide Diane A.) A.N.A. (Anastasia Nadine A.) A.S.A. (Asa Scott A.) A.V.A. (Ava Virginia A.) B.E.A. (Beatrix Elaine A.) E.V.A. (Eva Veronica A.) G.I.A. (Gia Idonea A.) I.D.A. (Idabelle Daria A.) I.N.A. (Ina Nigella A.) I.R.A. (Ira Ralph A.) I.S.A. (Isabel Simone A.) K.I.A. (Kia Ianthe A.) L.E.A. (Leah Elizabeth A.) M.I.A. (Mia Imelda A.) N.I.A. (Nia Ilona A.) O.D.A. (Odalys Delfina A.) O.R.A. (Ora Ruth A.) U.M.A. (Uma Magnolia A.) U.N.A. (Una Normina A.)
D.E.B. (Deborah Ethel B.) J.E.B. (Jeb Evan B.) L.I.B. (Libbie Ione B.) R.O.B. (Robert Orville B.) S.E.B. (Sebastian Everly B.) S.Y.B. (Sybil Yvette B.) T.A.B. (Tabitha Araminta B.) Z.E.B. (Zebulon Ezekiel B.)
B.E.C. (Becky Eowyn C.) M.A.C. (Mackenzie Anne C.) N.I.C. (Nicole Isabelle C.) V.I.C. (Victor Ivan C.) Z.A.C. (Zackary Arlo C.)
J.E.D. (Jedidiah Easton D.) R.O.D. (Rodney Orrin D.) T.E.D. (Theodora Eugenia D.) Z.E.D. (Zedekiah Ezra D.)
A.B.E. (Abraham Benjamin E.) A.C.E. (Ace Corbin E.) E.V.E. (Eve Violet E.) F.A.E. (Fae Adina E.) I.K.E. (Isaac Keith E.) J.O.E. (Joseph Owen E.) L.E.E. (Lee Ethan E.) M.A.E. (Maebelle Alice E.) M.O.E. (Morris Oscar E.) R.A.E. (Raelene Alicia E.) S.U.E. (Susan Ursula E.) Z.O.E. (Zoe Ocean E.)
C.A.L. (Callum Audley L.) D.E.L. (Delaney Estelle L.) G.I.L. (Gilbert Ishmael L.) H.A.L. (Harry Archibald L.) L.I.L. (Lillian Iva L.) M.A.L. (Malcolm Angus L.) M.E.L. (Melanie Eloisa L.) M.O.L. (Molly Odette L.) S.A.L. (Sally Angelica L.) S.O.L. (Solomon Osborn L.) V.A.L. (Valerie Annette L.) W.I.L. (Willy Ingo L.) Z.E.L. (Zelda Erin L.)
C.A.M. (Cameron Aidan M.) D.O.M. (Dominic Orson M.) J.E.M. (Jemima Eleanor M.) J.I.M. (James Irvin M.) K.I.M. (Kimberly Imogene M.) L.E.M. (Lemuel Emerson M.) P.A.M. (Pamela Alys M.) R.A.M. (Ramsey Archer M.) S.A.M. (Samuel Aaron M.) S.I.M. (Simon Isidore M.) T.A.M. (Tammy Anita M.) T.I.M. (Timothy Isaac M.) T.O.M. (Thomas Owen M.)
B.A.X. (Baxter Andrew X.) D.A.X. (Dax Alec X.) D.E.X. (Dexter Edison X.) J.A.X. (Jaxon Antony X.) L.E.X. (Lexie Eliza X.) M.A.X. (Maximus Alvin X.) P.A.X. (Pax Amelia X.) R.E.X. (Rex Elias X.) R.O.X. (Roxanna Opal X.) T.E.X. (Tex Emmanuel X.)
A.M.Y. (Amy Michelle Y.) G.U.Y. (Guy Urban Y.) I.V.Y. (Ivy Verity Y.) J.A.Y. (Jay Adam Y.) J.O.Y. (Joyce Ondina Y.) K.A.Y. (Katherine Addison Y.) M.A.Y. (May Augusta Y.) R.A.Y. (Raymond Adrian Y.) R.O.Y. (Royce Oberon Y.) S.K.Y. (Skylar Kerry Y.)
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.