These days, main association for the name Jolie, from the French word for “pretty,” is actress Angelina Jolie (who single-handedly turned Maleficent into a baby name a few years ago). But Angie — though she’s certainly influenced the usage of the name recently — didn’t put the name on the map in the late ’40s:
1952: 22 baby girls named Jolie
1951: 19 baby girls named Jolie
1950: 26 baby girls named Jolie
1949: 6 baby girls named Jolie
1948: 9 baby girls named Jolie
1947: 7 baby girls named Jolie [debut]
In 2006, name expert Cleveland Kent Evans noted that the name “was first brought to the attention of Americans by Jolie Gabor…the mother of actresses Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor.” I don’t think this is wrong — I think Jolie Gabor may account for some of the usage of the name during the ’50s — but I also don’t think it’s right, as Zsa Zsa wasn’t terribly famous in ’40s. (The name Zsa Zsa first appeared in the data in 1957.)
My guess on the 1947 debut of Jolie is the song “New Jolie Blonde” by country singer Red Foley. That, plus a couple of the similar songs: “New Pretty Blonde (Jole Blon)” by Aubrey “Moon” Mullican and “(Our Own) Jole Blon” by Roy Acuff. All three saw heavy play on juke boxes in 1947, according to Billboard. Red’s rendition, which featured the “Jolie” spelling in the title, was the most successful.
The song is ultimately based on the old (pre-1900) Cajun song “Jole Blon.” In 1946, Cajun fiddler Harry Choates came out with an updated version of the song that saw moderate success. Other performers then followed Harry’s lead with their own versions.
(According to one source, the title of the version by Harry Choates was initially misspelled jolie blonde, “thus forever altering the song title among Anglophone audiences,” but I haven’t seen any evidence of this misspelling, so I doubt it would have had much impact. The Choates version was only ever called “Jole Blon” in Billboard magazine, for example.)
Nellybelle was a jeep with a mind of her own. When she wasn’t driving herself around, she was being driven by Roy’s sidekick, Pat Brady. According to the New York Times, Pat made the name Nellybelle a “household word” with his catchphrase, “Whoa, Nellybelle!”
All that exposure inspired more than a few people to call their cars Nellybelle, but it didn’t have the same influence on baby names: the name-combo has never been bestowed often enough to register in the U.S. baby name data (which excludes names used fewer than 5 times per year).
That said, it has certainly seen usage as a first-middle set. Many dozens of females born in the U.S. in the 1800s and early 1900s were named “Nellie Belle” and “Nellie Bell,” according to records.
What are your thoughts on the name Nellybelle? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?
This might be my favorite photo on the entire internet.
The shot, which depicts a playful little Texas boy pretending to ride a dead catfish on someone’s front porch, was taken by photographer Neal Douglass in April of 1941.
The Portal to Texas History calls it “Mrs. Bill Wright; Boy Riding Catfish.” So I’m guessing that “Mrs. Bill Wright” was the boy’s mother. But there’s no other identifying information, so I don’t know the boy’s name, nor do I have any way of tracking it down.
So let’s turn this into a name game!
First, let’s suppose our little catfish-rider was not named “Bill” (or “William,” or “Willie,” etc.) after his father. With that rule in place, here are the questions:
What do you think Mrs. Bill Wright named her son?
What would you have named him?
Just for reference, popular names for Texas newborns in the late ’30s included:
For extra credit, what do you think the boy named his catfish? And, what would you have named his catfish? ;)