How popular is the baby name Richard in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Richard and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Richard.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Richard

Number of Babies Named Richard

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Richard

McCutcheon’s Baby Names: Nedra, Yetive, Gerane, Doraine…

I doubt the name “George Barr McCutcheon” means much to you. But the name has become quite familiar to me. Why? Because George Barr McCutcheon — who wrote dozens of novels in the early 1900s — put several brand new baby names on the map during the early 20th century.

The Indiana-born writer lived from 1866 to 1928, and many of his books became bestsellers. Today, his best-remembered story is Brewster’s Millions, which has been adapted into a movie several times. The most memorable adaptation would have to be the 1985 version starring comedians Richard Pryor (as protagonist Montgomery Brewster) and John Candy.

So which baby names did McCutcheon introduce/influence? Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Nedra

nedraMcCutcheon’s novel Nedra (1905) was the 5th best-selling book of 1905. Though there’s a lady on the front cover, “Nedra” isn’t a female character, but the name of an island on which several of the characters are shipwrecked.

The next year, the name Nedra debuted on the baby name charts. In fact, it was the top debut name of 1906.

  • 1909: 14 baby girls named Nedra
  • 1908: 18 baby girls named Nedra
  • 1907: 10 baby girls named Nedra
  • 1906: 11 baby girls named Nedra [debut]
  • 1905: unlisted

SSDI data confirms that the name Nedra saw noticeably higher usage after the book was released.

One of these baby Nedras grew up to become actress Nedra Volz (b. 1908).

Yetive, Truxton, Gerane, Beverly

McCutcheon wrote six novels about the fictional Eastern European country of Graustark:

  • Graustark (1901) – the 9th best-selling book of 1901
  • Beverly of Graustark (1904) – the 6th best-selling book of 1904
  • Truxton King (1909) – the 6th best-selling book of 1909
  • The Prince of Graustark (1914) – the 10th best-selling book of 1914
  • East of the Setting Sun (1924)
  • The Inn of the Hawk and Raven (1927)

Several of these books were later made into movies and plays. The three Graustarkian names I’ve noticed on the charts are:

  • Yetive, inspired by the character Princess Yetive from the first two books. First appeared in the SSA data in 1911.
  • Truxton, inspired by Truxton King from the 3rd book. First appeared in the data in 1912.
  • Gerane, inspired by Gerane Davos from the final book. First appeared in the data 1928.

Plus there’s Beverly, which was used for a female character in Beverly of Graustark. The novel, along with a 1926 film adaptation, helped pull the once-gender-neutral name onto the girls’ side definitively. (Ironically, the actress who played Princess Yetive in a 1915 film adaptation of Graustark used the stage name Beverly Bayne.)

Here are some of Graustarkian names that did not make the charts: Ganlook, Grenfall, Dantan, Dannox, Marlanx, Bevra (the daughter of Beverly), Hedrik, and Pendennis.

Doraine

McCutcheon’s novel West Wind Drift (1920) is like his earlier book Nedra in that both stories involve a shipwreck and an island. In Nedra, “Nedra” is the name of the island; in West Wind Drift, “Doraine” is the name of the ship.

The year West Wind Drift came out, the name Doraine debuted in the baby name data.

  • 1923: 5 baby girls named Doraine
  • 1922: unlisted
  • 1921: 6 baby girls named Doraine
  • 1920: 11 baby girls named Doraine [debut]
  • 1919: unlisted

It was tied for 2nd-highest debut name that year. (#1 was Dardanella.)

Coincidentally, the shipwrecked characters in West Wind Drift have a debate at one point about using “Doraine” as baby name. They argue over whether or not they should give the name to an orphaned baby girl who had been born aboard the ship. Here’s the opinion of character Michael Malone: “We can’t do better than to name her after her birthplace. That’s her name. Doraine Cruise. It sounds Irish. Got music in it.”

*

Have you ever a George Barr McCutcheon book? If so, do you remember any unusual character names? (If not, and you’d like to check him out, here are dozens of George Barr McCutcheon novels archived at Project Gutenberg.)

Sources: The Books of the Century: 1900-1999 – Daniel Immerwahr, George Barr McCutcheon – Wikipedia


Arrr! Baby Names for Talk Like a Pirate Day

pirate baby

Avast! Did you know that today is Talk Like a Pirate Day?

“Arrr” itself doesn’t make a great name — even for pirates — but here’s the next best thing: over 120 names that feature the “ar”-sound.

Araminta
Arcadia
Arden
Aretha
Aria
Arianna
Arlene
Arlette
Artemis
Barbara
Barbie
Carla
Carlene
Carley
Carmel
Carmella
Carmen
Charlene
Charlotte
Charmaine
Darcy
Daria
Darla
Darlene
Gardenia
Harbor
Harlow
Harmony
Hildegarde
Karla
Katarina
Larisa
Mara
Marcella
Marcia
Margaret
Margot, Margaux
Maria
Mariah
Mariana
Marie
Marina
Mariska
Marissa
Marjorie
Marla
Marlena
Marlene
Marley
Marnie
Marta
Martha
Marva
Martina
Narcissa
Parthenia
Pilar
Rosario
Scarlett
Skylar
Starla
Arcadio
Archer
Archibald
Archie
Ari
Arlo
Arnold
Arsenio
Arthur
Balthazar
Barnaby
Barton
Bernard (…Bernarr?)
Carl
Carlisle
Carlton
Carson
Carter
Carver
Charles
Clark
Dario
Darius
Darwin
Edgar
Edward
Finbar
Garfield
Gerard
Gunnar
Hardy
Harley
Harper
Harvey
Howard
Karl
Lars
Larson
Lazarus
Leonard
Marcel
Marcellus
Mario
Marius
Marc, Mark
Marcus, Markus
Marlow
Marshall
Martin
Marvin
Nazario
Oscar
Parker
Richard
Stewart, Stuart
Ward
Warner
Warren
Warrick
Willard
Yardley

Which of the “ar”-names above do you like best? Did I miss any good ones?

(Image from Pixabay)

Additions, 9/20:

217 Saintly Surnames – Bosco, Neri, Sheen, Talbot…

saintly-surnames

Looking for a surname-inspired baby name with a connection to Catholicism?

Here are more than 200 options, most of which come from Catholic Englishmen martyred during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Because the goal was to include as many realistic baby names as possible, I interpreted “surname” and “saint” liberally in some cases. Xavier is not technically a surname, for instance, and many of the folks below are not yet full-fledged saints.

The hyperlinked names will take you to popularity graphs.

  1. Abel, for Bl. Thomas Abel (d. 1540) of England.
  2. Abbot, for Bl. Henry Abbot (d. 1597) of England.
  3. Albert, for Bl. Federico Albert (d. 1876) of Italy.
  4. Almond, for St. John Almond (d. 1612) of England.
  5. Amias, for Bl. John Amias (d. 1589) of England.
  6. Ancina, for Bl. John Juvenal Ancina (d. 1604) of Italy.
  7. Andleby, for Bl. William Andleby (d. 1597) of England.
  8. Aquinas, for St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) of Italy.
  9. Arrowsmith, for St. Edmund Arrowsmith (d. 1628) of England.
  10. Ashley, for Bl. Ralph Ashley (d. 1606) of England.
  11. Ashton, for Ven. Roger Ashton (d. 1592) of England.
  12. Atkinson, for Bl. Thomas Atkinson (d. 1616) of England.
  13. Aufield, for Bl. Thomas Aufield (d. 1585) of England.
  14. Barlow, for St. Ambrose Barlow (d. 1641) of England.
  15. Baylon, for St. Paschal Baylon (d. 1592) of Spain.
  16. Becket, from St. Thomas Becket (d. 1170) of England.
  17. Beesley, for Bl. George Beesley (d. 1591) of England.
  18. Belson, for Bl. Thomas Belson (d. 1589) of England.
  19. Bertie, for Servant of God Andrew Bertie (d. 2008) of England/Malta.
  20. Bertrand, for St. Louis Bertrand (d. 1581) of Spain/South America.
  21. Bessette, for St. André Bessette (d. 1937) of Canada.
  22. Bonzel, for Bl. Maria Theresia Bonzel (d. 1905) of Germany.
  23. Bosco, for St. John Bosco (d. 1888) of Italy.
  24. Bosgrave, for Bl. Thomas Bosgrave (d. 1594) of England.
  25. Bowes, for Bl. Marmaduke Bowes (d. 1585) of England.
  26. Briant, for St. Alexander Briant (d. 1581) of England.
  27. Britton, for Bl. John Britton (d. 1598) of England.
  28. Buxton, for Bl. Christopher Buxton (d. 1588) of England.
  29. Cabrini, for St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (d. 1917) of Italy/U.S.
  30. Campion, for St. Edmund Campion (d. 1581) of England.
  31. Carey, for Bl. John Carey (d. 1594) of England.
  32. Carter, for Bl. William Carter (b. 1584) of England.
  33. Casey, for Ven. Solanus Casey (d. 1957) of the U.S. (His religious name “Solanus” comes from St. Francis Solanus, below.)
  34. Cassant, for Bl. Pierre-Joseph Cassant (d. 1903) of France.
  35. Catherick, for Bl. Edmund Catherick (d. 1642) of England.
  36. Chanel, for St. Peter Chanel (d. 1841) of France.
  37. Claver, for St. Peter Claver (d. 1654) of Spain.
  38. Claxton, for Bl. James Claxton (d. 1588) of England.
  39. Collins, for Bl. Dominic Collins (d. 1602) of Ireland.
  40. Cope, for St. Marianne Cope (d. 1918) of Germany/U.S.
  41. Corbie, for Ven. Ralph Corbie (d. 1644) of Ireland.
  42. Cornelius, for Bl. John Cornelius (d. 1594) of England.
  43. Dalby, for Bl. Robert Dalby (d. 1589) of England.
  44. Daniel, for St. Antoine Daniel (d. 1648) of France/Canada.
  45. David, for Bl. Vicente Vilar David (1937) of Spain or Bl. Toros Oghlou David (d. 1895) of Armenia
  46. Davy, for Bl. John Davy (d. 1537) of England or Bl. Charlotte Davy (d. 1794) of France.
  47. Dean, for Bl. William Dean (d. 1588) of England.
  48. Dorie, for Bl. Pierre Henri Dorie (d. 1866) of France.
  49. Douglas, for Bl. George Douglas (d. 1587) of Scotland.
  50. Drexel, for St. Katharine Drexel (d. 1955) of the U.S.
  51. Drury, for Bl. Robert Drury (d. 1607) of England.
  52. Duff, for Servant of God Frank Duff (d. 1980) of Ireland.
  53. Duke, for Bl. Edmund Duke (d. 1590) of England.
  54. Durando, for Bl. Marco Antonio Durando (d. 1880) of Italy.
  55. Dutton, for Servant of God Joseph Dutton (d. 1931) of the U.S.
  56. Ebner, for Bl. Margareta Ebner (d. 1351) of Germany.
  57. Emmerich, for Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824) of Germany.
  58. Errico, for St. Gaetano Errico (d. 1860) of Italy.
  59. Errington, for Bl. George Errington (d. 1596) of England.
  60. Evans, for St. Philip Evans (d. 1679) of Wales.
  61. Faber, for St. Peter Faber (d. 1546) of France.
  62. Falzon, for Bl. Nazju Falzon (d. 1865) of Malta.
  63. Farina, for St. Giovanni Antonio Farina (d. 1888) of Italy.
  64. Fasani, for St. Francis Anthony Fasani (d. 1742) of Italy.
  65. Felton, for Bl. John Felton (d. 1570) in England.
  66. Fenn, for Bl. James Fenn (d. 1584) in England.
  67. Fenwick, for Bl. John Fenwick (d. 1679) of England.
  68. Ferrari, for Bl. Andrea Carlo Ferrari (d. 1921) of Italy.
  69. Ferrer, for St. Vincent Ferrer (d. 1419) of Spain.
  70. Filby, for Bl. William Filby (d. 1582) of England.
  71. Frassati, for Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (d. 1925) of Italy.
  72. Fulthrop, for Bl. Edward Fulthrop (d. 1597) of England.
  73. Finch, for Bl. John Finch (d. 1584) of England.
  74. Fisher, for Bl. John Fisher (d. 1535) of England.
  75. Foley, for Servant of God Theodore Foley (d. 1974) of the U.S.
  76. Fontaine, for Bl. Marie-Madeleine Fontaine (d. 1794) of France.
  77. Forest, for Bl. John Forest (d. 1538) of England.
  78. Garnet, for St. Thomas Garnet (d. 1608) of England.
  79. Gavan, for Bl. John Gavan (d. 1679) of England.
  80. Gennings, for St. Edmund Gennings (d. 1591) of England.
  81. Gerard, for Bl. Jeanne Gerard (d. 1794) of France or Bl. Joseph Gérard, (d. 1914) of France/South Africa.
  82. Gerosa, for St. Vincentia Gerosa (d. 1847) of Italy.
  83. Gervase, for Bl. George Gervase (d. 1608) of England.
  84. Gibson, for Bl. William Gibson (d. 1596) of England.
  85. Goretti, for St. Maria Goretti (d. 1902) of Italy.
  86. Grove, for Bl. John Grove (d. 1679) of England.
  87. Gwyn, for St. Richard Gwyn (d. 1584) of Wales.
  88. Harrington, for Bl. William Harrington (d. 1594) of England.
  89. Heath, for Bl. Henry Heath (d. 1643) of England.
  90. Hewitt, for Bl. John Hewitt (d. 1588) of England.
  91. Higgins, for Bl. Peter Higgins (d. 1642) of Irish.
  92. Houghton, for St. John Houghton (d. 1535) of England.
  93. Howard, for St. Philip Howard (d. 1595) of England or for his grandson, Bl. William Howard (d. 1680) of England.
  94. Humphrey, for St. Lawrence Humphrey (d. 1590) of England.
  95. Hunt, for Bl. Thurston Hunt (d. 1601) of England.
  96. Ingleby, for Bl. Francis Ingleby (d. 1586) of England.
  97. Ingram, for Ven. John Ingram (d. 1594) of England.
  98. Janssen, for St. Arnold Janssen (d. 1909) of Germany.
  99. Kemble, for St. John Kemble (d. 1679) of England.
  100. Kern, for Bl. Jakob Kern (d. 1924) of Austria.
  101. Kirby, for St. Luke Kirby (d. 1582) of England.
  102. Kolbe, for St. Maximilian Kolbe (d. 1941) of Poland.
  103. Konrad, for Bl. Nicholas Konrad (d. 1941) of Ukraine.
  104. Lakota, for Bl. Gregor Lakota (d. 1950) of Ukraine.
  105. Langley, for Bl. Richard Langley (d. 1586) of England.
  106. Lanteri, for Ven. Bruno Lanteri (d. 1830) of Italy.
  107. Larke, for Bl. John Larke (d. 1544) of England.
  108. Laval, for Bl. Jacques-Désiré Laval (d. 1864) of France/Mauritius.
  109. Lawrence, for St. Robert Lawrence (d. 1535) of England.
  110. Leigh, for Bl. Richard Leigh (d. 1588) of England.
  111. Lewis, for St. David Lewis (d. 1679) of Wales
  112. Liguori, for St. Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787) of Italy.
  113. Lilli, for Bl. Salvatore Lilli (d. 1895) of Italy.
  114. Lloyd, for St. John Lloyd (d. 1679) of Wales.
  115. Lockwood, for Bl. John Lockwood (d. 1642) of England.
  116. Lucas, for Bl. Charlotte Lucas (d. 1794) of France.
  117. MacKillop, for St. Mary MacKillop (d. 1909) of Australia.
  118. Majali, for Bl. Giuliano Majali (d. 1470) of Sicily.
  119. Majella, for St. Gerard Majella (d. 1755) of Italy.
  120. Manna, for Bl. Paolo Manna (d. 1952) of Italy.
  121. Marchand, for St. Joseph Marchand (d. 1835) of France.
  122. Marella, for Ven. Olinto Marella (d. 1969) of Italy.
  123. Mareri, for Bl. Philippa Mareri (d. 1236) of Italy.
  124. Margil, for Ven. Antonio Margil (d. 1726) of Spain/Central America.
  125. Mari, for Servant of God Ida Mari (d. 1981) of Italy.
  126. Martin, for St. Louis Martin (d. 1894) of France or Bl. Richard Martin (d. 1588) of England.
  127. Marsden, from Bl. William Marsden (d. 1586) of England.
  128. Marto, for Bl. Francisco Marto (d. 1919) of Portugal.
  129. Mason, for Bl. John Mason (d. 1591) of England.
  130. Massey, for Bl. René-Julien Massey (d. 1792) of France.
  131. Maxfield, for Bl. Thomas Maxfield (d. 1616) of England.
  132. Munden, for Bl. John Munden (d. 1584) of England.
  133. Mayer, for Bl. Rupert Mayer (d. 1945) of Germany.
  134. McAuley, for Ven. Catherine McAuley (d. 1841) of Ireland.
  135. Meehan, for Bl. Charles Meehan (d. 1679) of Ireland.
  136. Merlo, for Ven. Thecla Merlo (d. 1964) of Italy.
  137. Medina, for Bl. Manuel Medina y Olmos (d. 1936) of Spain.
  138. Mela, for Ven. Itala Mela (d. 1957) of Italy.
  139. Merton, for Fr. Thomas Merton (d. 1968) of the U.S.
  140. Mesina, for Bl. Antonia Mesina (d. 1935) of Italy.
  141. Miki, for St. Paul Miki (d. 1597) of Japan.
  142. Molina, for Bl. Mercedes de Jesús Molina y Ayala (d. 1883) of Ecuador.
  143. Molla, for St. Gianna Beretta Molla (d. 1962) of Italy.
  144. Mora, for Bl. Elisabeth Canori Mora (d. 1825) of Italy.
  145. Morse, for St. Henry Morse (d. 1645) of England.
  146. Nelson, for Bl. John Nelson (d. 1578) of England.
  147. Neri, for St. Philip Neri (d. 1595) of Italy.
  148. Newman, for Bl. John Henry Newman (d. 1890) of England.
  149. Nichols, for Bl. George Nichols (d. 1589) fo England.
  150. Nolasco, for St. Peter Nolasco (d. 1256) of France.
  151. Ogilvie, for St. John Ogilvie (d. 1615) of Scotland.
  152. Owen, for St. Nicholas Owen (d. 1606) of England.
  153. Page, for Bl. Anthony Page (d. 1593) of England or Bl. Francis Page (d. 1602) of England.
  154. Percy, for Bl. Thomas Percy (d. 1572) of England.
  155. Potter, for Ven. Mary Potter (d. 1913) of England.
  156. Powell, for Bl. Edward Powell (d. 1540) of Wales.
  157. Quinn, for Ven. Edel Quinn (d. 1944) of Ireland.
  158. Rawlins, for Bl. Alexander Rawlins (d. 1595) of England.
  159. Regis, for St. John Francis Regis (d. 1640) of France.
  160. Reynolds, for St. Richard Reynolds (d. 1535) of England or Bl. Thomas Reynolds (d. 1560) of England.
  161. Richardson, for Bl. Lawrence Richardson (d. 1582) of England or Bl. William Richardson (d. 1603) of England.
  162. Rigby, for St. John Rigby (d. 1600) of England
  163. Rivi, for Bl. Rolando Rivi (d. 1945) of Italy.
  164. Robinson, for St. Christopher Robinson (d. 1598) of England.
  165. Rochester, for Bl. John Rochester (d. 1537) of England.
  166. Roe, for St. Alban Roe (d. 1642) of England.
  167. Romano, for Bl. Vincent Romano (d. 1831) of Italy.
  168. Rossello, for St. Maria Giuseppa Rossello (d. 1880) of Italy.
  169. Sala, for Bl. Maria Anna Sala (d. 1891) of Italy.
  170. Savio, for St. Dominic Savio (d. 1857) of Italy.
  171. Scott, for Bl. Montford Scott (d. 1591) of England or Bl. Maurus Scott (d. 1612) of England.
  172. Serra, for St. Junipero Serra (d. 1784) of Spain/New Spain.
  173. Seton, for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (d. 1821) of the U.S.
  174. Sheen, for Ven. Fulton J. Sheen (d. 1979) of the U.S.
  175. Shelley, for Bl. Edward Shelley (d. 1588) of England.
  176. Sherwin, for St. Ralph Sherwin (d. 1581) of England.
  177. Sherwood, for Bl. Thomas Sherwood (d. 1578) of England.
  178. Sinclair, for Ven. Margaret Anne Sinclair (d. 1925) of Scotland.
  179. Slade, for Bl. John Slade (d. 1583) of England.
  180. Solanus, for St. Francis Solanus (d. 1610) of Spain.
  181. Southwell, for St. Robert Southwell (d. 1595) of England.
  182. Southworth, for St. John Southworth (d. 1654) of England.
  183. Steno, for Bl. Nicolas Steno (d. 1686) of Denmark.
  184. Spenser, for Bl. William Spenser (d. 1589) of England.
  185. Spencer, for Ven. Ignatius Spencer (d. 1864) of England.
  186. Stefani, for Bl. Irene Stefani (d. 1930) of Italy.
  187. Stein, for St. Edith Stein (d. 1942) of Germany.
  188. Stone, for St. John Stone (d. 1539) in England.
  189. Sullivan, for Ven. John Sullivan (d. 1933) in Ireland.
  190. Sutton, for Bl. Robert Sutton (d. 1587) of England.
  191. Talbot, for Ven. Matt Talbot (d. 1925) of Ireland or Bl. John Talbot (d. 1600) of England.
  192. Tansi, for Bl. Cyprian Michael Tansi (d. 1964) of Nigeria.
  193. Taylor, for Bl. Hugh Taylor (d. 1585) of England, Francis Taylor (d. 1621) of Ireland, or Ven. Frances Margaret Taylor (d. 1900) of England.
  194. Tezza, for Bl. Luigi Tezza (d. 1923) of Italy.
  195. Thirkeld, for Bl. Richard Thirkeld (d. 1583) in England.
  196. Thompson, for Bl. James Thompson (d. 1582) of England.
  197. Thorne, for Bl. John Thorne (d. 1539) of England.
  198. Thorpe, for Bl. Robert Thorpe (d. 1591) of England.
  199. Tirry, for Bl. William Tirry (d. 1654) of Ireland.
  200. Tomasi, for St. Giuseppe Maria Tomasi (d. 1713) of Italy.
  201. Tunstall, for Bl. Thomas Tunstall (d. 1616) of England.
  202. Turner, for Bl. Anthony Turner (d. 1679) of England.
  203. Vega, for Servant of God Pablo Muñoz Vega (d. 1994) of Ecuador.
  204. Venard, for St. Jean-Théophane Vénard (d. 1861) of France.
  205. Vera, for Ven. Jacinto Vera y Durán (d. 1881) of Uruguay.
  206. Verna, for Bl. Antonia Maria Verna (d. 1838) of Italy.
  207. Vianney, for St. Jean Vianney (d. 1859) of France.
  208. Ward, for St. Margaret Ward (d. 1588) of England.
  209. Webster, for St. Augustine Webster (d. 1535) of England.
  210. Wells, for St. Swithun Wells (d. 1591) of England.
  211. Wharton, for Bl. Christopher Wharton (d. 1600) of England.
  212. Whitaker, for Bl. Thomas Whitaker (d. 1646) of England.
  213. Wilson, for Ven. Mary Jane Wilson (d. 1916) of British India.
  214. Wright, for Bl. Peter Wright (d. 1651) of England.
  215. Xavier, for St. Francis Xavier (d. 1552) of Spain.
  216. Zaccaria, for St. Antonio Maria Zaccaria (d. 1539) of Italy.
  217. Zola, for Bl. Giovanni Batista Zola (d. 1626) of Italy.

Which of the above do you like best?

And, what other saint-inspired surnames would make good baby names? I’m sure I missed a few. Let me know in the comments!

One-Hit Wonder Baby Name: Tootie

The name Tootie appeared on the SSA’s baby name list for the first and only time in 1958:

  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: 5 baby girls named Tootie [debut]
  • 1957: unlisted

What gave the usage of Tootie a boost that year?

My guess is 13-year-old Dorothea “Tootie” Stevens of Washington, D.C., whose picture ran in the newspapers in August of 1958. (I couldn’t find a non-watermarked copy, unfortunately, so this will have to do.)

tootie stevens, 1958, with letter from North Pole
Dorothea “Tootie” Stevens, 1958

Why was her picture in the papers?

Because she’d just received “a letter from the top of the world” — the North Pole. The letter came from a family friend by the name of Richard F. Dobbins, who was at that time serving as medical officer aboard the nuclear-powered submarine USS Nautilus, which had just made the very first undersea transit of the Arctic ice cap.

What do you think of the name Tootie — does it work on its own, or is it better as a nickname?

Image: 1958 Press Photo Dorothea “Tootie” Stevens

The Baby Name Caldonia

Caldonia, Louis Jordan, film poster, 1945The baby name Caldonia was on the U.S. charts for most of the first half of the 20th century, but there was a curious uptick in usage in 1945:

  • 1948: 7 baby girls named Caldonia
  • 1947: 7 baby girls named Caldonia
  • 1946: 10 baby girls named Caldonia
  • 1945: 23 baby girls named Caldonia
  • 1944: unlisted
  • 1943: 11 baby girls named Caldonia
  • 1942: 12 baby girls named Caldonia

This uptick corresponds to the release of a song that played a part in rock and roll history in two different ways.

That song was “Caldonia” (1945) by Louis Jordan, one of the most successful African-American bandleaders of his day. It’s an up-tempo blues (or “jump blues”) song about a woman named Caldonia:

Walkin’ with my baby she’s got great big feet
She’s long, lean, and lanky and ain’t had nothing to eat
But she’s my baby and I love her just the same
Crazy ’bout that woman cause Caldonia is her name

The song reached #1 on the Race Records chart (which tracked music by and for an African-American audience) and peaked at #6 on the pop chart.

Here’s video footage of Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five performing “Caldonia” in a short musical film (a “soundie”) made the same year:

The song was covered by many other artists, including Erskine Hawkins. Hawkins’ version is notable because a reviewer in Billboard described it as “rock and roll music”:

rock and roll music, caldonia, review, erskine hawkins
First use of “rock and roll music” in print? (1945)

The phrase “rock and roll” had been around for decades, but this might be the first time it was ever used in print to describe a style of music.

Jordan’s song also made a big impact on rock and roll pioneer Little Richard, who said that “Caldonia” was the first non-gospel song he ever learned. The character of Caldonia even seems to be “the mother of Long Tall Sally, Miss Molly, Miss Ann, Jenny and especially Lucille, the least cooperative and most desired of Little Richard’s musical sweethearts.”

So now let’s get back to the name. Where does Caldonia come from?

It’s hard to know where Jordan discovered it. The name had been featured in African-American music at least once before, in “Caldonia Blues” (1924) by blues singer Sippie Wallace, and it had also been in use (though not very common) in the Southern states since the mid-19th century.

My best guess is that Caldonia is based on Caledonia (kal-eh-DŌN-yah), the Roman word for the region that is now Scotland, because the words are so similar.

Do you have any other theories?

(One of the baby girls born in Scotland in 2015 was named Caledonia, btw.)

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