Baby Named Etruria for Ocean Liner

Ocean liner Etruria, Cunard

That recent post about Altruria reminded me of a similar-sounding name: Etruria.

In early January, 1907, the Cunard ocean liner RMS Etruria encountered rough seas while crossing the Atlantic. Two of the crewmembers were killed, several others were injured, and passengers were forced to wait out the storm below deck.

During that time, a baby girl was born in steerage to Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Goldstein. Her name? Etruria Rachel Goldstein.

And records reveal that the ship had at least one other namesake: Thomas Etruria Walter, born at sea aboard the Etruria in November of 1887.

The ship was in service from 1885 to 1908. It was named after the ancient civilization that lived in what is today central Italy. The earliest inhabitants of Etruria (that we know of) spoke Etruscan — the presumed origin of a handful of modern baby names including Anthony/Antonio, Camille/Camilla, Horatio, Ignatius, Lavinia, Minerva, and Sergey/Sergio.

Source: “Seaman Killed as Waves Swept Decks of Ocean Liner.” Daily True American [Trenton, NJ] 7 Jan. 1907: 1.


Baby with “Unusual Fortitude” Gets Name Changed

Barbara McClintock in 1947Maize cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock was born on June 16, 1902, in Hartford, Connecticut.

She discovered transposons or “jumping genes” in the 1940s. For this discovery of mobile genetic elements, she won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1983, becoming the very first woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in that category.

She wasn’t born a “Barbara,” though. Her birth name was Eleanor.

Her parents changed her name because they thought “Eleanor” wasn’t a good fit to her personality:

By McClintock’s own account, her “capacity to be alone” began in the cradle: “My mother used to put a pillow on the floor and give me one toy and just leave me there. She said I didn’t cry, didn’t call for anything.” Her temperament, she says, led her parents to change her name when she was only four months old. Instead of Eleanor, a name they had originally chosen as especially feminine and delicate, they soon decided that “Barbara” would be more appropriate for a girl with such unusual fortitude. It sounded to them more masculine.

Barbara, the third of four children, had siblings named Marjorie, Mignon, and Malcolm.

Sources:

Image: Smithsonian Institution Archives

Baby Born on Ship, But Not Named for It

Back when ocean liners were the main mode of long distance travel, it was common for babies born at sea to be named after the ship they were born on (e.g., Cleveland, Martello, Numidian).

So it was notable when a baby was born on a ship and not named for that ship.

Case in point, the first baby born aboard the RMS Carmania:

The first baby to be born on board the new Cunard turbine liner Carmania came into the world in midocean last Wednesday. The baby is a boy, the son of Russian parents, who were among the 1,001 steerage passengers arriving here on the Carmania yesterday. The saloon passengers made up a purse of $60 and presented it to the parents. Strange to say, the boy was not christened Carmania. His parents decided that when he grew up he might object.

According to the manifest for that trip, the baby was named Gerschon. (His father’s first and middle names were Abram Gerschon.)

The Biblical name Gerschon/Gershon is a variant of another Biblical name, Gershom, which is thought to mean “[a person in] exile” in Hebrew.

Sources:

  • First Carmania Baby.” New York Times 5 Mar. 1906.
  • Hanks, Patrick, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Myrna Loy, Named for a Whistle Stop

Myrna Loy

Myrna Loy, popular film actress of the 1930s and 1940s, was born Myrna Adele Williams in Montana in 1905. She tells the story of how her father came up with the name Myrna in her 1987 autobiography:

One of my father’s duties was taking the cattle to market in Chicago, traveling in stock cars, sleeping in the caboose. I was on the way in 1905 when he happened to stop near Broken Bow, Nebraska, on the Burlington Railroad. It wasn’t a proper station, really, just a whistle-stop where you got water or fuel for the coal-burning engines. Sometimes they had classical names left by itinerant scholars, and this one was called “Myrna.” The expectant father decided then and there, if the child was a girl, that would be her name.

He had to fight for it, though:

When I was born, on August 2nd, there were great battles between him and my mother and grandmother. The ladies wanted Annabel, a composite of my grandmothers’ names, but for once my father held out against the strong women of the family. He gained considerable leverage from the appearance of my mother on the cover of Field and Stream. During his absence, while nearly seven months pregnant with me, she had become the first woman to pack through the highest point of the Tetons in the Southern Rockies. My father supposedly blew his stack when he saw it.

So they named me Myrna Adele Williams, because my father liked the sound of it. The Welsh in him probably thought Myrna was a pretty name. All Welshmen are like that, you know, they have a certain amount of poetry in them.

(Myrna’s mom sounds awesome, doesn’t she? I did my best to find that Field and Stream cover online, but no luck.)

So where does the name Myrna come from? Like Murna and Morna, it’s an Anglicized form of the Irish name Muirne [pron. MUR-nah]. Looks like you can define Muirne two different ways:

  • The mother of legendary Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn McCool) was named Muirenn/Muireann, but is often called Muirne or Murna in English. Most sources agree that Muirenn/Muireann comes from the Gaelic words muir, meaning “sea,” and fionn, meaning “white, fair.”
  • Muirne also coincides with the (perhaps archaic?) Gaelic word mùirn/mùirne. Old dictionaries define the word various ways: “cheerfulness, joy”; “delicateness, tenderness”; “natural affection, love, regard”; “respect.”

Do you like the name Myrna?

Source: Kotsilibas-Davis, James, and Myrna Loy. Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming. New York: Knopf, 1987.

The Baby Named Laxative

the baby named laxativeHere’s a contender for worst baby name of all time: Laxative.

Is it legit? Yes, amazingly.

What’s the story?

On October 3, 1903, a baby boy was born to Taylor and Lizzie Crim of Lubbock, Texas.

When the baby was a couple of years old, he became seriously ill. His parents tried all the remedies they knew of. Nothing worked.

In an effort to save his son’s life, Taylor Crim trekked from his farm in the countryside to the nearest general store.

After Taylor explained his plight to the storekeeper, a traveling salesman who’d overheard the conversation mentioned that he sold a line of drugs that might help.

So Taylor Crim brought the salesman back to his farm. The salesman stayed the night, periodically giving the baby doses of Bromo Quinine.

(Bromo Quinine tablets, made by the Paris Medicine Company, were marketed as “the world’s first cold tablets” in the late 1800s and early 1900s.)

The baby seemed to get better; he was able to sleep.

Before leaving the next day, the salesman gave the Crims his Bromo Quinine and told them how to use it.

The baby’s health continued to improve. Eventually, he made a full recovery.

A grateful Lizzie decided to name her baby “Laxative Bromo Quinine Crim” after the medicine that (she believed) saved his life.

She wrote to the Paris Medicine Company, and the company was so impressed with her story that they added her letter and a photo of Bromo (as he came to be known) to their packaging. They also said they’d pay Bromo’s college tuition and hire him as an employee.

But Bromo didn’t end up going to college or working for the Paris Medicine Company. Instead he went into the grocery business. He married a woman named Ethel and had several children.

Sadly, though, he didn’t live long. Laxative Bromo Quinine Crim passed away in 1928 while still in his mid-20s.

What are your thoughts on the name Laxative?

Sources:

  • Ensor, Dennis Kelso. Texas Pioneer Chronicles: The Life And Times Of The Ensor, Kelso & Crim Families Since 1856. Self-published. Charleston: CreateSpace, 2009.
  • McAlavy, Don. “Some baby names don’t come from books.” Clovis News Journal 17 Nov. 2006.

Other bizarre-but-real names from Texas: Quarantine, Badlands, CerroGordo, Annexation, Luna Eclipse, Seawillow, Country Cowboy, Hugh Hefner, Vernal Equinox.

Unique Baby Name – Alfred Zola Labori Dreyfus

Here’s an interesting baby name I discovered not long ago: Alfred Zola Labori Dreyfus Hultgren. He was born on January 25, 1900, in Sweden.

Where do his four given names come from?

Alfred Dreyfus, Emile Zola, and Fernand Labori — all involved in the Dreyfus Affair.

[T]he Dreyfus Affair tore France apart, pitting Dreyfusards—committed to restoring freedom and honor to an innocent man convicted of a crime committed by another—against nationalists, anti-Semites, and militarists who preferred having an innocent man rot to exposing the crimes committed by ministers of war and the army’s top brass in order to secure Dreyfus’s conviction.

Alfred Dreyfus, a French army captain of Jewish descent, was unjustly convicted of treason in late 1894. He spent nearly five years at a penal colony on Devil’s Island before getting another trial in 1899. He wasn’t exonerated until 1906.

French writer Emile Zola accused the French government of anti-Semitism (among other things) in regards to Dreyfus’s case. He was found guilty of libel in February, 1898, so he fled to England to avoid imprisonment. Zola didn’t return to France until June, 1899.

Fernand Labori, a French attorney, represented Dreyfus at the second trial. He survived an assassination attempt (he was shot in the back) during this time.

Source: Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters (quotation from book description)

Italian Name Secondino Slang for “Jailer”

Ignazio Silone (1900-1978) was an Italian author and politician.

His real name wasn’t Ignazio Silone, though. He was born Secondino Tranquilli.

How did he get the name Secondino?

Silone’s father, presenting himself at the town hall a day after his son’s birth, wished to enter the patriotic names of Mameli or Cairoli as Silone’s given name but the mayor objected: They were not recognized Christian names. Exasperated, Paolo Tranquilli replied that they should give the infant the acceptable name of the mayor, Severino, but the town secretary, present in his official capacity, offered his own, Secondino, and so Silone was burdened with a name that roughly translates in the local dialect as “jailer.”

The name could also refer to one of several Catholic saints, or simply be used for second-born children.

Source: Pugliese, Stanislao G. Bitter spring: a life of Ignazio Silone. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.