I want to draw your attention to two of these contestants, Safira Afzaal and Yarden Levinson, because the rare names Safira and Yarden both debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1984 specifically:
18 baby girls
6 baby girls
(Safira may be based on the Islamic name Safeerah, meaning “messenger”; Yarden, the Hebrew name of the Jordan River, is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “descend” or “flow down.”)
Here’s how these two contestants looked during the introductions…
Over the course of the two-hour program, the field of contestants was reduced three times: from 21 to 10 (by a panel of judges), from 10 to 3 (again by the judges), and finally from 3 to 1 (by popular vote).
Both Safira and Yarden survived the first cut. The second portion of the show featured the ten remaining women modeling in swimsuits, modeling in evening gowns, and, rather unusually, doing aerobic exercise. (How ’80s is that?)
Here’s Safira doing aerobics:
And here’s Yarden:
Before the three finalists were announced, David Hasselhoff explained that each of the three would be assigned a specific “1-900” phone number.
To cast a vote for your favorite girl, you simply dial her phone number. It’s that easy. Your vote will automatically be registered in the phone company’s computer in Kansas City, Missouri, and there’ll be a telephone charge of 50 cents. The total number of calls received at the end of the ten-minute period by the phone company’s computer in Kansas City will be transmitted to us, five thousand miles away, in Hawaii, and we will know our winner.
The three finalists? Debi, Jaqueline, and Yarden. (Not Safira, sadly.)
Here’s Yarden, right after being named a finalist:
During the next ten minutes, viewers saw (among other things) clips of the finalists talking about themselves. Yarden mentioned that, in Israel, every girl goes into the military and “learns how to fight,” and that she “served in a rescue unit in the Air Force.” She also said:
I come to the competition and they look at me and they say, ‘You’re Israeli? You’re blonde, I mean, how can that be?’
Alas, Yarden finished in third place with just 17.48% of the vote.
The winner was Debi Brett, the Brit, with 53.46% of the vote. (She received over $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a 30-day round-the-world trip, a full-length mink coat, a grand piano, a diamond ring, a Dodge 600 convertible, and a Ricoh 35mm camera.)
So, neither Safira nor Yarden won the pageant. But their names live on the U.S. baby name data, which is arguably far cooler. :)
I’m not sure what became of Yarden after the pageant, but I can tell you a bit about Safira (whose last name is actually spelled Afzal). She was born in Pakistan, raised in England, and went on to earn a law degree and become a barrister.
(Other post-pageant careers: Debi became photographer; Antonia became a model/TV personality; Deborah won Miss Universe 1985 and became an actress/TV personality; “Jaqueline” (actually spelled Jacqueline) became a model/TV personality; and “Julie” (Julia) became an actress — in fact, she played the female lead in the second Rambo movie.)
So what are your thoughts on the names Safira and Yarden? Which one would you be more likely to use for a baby girl?
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
Looking for an under-the-radar girl name with a retro feel?
A few years ago I combed though a bunch of IMDb pages looking for interesting female names associated with old films (1910s-1940s).
Most of the names I spotted — names like Mabel, Maisie, Hazel, Hattie, Elsie, Selma, Bessie, and Betty — were ones I expected to see. But I did manage to collect thousands of rarities, many of which have never appeared in the SSA data before.
Want to check out all these unusual names? I thought so! To make things interesting I’ll post the Z-names first and go backwards, letter by letter.
Zabette de Chavalons was a character played by actress Bebe Daniels in the film Volcano! (1926).
Zabie Elliot was a character played by actress Mary Alden in the film The Broken Butterfly (1919).
Zada L’Etoile was a character played by actress Sylvia Breamer in the Cecil B. DeMille-directed film We Can’t Have Everything (1918).
Zena Dare was an actress who appeared in films during the 1920s and 1930s. She was born in England in 1887. Zena Keefe was an actress who appeared in films during the 1910s and 1920s. She was born in California in 1898. Zena was also a character name in multiple films, including The Code of Honor (short, 1916) and The New York Peacock (1917).
Here are some oddball baby names I found while scanning the SSA’s baby name lists. They look like creative combinations of other names. (My guesses as to what those “other names” might be are in parentheses.)