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:
1944: 7 baby girls named Fiona
1943: 19 baby girls named Fiona
1942: 9 baby girls named Fiona [debut]
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.
It’s Elvis Presley’s birthday* — that means it’s time to kick off the annual Pop Culture Baby Name Game!
So how do you play the game? Simply brainstorm for baby names that could have gotten a boost in usage in 2018 thanks to the influence popular culture: movies, music, television, social media, video games, sports, politics, products, trends, etc.
Here are some names we can start with:
Araminta – movie, Crazy Rich Asians character
Astrid – movie, Crazy Rich Asians character
Avicii – music/news, the late Swedish DJ Avicii
Banks – celebrity baby (Hilary Duff)
Billion – celebrity baby (Rick Ross)
Braven – movie, Braven
Canon – celebrity baby (Stephen Curry)
Cardi – music, rapper Cardi B
Carson – sports, Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz (particularly in PA)
Carvena – TV, The Four: Battle for Stardom contestant
By now, I’ve heard all the jokes about Utah names, but what I haven’t heard is a unified theory of just why the Mormon people of Utah are so inclined to create them. I humbly offer two hypotheses.
The first is my historical-cultural theory—that the penchant for invented names among Mormons lies in its very foundation: It goes all the way back to its founder, Joseph Smith, who had to come up with the names of hundreds of figures to populate the faith’s foundational text that he wrote, the Book of Mormon.
My second theory is more sociological. […] [I]f you’re a Mormon kid in Utah, it can be hard to stand out from the pack. A differently spelled name or a new name altogether might be a reasonable way to firm up a sense of individuality from the first day. Why bring yet another Erin into the world when you can introduce an Aeryn, or better yet, an Aroarin?
When Renee Cupp became pregnant with her daughter, she toyed around with a few names. For a while, Lily was the front runner, until she and her husband had the idea to name their second child after their favorite chocolate and peanut butter candy. So, eight years ago, the couple printed the name Reese Eve Cupp on their daughter’s birth certificate.
Although the correct pronunciation of the candy is “Rees-IS,” Cupp tells PEOPLE that she has always pronounced it “Rees-EES,” which is a common inflection of the popular chocolate brand, thus the addition of her daughter’s middle initial.
[Dr. Pascaline Faure] said that a clear trend was for names ending in “a” associated with femininity, as in “Maria”, or an “o”, which is masculine, as in “Mario”. “This is turning a drug into a sort of mate. It can be a girlfriend, with women’s attributes, or a boyfriend, with male ones,” she said.
I want my son, who is almost 2, to feel the history of his ancestors as something joyful and not heavy. I want him to recognize all the improbable elements that had to align; all the miracles that kept his grandfathers alive through their difficult lives long enough to create the families that would lead to his birth. I hope that, by giving him the gift of an unburdened name, he will be able to create a life that is equally as incredible as his grandfathers’ — a life that is already miraculous just by existing.
In Melbourne, Australia, where she was born and raised in a culturally traditional Sudanese household with her mom, dad and six siblings, her peers at school couldn’t pronounce her real name, and it got to an unbearable point. […] Of course, neither name was something commonly found amongst Australian citizens. As she explains, both the words “Nyadak” and “Thot” are, in fact, Nuer, a South Sudanese language that’s native to the Nuer tribe. “Oh yeah,” she says wryly after noticing my surprised facial expression. “Many people don’t know I come from a tribe.”
Icilma was an English cosmetics company. Icilma products (creams, soaps, powders, etc.) were on the market from the late 1890s until the mid-1960s.
The founder of Icilma was an Englishman named Stephen Armitage who had “acquired permission from the government to exploit a natural mineral water spring [in] Algeria, which had been discovered in the 1890s by oil prospectors.” He apparently coined the word “Icilma” by combining two Arabic words meaning “flows” and “water.”
So why are we talking about a long-gone bath-and-beauty brand on a baby name blog?
Because I’ve found dozens of females with “Icilma” as either a first or middle name. They earliest examples I’ve seen were born in the early 1900s. The most recent one I spotted was born in England in 2006.
Interestingly, the first Icilmas were born not just in England, but in various parts of the British empire. I found a particularly high number of Icilmas in Jamaica, for instance. Here’s a record for Icilma Marjorie Veronica O’Connor, who was born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica, in August of 1925:
I also found a few living in the United States, but it looks like most/all of them were born elsewhere.
Time for more unusual female names from old films!
Here’s something I didn’t know until recently: many (most?) of the “Indian maiden” characters in early movies had names starting with W. As a result, about half of the names below refer to Native American characters specifically. I’m not sure how many of these Native American names are legit, though. If you can verify any of them, please leave a comment.
Wah-na-gi was a character played by actress Anita King in the film The Squaw Man’s Son (1917).
Wahnah was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Kidnapped by Indians (1914).
Princess Wah-tah was a character played by actress Yvonne De Carlo in the film The Deerslayer (1943).
Wah-ta-wah was a character played by actress Aline Goodwin in the film serial Leatherstocking (1924).
Wahtonka was a character played by actress Claire Du Brey in the film Dakota (1945).
Wahtunka was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Brought to Justice (1914).
Walmura was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film The Fate of a Squaw (1914).
Walpurga was a character played by actress Mrs. A. C. Marston in the short film On the Heights (1914).
Wamba was a character name in multiple films, including Wamba, a Child of the Jungle (short, 1913) and Justice of the Far North (1925).
Wambi was a character played by actress Lule Warrenton in the short film The Queen of Jungle Land (1915).
Wana was a character played by actress Alice Joyce in the short film The Indian Maid’s Sacrifice (1911).
Wanama was a character played by actress Armida in the film Jungle Goddess (1948).
Wanana was a character played by actress Marie Walcamp in the short film A Daughter of the Redskins (1914).
Wanda Hawley was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1895. Wanda McKay was an actress who appeared in films mainly in the 1940s. She was born in Oregon in 1915. Wanda was also a character name in multiple films, including The One-Way Trail (1920) and Men Are Such Fools (1938).
Wowkle was a character played by actress Anita King in the film The Girl of the Golden West (1915), by Neola May in The Girl of the Golden West (1930), and by Ynez Seabury in The Girl of the Golden West (1938). The film was based on the play The Girl of the Golden West (1905) by David Belasco, who found the name Wowkle in the writings of ethnographer Stephen Powers, who claimed the name meant “fox” among the Nisenan of California.
Wyllis Hyde was a character played by actress Pauline Starke in the film The Argument (1918).
Wynne Gibson was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in New York in 1898. Wynne was also a character played by actress Anita Louise in the film Lady Tubbs (1935).