The Baby Name “Burjoice”

I found the following story in a 106-year-old newspaper article about Southern names. No doubt many of the names/stories in the piece were made-up (urban legends, perhaps) but this one had such weirdly specific details that I’m hoping it was true.

Around in the next cove was the boy, Burjoice Robbins, whose mother derived even greater satisfaction from his curiously un-Christian Christian name. The Cumberland Presbyterian preacher who christened the child insisted on calling him “Rejoice,” and that is the way it is written in the church record. The explanation is simple in the extreme. That summer a learned man ran away from the city to the seclusion of the mountains while he was reading proof on a profound work that was being printed in Chattanooga. Every few days a youth would come out from the printing office with a bunch of galley proofs and there was always a discussion of the type. The learned man wanted some paragraphs set up in small pica, for emphasis, and certain foot notes set up in nonpareil, but the body of the text was to be in bourgeois, which the printer’s helper invariably pronounced “burjoice.” Whenever the writer said anything about “bourzhwa” the youth repeated it after him, making the correction in pronunciation, “burjoice.” The mother of the little boy was convinced that this wonderful thing, which was to play such an important part in a learned book, would make the grandest name her son could possibly have. Even when the preacher said it was heathen she did not yield, writing it in the family bible, in defiance of the church record.

The words “pica,” “nonpareil,” and “bourgeois” refer to letter sizes that predate the point system we use today (e.g., 12-point Times New Roman, 10-point Arial).

And here’s a twist: In the world of printing, the word “bourgeois” was indeed pronounced burjoice. So the printer’s helper was correct in making his correction. :)

Source: “Peculiar Names Found in the Southern States.” San Francisco Call 28 Sep. 1912: 2.

No One Wanted to Name These Triplets

On March 8, 1911, George and Lida Duncan of Corydon, Kentucky, welcomed triplets — one boy, two girls. They asked several public figures of the day to name the babies:

  • William Howard Taft, who was serving as U.S. president at the time, “congratulated the parents and wished “a long, prosperous and happy life” for the children, but declined to name them.”
  • Theodore Roosevelt, who was president before Taft, “tendered “hearty congratulations” to both parents, particularly to Mrs. Duncan,” but declined as well.
  • Philanthropists Helen Gould and Olivia Sage “also declined to name the children, but sent expressions of appreciation to the parents.”

So George and Lida took it upon themselves to select names for the babies. They settled on Ralph, Ruth and Ruby.

If they had asked you, though, what names would you have suggested for the triplets?

Source: “All Decline to Name Children.” Spokesman-Review 27 Apr. 1911: 12.

Train Baby Named ‘Santa Fe’

santa fe, baby, train, baby name

A short newspaper item from early 1908:

TOPEKA. Kas., Jan. 4. — A little girl was born to Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Harvey today on an Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe train as the latter was pulling into Topeka. The parents of the little girl are prosperous residents of Chicago and were en route from San Francisco to that city. They named the child “Santa Fe.”

I couldn’t find any record of this Santa Fe Harvey, but I did found another Santa Fe Harvey — though it was her married name. She was born in New York in 1889.

Related name: Seeva Fair. Baby Seeva Fair, born four decades after baby Santa Fe, had initials that referenced the Santa Fe Railroad.

Source: “Child Born on Train.” Los Angeles Herald 5 Jan. 1908: 2.

Baby Isla, Named after Coney Island

Isla Tudor, 1915In the late 1800s and early 1900s, English showman and “Animal King” Frank C. Bostock brought his performing menagerie of lions, jaguars, elephants, camels, and other animals to various cities in Great Britain and America.

Given that Bostock was famous for hosting weddings (for humans) inside the lion cage, the following story isn’t too surprising:

On August 23, 1903, Bostock’s English-born, Brooklyn-based business manager, Harry E. Tudor, had a baby girl. At three weeks old, the newborn was taken to an afternoon Bostock show on Coney Island, at the Sea Beach Palace.

Bostock’s lion tamer, Captain Jack Bonavita, took the newborn inside the lion cage, which contained 27 lions at the time. “[H]e commanded them to stand on their hind legs, which they did, supporting themselves against the bars of the cage.”

He then conducted some sort of naming ceremony in front of several thousand spectators, choosing the name Isla for the baby because, he said, it paid tribute to Coney Island. The baby was then passed out of the cage “and the regular exhibition took place.”

According to New York City birth records, the baby’s name was officially Isabel, same as her mother. Regardless, she was always called Isla by the newspapers.

And why was she in the newspapers? Because she led a fascinating (if short) life.

During her childhood, Isla crossed the Atlantic dozens of times “and visited Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.” She spent her eighth birthday sailing to Europe aboard the RMS Olympic, and her 12th picnicking with a lion named Baltimore at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

When her father took up flying, she took it up as well. She participated in aviation exhibitions in both England and America, eventually piloting a plane herself. Aerial Age Weekly said Isla was “known on two continents as the youngest girl aviator.”

isla tudor, air lady
Isla Tudor, “Little Air Lady” (1914)

Sadly, Isla Tudor died of appendicitis in 1916, one month after her 13th birthday. News of her death was reported in the New York Times, Billboard magazine, and many other publications. (In the New York City death records she’s listed as Isla, not Isabel; her name may have been legally changed at some point.)

Sources:

Baby Named Kelowna After Canadian Town

Kelowna, 1920
Early Kelowna
So far we’ve talked about two babies named for newly formed towns — Salida and Nira — and today we have one more: Kelowna.

The Canadian town of Kelowna in British Columbia, Canada, was settled in the mid-1800s and incorporated in 1905. The name of the town means “grizzly bear” in the Okanagan language.

For several decades during the early 1900s, the residents of Kelowna’s Chinatown made up as much as 15% of the total population. But the birth rate in Chinatown was quite low, as most of the residents were men whose families remained in China due to Canada’s discriminatory Chinese head tax.

Chinatown’s first baby didn’t arrive until early 1906. Her name? Kelowna, after her Canadian birthplace.

Sources: Okanagan history not sexy, but it is ours, UBC O 2013 GREEN EDUC 417 “Kelowna’s Chinatown” (video)

P.S. Here’s a related post from the archive: Pay Tribute to a Place Without Using a Place Name.