How popular is the baby name Val in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Val and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Val.
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The movie Willow was released in May of 1988 — exactly 30 years ago this month. It didn’t do a thing for the baby name Willow, which hadn’t become trendy yet, but it did affect a couple of other character names: Sorsha and Elora.
The character Sorsha (played by Joanne Whalley) was the red-haired princess/soldier who was the daughter of the evil queen. She was also the love interest of Madmartigan (played by Val Kilmer). She started out as a bad guy, but changed sides mid-movie and was a good guy by the end.
The baby name Sorsha debuted in the U.S. data right on cue in 1989:
Usage of Sorsha
Usage of Sorcha
5 baby girls
5 baby girls
5 baby girls
5 baby girls
6 baby girls
5 baby girls [debut]
5 baby girls [debut]
Curiously, parents opted for the spelling Sorcha as often as they opted for Sorsha. Why?
I couldn’t find any typos in contemporary sources — newspapers all used the more logical “Sorsha” — so my best guess is the baby name books.
Expectant parents wanting to know the definition of Sorsha would have instead encountered the Irish name Sorcha in those books. They would have learned the meaning (“bright”), but probably not the pronunciation, which is unfortunate because Sorcha isn’t pronounced SOR-sha. It’s more like SUR-kha. (Irish names that sound more like Sorsha include Saoirse, SEER-sha, or even the male name Seoirse, SHOR-sha.)
The character Elora Danan was the adorable read-haired baby at the center of the action. Her birthmark identified her as the one destined to depose Queen Bavmorda, so of course the queen wanted her found and destroyed. It was Willow’s job to deliver Elora Danan safely to those who would raise her.
The baby was given a good amount of screen time. Film critic Roger Ebert even complained about it: “One of the crucial problems…is that we see so much of this baby.”
As a result, the baby name Elora re-emerged in the data in 1988 and saw a distinct jump in usage in 1989/1990. The rise of Alora was even greater.
Usage of Elora
Usage of Alora
34 baby girls
72 baby girls
63 baby girls
84 baby girls
91 baby girls
108 baby girls
87 baby girls
103 baby girls
30 baby girls
11 baby girls
Many similar-sounding names (like Ellora) also got a boost, and several (like Alaura and Allora) appeared for the first time in the data in the late ’80s. And I spotted even more spelling variants when I did records searches.
Speaking of the records…they revealed (unsurprisingly?) that many of the babies with these various Elora-like first names also had Danan-like middles. “Danan” was the most common spelling, but another I saw repeatedly was “Dannon” — possibly influenced by the yogurt brand being advertised on TV during those years.
…What are your thoughts on the baby names Sorsha and Elora? Which one would you be more likely to use for a baby girl?
Valeska Suratt was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Indiana in 1882. Valeska was also a character name in multiple films, including For a Woman’s Honor (1919) and Broadway Scandals (1929).
Valli Valli was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Germany in 1882. Her birth name was Valli Knust. Alida Valli, often credited simply as Valli, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 2000s. She was born in Italy (now Croatia) in 1921. Valli was also a character played by actress Margaret Livingston in the film What a Widow! (1930).
Vedah Bertram was an actress who appeared in films in the early 1910s. She was born in Massachusetts in 1891. Her birth name was Adele Buck.
Vedah, who died of appendicitis at the age of 20 in 1912, “became the first noted film player to be mourned by the movie-going public.” According to the San Francisco Call, her East Coast family had not been aware of her film career. “Hoping to keep her actions from her friends and relatives, she assumed the name under which she has been acting.”
Vee Newell was a character played by actress Olive Borden in the film Hello Sister (1930).
Velma Whitman was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Ohio in 1885. Velma was also a character name in multiple films, including The Greatest Menace (1923) and The Lone Wolf’s Daughter (1929).
Vermuda was a character played by actress Martha Sleeper in the short film Sure-Mike! (1925).
Verna Mersereau was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in 1894. Verna was also a character name in multiple films, including His Temporary Wife (1920) and Here Comes Carter (1936).
Vesta Tilley was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1910s. She was born in England in 1864. Her birth name was Matilda Alice Powles. Vesta was also a character name in multiple films, including The House in Suburbia (short, 1913) and The Duke of Chimney Butte (1921).
Vilma Banky was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in Austria-Hungary (now Hungary) in 1898. Vilma was also a character name in multiple films, including Federal Agent (1936) and Meet the Boy Friend (1937).
A few weeks ago, The Stir posted a list of 20 pairs of baby names for girl-boy twins.
The problem with their list? Each matchy-matchy name-pair started with the same first letter.
Yes, most parents gravitate toward patterns when it comes to naming twins. This has been confirmed by at least one study and is easy to see when you peruse the (now discontinued) lists of popular twin names.
So I thought I’d improve upon their list by separating the pairings and giving each of the 40 names a new, non-matchy partner — different first letter, different ending, different number of syllables.
Hazel & Hugo
Emma & Evan
Madison & Mason
Taylor & Tyler
Vivienne & Val
Ava & Alexander
Chloe & Caleb
Sophia & Samuel
Eva & Ethan
Penelope & Pax
Savannah & Sebastian
Lily & Luke
Dylan & Dean
Naomi & Noah
Imogen & Isaac
Juliette & James
Christina & Christian
Grace & Gavin
Avery & Aiden
Claire & Clive
Hazel & Benjamin
Emma & Charles
Madison & Liam
Taylor & Grant
Vivienne & Phillip
Ava & Carl
Chloe & Gabriel
Sophia & Owen
Eva & Jack
Penelope & Duncan
Savannah & Zane
Lily & Cash
Dylan & Matthias
Naomi & Joseph
Imogen & Grey
Juliette & Simon
Christina & Thomas
Grace & Dominic
Avery & Beau
Claire & Julian
Hugo & Adelaide
Evan & Sabrina
Mason & Aria
Tyler & Addison
Val & Edie
Alexander & Daphne
Caleb & Lydia
Samuel & Hannah
Ethan & Amelia
Pax & Kira
Sebastian & Gemma
Luke & Maya
Dean & Harper
Noah & Abigail
Isaac & Johanna
James & Tabitha
Christian & Veronica
Gavin & Bree
Aiden & Katrina
Clive & Odette
Not only are the pairs in the middle and on the right smarter choices in terms of child development, but they’re also less likely to cause embarrassment and/or confusion. Unlike, say, Christina and Christian.
What are your favorite non-matchy baby names for girl-boy twins?
P.S. Hate to nit-pick, but…the Stir post also included several bogus definitions. Caleb means “devotion to God”? Nope, Caleb means dog.
Q: Do a lot of people register their own names with you? [Full disclosure: I did.]
A: That’s a phenomena that’s starting to actually grow, but I would say it’s still a minority. What I would say is we’ve noticed a trend of baby names. Parents will purchase the dot-com name for their baby. We have been aware of some instances where somebody didn’t name their child a particular name because the dot-com wasn’t available.
My parents couldn’t have known that my peers of color would tease me and say, “That’s such a white girl name.” My parents couldn’t know that I would be approached by people of color, after we corresponded electronically, and be told, “I thought you were white.”
Think about the kid and not yourself. Are you giving this kid a one-of-a-kind name because you’re fishing for cheap compliments? Do you want friends and family to be dazzled by your creativity? That’s probably what’s going on here, even if you can’t admit it. A name shouldn’t make a person. A person should make a name for himself. He has to go and earn it by fighting bears and seducing the wives of dictators. On his own. Without your help. So before you fill out that birth-certificate application, think hard about the person who’s gonna be carrying around this name for life. Put yourself in the kid’s shoes, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll have the balls not to name her Brixie.
KJR: Your names are Warsan Shire. What do your names mean? Who gave you these names? Back on February 25, 2011, you wrote “the birth name”. In this piece you wrote, “give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue” and “my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.” Can you discuss these two lines?
WS: Warsan means “good news” and Shire means “to gather in one place”. My parents named me after my father’s mother, my grandmother. Growing up, I absolutely wanted a name that was easier to pronounce, more common, prettier. But then I grew up and understood the power of a name, the beauty that comes in understanding how your name has affected who you are. My name is indigenous to my country, it is not easy to pronounce, it takes effort to say correctly and I am absolutely in love with the sound of it and its meaning. Also, it’s not the kind of name you baby, slip into sweet talk mid sentence, late night phone conversation, whisper into the receiver kind of name, so, of that I am glad.
I have a Shiba Inu named Rain, which everyone thinks is a reference to actual precipitation. However, the fact is that I named her after Reynard, but didn’t want to spell the shortened version of her name as “Reyn” because then I would feel like a pretentious douchebag.
When I was a teenager, my father and I were out walking in the garden, and he pointed out a rose bush he had just planted underneath my bedroom window. He told me that this was my rose bush, a literal “rose of Sharon.”
He then proceeded to tell me that when I was born, he had wanted to name me Rose of Sharon after the character in the John Steinbeck novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” My father was born in 1918, in Ada, Okla., and, I think he must have seen a lot of his own family’s struggles in that book. It meant a lot to him. However, my mother wouldn’t hear of it, and I was eventually named just Sharon.
-Sharon Virginia Starns, 64, Hollister
I was born during the Great Depression. In those hardscrabble days, men like my dad, a college graduate, worked wherever they could find a job. His was digging ditches for the WPA. Needless to say, he was very tired after a day’s work.
In the meantime, Hollywood was doing its part to lift people’s spirits. The movies, according to my mother, changed every day in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Mom cajoled and cried and convinced Dad that they needed to go to the movies to keep up their (her) spirits.
At that time, there were two movie stars named Constance: Constance Moore and Constance Bennett. I was named after them. In those days, most people were named for relatives, usually wealthy ones. So my middle name is Louise, which was my paternal grandmother’s middle name as well. It was that grandmother who took me to church to be baptized as Agnes Louise Mooney (her name). No Hollywood movie star’s name for her granddaughter.
One teacher who had worked in Logan for more than 20 years said she had seen names become more bizarre over the years.
“It’s like a competition as to who can come up with the most unique, bizarre name,” she said.
“We don’t see John Smith or Mark Brown anymore – those names are long gone.”
The teacher said while many children in Year 1 often had difficulty learning to spell their own name, no one batted an eyelid during roll call.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of taking a deep breath and trying not to laugh.
“These children do have to grow up to be adults and most of the ones with unusual names will have to spell them out for the rest of their lives.”
Names of schoolkids in the Logan City area include Alareal, Australasia, Bravado, De ja Vu, Gorgeous, Heritage, Jezzer, Kalaize, Khaileb, L-Car (pronounced “Ledashcar”), Narvasha, Psalmz, Sambo, Shizia, Styles, Taylay and Twinkle.
Widely attributed to comedian Bill Cosby (perhaps from his 1986 book Fatherhood):
Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell, the name will carry.
[I’m trying to use images more often so that I can pin them to the NBN Pinterest page. If you’re on Pinterest, let me know!]