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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Thelonious

Number of Babies Named Thelonious

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Thelonious

Name Quotes for the Weekend #19

viggo mortensen quote

Viggo Mortensen, as quoted in TIME Magazine in 2005:

I met someone last night who showed me a picture of a baby, and they had named the kid Viggo. You know, Viggo is a pretty dorky name in Denmark. It’s like Oswald or something. It’s a very old Scandinavian name, at least 1,000 years old.

From an NPR review of Blue Nights, an explanation of Joan Didion’s daughter’s name:

Just after they adopted Quintana Roo (they’d seen the name on a map of Mexico, liked it, and chosen it) the writer says she acted as if she’d gotten a doll to dress up, not a real baby.

From A Critical and Analytical Dissertation on the Names of Persons (1822) by John Henry Brady:

The principal cause, however, to which the absurd appropriation of Christian names is to be imputed, is the desire so prevalent in all ranks of life, of not only aping the dress and manners, but encroaching as far as possible, in every way, on the rights and customs of their superiors. On no occasions can this be done with greater facility that [sic] in the naming of children. How else can one account for a chimney-sweeper’s wife conferring the name of Frederica upon her delicate daughter, or for the numberless Amelias and Carolines daily engaged in that elegant recreation of washing dishes?

Other very sensible, well-meaning parents, anxious to avoid one extreme, run as inconsiderately into the other, and while the ladies mentioned above are doomed to stick to their dish-washing occupation, many a Joan, Bridget, and Grizzel, may be seen lounging at ease in their coaches, figuring at a quadrille, or ogling beaux at the Opera House.

From an obituary of actress Lina Basquette (formerly Lena Baskette) in The Independent:

In 1923, she and her mother went to New York, where Lena danced for John Murray Anderson – it was he who altered her name to Basquette, and the producer Charles Dillingham who changed Lena to Lina (‘Lena is a cook’, he explained, ‘Lina is an artiste’).

From a Chicago Tribune article about Bode Miller:

The Millers had four children and let Bode and older sister Kyla help name their younger siblings. (Bode’s legal handle, to his chagrin, is Samuel Bode Miller.) This resulted in some whimsy. His younger sister is named Genesis Wren Bungo Windrushing Turtleheart Miller, and his brother, an up-and-coming snowboarder, goes by Chilly, short for Nathaniel Kinsman Ever Chelone Skan Miller.

(Thank you, Erin, for letting me know about the names in the Miller family.)

From a PBS NewsHour interview with a man named Normandy Villa, Jr.:

To understand what’s going on here, you should know two things: first, even though the family comes from Colombia, Normandy is named after one of the more important moments in American history:

NORMANDY VILLA: “The Battle of Normandy in France, in 1941 was the beginning of the liberation of Europe, and my grandfather saw that as such a powerful moment in history, that he wanted to have his family carry a name that referred to a new dawn. And so, the first born in the family received the name Normandy.”

From Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart (born Igor Steinhorn):

I have clearly spent thirty-nine years unaware that my real destiny was to go through life as a Bavarian porn star, but some further questions present themselves: If neither Gary nor Shteyngart is truly my name, then what the hell am I doing calling myself Gary Shteyngart? Is every single cell in my body a historical lie?

From a season 12 episode of The Simpsons, in which Lisa meets a boy named Thelonious:

Thelonious: My name’s Thelonious.
Lisa Simpson: As in Monk?
Thelonious: Yes. The esoteric appeal is worth the beatings.

(Found this one thanks to Abby.)

For previous quote posts, see the name quotes category.


Pannonica – Baroness of Jazz

PannonicaI’ve been listening to jazz music lately, and this reminded me that I’ve never blogged about the name Pannonica. I’ve talked about Thelonious, but not about Pannonica.

Baroness Pannonica “Nica” de Koenigswarter didn’t sing or play an instrument. She was a wealthy jazz enthusiast who befriended and supported Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and others.

Nica knew all the great New York jazzmen and helped them, whether by buying groceries, acting as an occasional ambulance service, paying overdue rent, getting musicians’ instrument out of hock or making hospital visits.

She was born Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild in late 1913, the fourth child of banker and naturalist Charles Rothschild (of the Rothschild family) and Hungarian baroness Rozsika Edle von Wertheimstein.

The story behind her second middle name isn’t quite clear.

At the beginning of this live recording of his song “Pannonica” [vid], Thelonious Monk says, “I think her father gave her that name after a butterfly that he tried to catch. I don’t think he caught the butterfly.”

Nica’s great niece Hannah Rothschild says it wasn’t a butterfly, but a rare type of moth, Eublemma pannonica.

According to The Gallery at Hermès, which exhibited some of Pannonica’s photographs in 2008, she was “named for a wild plant of eastern Europe’s Pannonia Plain, noted as a habitat of moths – which were a passion of her father’s.”

The story of Pannonica’s name may not be known, but any species called “pannonica” would indeed be endemic to the Pannonian Plain in east-central Europe. The Plain was named after the ancient Roman province Pannonia, which in turn was named after the Pannonians of Illyria.

Nica de Koenigswarter passed away in 1988, but her name lives on the titles of several jazz songs including “Pannonica” by Monk (mentioned above), “Nica’s Tempo” [vid] by Gigi Gryce, “Nica Steps Out” by Freddie Redd and “Nica’s Dream” by Horace Silver.

It also lives on in the name of a great-granddaughter, Pannonica Fabien “Nica” de Koenigswarter, born in 1987. (And this Pannonica has a younger brother fittingly named Jonah Thelonious.)

Sources:

What’s the Origin of Thelonious?

Thelonious MonkEver wonder about Thelonious Monk’s distinctive first name?

The jazz great inherited the name from his father, Thelonious Monk, Sr., who was born in North Carolina in 1889. No one knows for sure how his father came to have the name, but I’ve seen some good guesses:

  • Biographers Jacques Ponzio and Francois Postif think Thelonious comes from Thelonius, a Latinized form of the German name Tillman/Tillmann, which would had been brought to the Carolinas by German missionaries.
  • Biographer Robin D. G. Kelley suggests it was based on the name of St. Tillo, a 7th-century Benedictine monk. “In France he is called St. Theau, […] and in Germany he was referred to as Hilonius.”
  • Author Sam Stephenson brings up the possibility that it was inspired by “a renowned black minister in nearby Durham, North Carolina, Fredricum Hillonious Wilkins.”

How many baby boys have been named Thelonious since Thelonious Monk became well known? The name started popping up on the Social Security Administration’s baby name list in the 1960s:

  • 1968: 9 baby boys named Thelonious
  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: 10 baby boys named Thelonious
  • 1964: 7 baby boys named Thelonious
  • 1963: 6 baby boys named Thelonious
  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 5 baby boys named Thelonious [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

There were at least 24 more in the 1970s, 11 more in the 1980s, 36 more in the 1990s, and 88 more in the 2000s. That’s a grand total of at least 196 babies named Thelonious over the last fifty years.

Sources:

  • Fitterling, Thomas. Thelonious Monk: His Life and Music. Berkeley: Berkeley Hills Books, 1997.
  • Kelley, Robin D. G. Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. New York: Free Press, 2009.
  • Stephenson, Sam. “Thelonious Monk: Is This Home?” Oxford American 2007 Music Issue: 112-117.