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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Siobhan


Posts that Mention the Name Siobhan

The First Appearance of Fiona

fiona, movie, 1940s, baby name
Fiona in the trailer for The Gay Sisters (1942)

The name Fiona — coined during the 18th century by Scottish poet James Macpherson, who based it on the Irish word fionn (“white, fair”) — is relatively common in the U.S. these days. Rank-wise, it’s been hovering around 200th place for the last few years.

But — like Siobhan, Maeve, Bronwen, and many other Celtic names — it didn’t arrive with the immigrants. Instead, it was introduced to America later on, via pop culture.

Fiona first popped up in the data in 1942, and it stuck around for several years:

  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 7 baby girls named Fiona
  • 1943: 19 baby girls named Fiona
  • 1942: 9 baby girls named Fiona [debut]
  • 1941: unlisted

What boosted it onto the charts that initial time?

The movie The Gay Sisters, which came out in August of 1942. The main characters were the three Gaylord sisters/heiresses: Fiona, Evelyn, and Susanna. Fiona, the eldest sister, was played by popular actress Barbara Stanwyck (birth name Ruby Catherine Stevens). The film didn’t do well at the box office, but it clearly had an impact on expectant parents.

The movie was based on the book of the same name by Stephen Longstreet. Longstreet was also the writer behind Stallion Road, which was similarly made into a movie and introduced audiences to a woman named Rory (traditionally a male name) later in the ’40s.

Do you like the name Fiona? Would you use it?

Sources:

  • The Gay Sisters – TCM
  • Hanks, Patrick, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

The Debut of Shevaun

We revisited the name Shevawn-with-a-W the other day, so today let’s check out another Siobhan variant, Shevaun-with-a-U, which first appeared in the data during the ’50s:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 5 baby girls named Shevaun [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

This one might have a distinct influence as well, because it popped up the same year that Life magazine — which was extremely popular in the middle of the 20th century — suggested that readers pronounce the first name of Irish actress Siobhán McKenna as if it were spelled “Shevaun”:

siobhan, shevaun, baby name, irish, 1956
LIFE suggests “Shevaun”

What do you think?

Source: “Siobhan Shows U.S. Her Joan.” Life. 10 Sept. 1956: 59.

An Update on Shevawn

The baby name Shevawn debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1955.

Here’s something I didn’t expect!

A while back I posted about the baby name Siobhan, which was kicked off (in the U.S.) by Irish stage actress Siobhán McKenna in 1956. The curious part was that, in 1955, a handful of phonetic spellings of Siobhán — Shevawn, Shevon, etc. — popped up ahead of the traditional spelling.

My initial assumption was that these had emerged naturally, as often happens with names that have tricky spellings and/or names we hear rather than see. Deirdre is a good example of this.

But one variant, Shevawn, was pretty dominant. In fact, it was the top debut name of 1955.

  • 1958: 9 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1957: 8 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1956: 24 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1955: 36 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1954: unlisted

I just figured “Shevawn” was the most-liked phonetic spelling…because I had no other explanation.

Until now!

I recently came across a blog post that recapped a September 1955 episode of the live drama series The United States Steel Hour (ABC) called “A Wind from the South.” The episode prominently featured a character named Shevawn, amazingly.

Shevawn, played by stage actress Julie Harris, was an Irishwoman who ran an inn with her brother Liam. Here’s a synopsis that ran in a Texas newspaper a few days before the episode aired:

Miss Harris, in a rare television appearance, will portray Shevawn, an imaginative and winsome colleen who, with her brother, runs a country-side inn. Longing to travel to far-away places, where she believes life is full of magic and splendor, the girl becomes hopelessly enamored of an American guest, who is struck with the girl’s delicate and unspoiled nature.

So that explains Shevawn!

But you know what? Siobhán McKenna is still the explanation, ultimately. Because screenwriter James Costigan had written the role with Siobhán McKenna in mind, and hence had given the character her name. But then the show’s producers intervened. They gave the role to the more recognizable Harris and respelled the character’s name “Shevawn” to make it easier for the American audience to connect the spelling and the pronunciation.

What are your thoughts on the name Shevawn? Do you like the simplified spelling, or do you prefer the original form of the name?

P.S. Here’s the full episode, you want to see it:

Sources:

The Baby Names Shevawn and Siobhan

siobhan mckenna, 1956, life, magazine
Siobhán McKenna on the cover of LIFE
Tara, Maeve, and many of the other Irish names used in the U.S. today weren’t popularized by Irish immigrants. Instead, they gained traction after being introduced to the public via movies, television, and other types of pop culture.

Siobhan is no different. But it’s also a special case, because Americans heard about the name before they saw it written down. The result? The Irish spelling made a splash on the U.S. baby name charts…but only after a phonetic respelling made a similar splash. In fact, the misspelled version and the correctly spelled version were consecutive top girl name debuts in the mid-1950s.

So who’s the person behind the launch of Siobhan? Irish actress Siobhán McKenna (1923-1986).

In 1955, McKenna was nominated for a Tony for her role as Miss Madrigal in the play The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold (who had written National Velvet two decades earlier). The same year, the name Shevawn debuted in the U.S. data:

  • 1960: 5 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: 9 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1957: 8 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1956: 24 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1955: 36 baby girls named Shevawn [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted

The spellings Shevon, Shevonne, Chavonne, and Chevonne also debuted in ’55.

The next year, Siobhán McKenna impressed audiences with her portrayal of Joan of Arc in the George Bernard Shaw play Saint Joan. Her popularity in this role earned her the cover of LIFE magazine in September. Next to her image was her name, Siobhan, spelled correctly (but missing the fada). Right on cue, the name Siobhan debuted in the data:

  • 1960: 90 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1959: 85 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1958: 54 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1957: 67 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1956: 58 baby girls named Siobhan [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

Once U.S. parents learned how to spell “Siobhan,” the alternative spellings became less common, though they remained in use.

Siobhan was boosted into the top 1,000 in 1979 and remained popular during the 1980s thanks to the soap opera Ryan’s Hope, which introduced a character named Siobhan in 1978.

It’s rather fitting that Siobhán McKenna was best known for playing Saint Joan, as both “Siobhán” and “Joan” were derived from the name Jeanne, which is French feminine form of John (meaning “Yahweh is gracious”).

How do you feel about the name Siobhan? If you were going to use it, how would you spell it?

Update, 3/2018: Here’s some new info on Shevawn!

Sources: Siobhán McKenna – Wikipedia, SSA
Image: © 1956 Life

Mystery Baby Name: Toshiba

I haven’t blogged about a mystery name in a while, so let’s try this one…

The baby name Toshiba debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1974 with 58 baby girls:

  • 1978: 40 baby girls named Toshiba
  • 1977: 38 baby girls named Toshiba
  • 1976: 26 baby girls named Toshiba
  • 1975: 35 baby girls named Toshiba
  • 1974: 58 baby girls named Toshiba [debut]
  • 1973: unlisted

Toshiba logoIn terms of the biggest girl name debuts of all time, Toshiba landed just outside the top 50, tied with Siobhan for 53rd.

The variants Tashiba and Tosheba also debuted in 1974, while Tasheba debuted a year earlier.

Now, Toshiba is a brand name. We all know that.

But something tells me that the company/brand didn’t have anything to do with the baby name.

The Japanese company Toshiba has been around for well over a century, it’s been exporting goods (transistors, TVs, ovens, etc.) to the U.S. since long before ’70s, and there wasn’t some big advertising push in 1973/1974.

The brand is so well-established, though, that my internet searches aren’t letting me see anything but the brand. So I can’t get past it to see what the real answer might be.

Was Toshiba a character in a ’70s TV show (like Ibe/Ebay)? Maybe a long-forgotten musician or actor?

Do you have any ideas?