More than 80 years ago, Hollywood actress Mary Astor gave her daughter a Hawaiian baby name.
Mary Astor (born Lucile Langhanke) and her husband Franklyn Thorpe bought a yacht and set sail for Hawaii in May of 1932. One month later, Astor gave birth in Honolulu.
The baby girl was named Marylyn Hauoli. Marylyn was a combination of Mary and Franklyn, and Hauoli came from the Hawaiian word hau’oli, meaning “happy, glad, gay, joyful.”
(The name Hau’oli has never been on an SSA’s baby name list, but I’ve found one other semi-famous person with the name: college football player Hau’oli Kikaha, originally from Oahu.)
Mary Astor choosing Hauoli for her daughter in 1932 reminds me of Helen Hunt choosing Makena Lei for her daughter in 2004. And both of these names make me wonder: Do you think it’s acceptable for non-Hawaiian parents to choose Hawaiian names for their children? If so, under what conditions?
Canadian academic Sacvan Bercovitch has an interesting first name. How did he get it? The story begins with his parents:
Bercovitch is the son of Alexander Bercovitch and Bryna Avrutik, Jews born in the Ukraine in the 1890s who grew up during a time of deep poverty, social upheaval, and periodic pogroms.
Alexander and Bryna, both “idealistic communists,” ended up having three children:
Circumstances took them to Moscow, where their first daughter, Sara (later Sylvia) was born; then to Ashkhabad, Turkestan, where their second daughter, Ninel (Lenin spelled backwards), was born. In 1926 they emigrated to Montreal with their two daughters, helped by Bryna’s brothers, who had preceded her. In October 1933 their son Sacvan (his name an amalgamation of Sacco and Vanzetti) was born.
Sacco and Vanzetti, of course, refers to the Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who were convicted of murder (perhaps wrongly) and sentenced to death in the 1920s.
Australia’s biggest horse race, the Melbourne Cup, has been run every year since 1861.
On November 3, 1936, a horse named Wotan (VO-tahn) — a 100-1 underdog from New Zealand — ran it and won. His surprise victory was one of the biggest upsets in the race’s history.
That same day, a baby boy was born at Crown Street Women’s Hospital in Sydney. The baby’s father, Gregory Swain, announced that his son’s name would be Gregory Wotan Swain.
“I had no money on the winner. He was my Cup–a fine boy, 7 1/2 lb., when born. Our first,” Swain explained.
He expressed surprise to know that Wotan was also one of the names given to the god of battle by the Anglo-Saxons.
The name Wotan is a variant of Woden, which was indeed the name of a major Anglo-Saxon/Germanic deity. Woden and his Norse counterpart, Odin, can trace their names back to a reconstructed proto-Germanic word meaning something along the lines of “raging, mad, inspired.”
Source: “Baby Named After Cup Winner.” Courier-Mail [Brisbane, Australia] 10 Nov. 1936: 16.
Related name story: A baby girl named Jacqueline, born a few years ago in Ireland, was also named after a racehorse. (Her dad was the jockey.)
That headline might look like a joke, but it isn’t!
On October 11, 1933, a baby boy was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Elder.
He was born while the family was listening to a radio broadcast featuring Wilfred Carter, “the yodeling cowboy,” and so he was named Wilfred Charles Elder.
Mrs. Elder wrote a letter to Mr. Carter to let him know about her son’s name. Here’s an excerpt:
We listen to your program every night and we surely do enjoy them and wish they were longer. On October 11, while all the rest in the house were listening to your delightful singing I gave birth to a lovely nine-pound boy and it was suggested then that we should name him after you and so we did and I only hope that when he grows up he will be as talented as you.
What does the name Wilfred mean?
It’s the modern version of the Old English name Wilfrith (or Wilfrið) which is made up of the elements wil, “will” or “desire,” and frið, “peace.”
Other Anglo-Saxon names with that “frith” ending include Alfrith, Ingifrith, Ketilfrith and Osfrith. (These are male and female names listed in the Domesday book.)
In the U.S., the baby name Wilfred was most popular in the 1910s and 1920s. Last year, just 23 baby boys were named Wilfred.
Source: “Baby Named After Radio Performer.” Star-Phoenix 11 Jan. 1934: 3.
In the spring and summer of 1932, tens of thousands of unemployed World War I veterans and their families set up camp in Washington, DC.
Each carried a military service certificate. These certificates weren’t redeemable until 1945, but the Great Depression was underway, and the group — which called itself the Bonus Expeditionary Force — was demanding that the government redeem the certificates immediately, in cash.
Toward the end of July, Mayor Edward McCloskey of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, visited the B.E.F. and (perhaps inadvertently) invited the group to Johnstown in the event of an eviction. So, when President Hoover kicked the B.E.F. out of Washington a week later, Johnstown is where everyone headed, to the chagrin of Johnstown residents.
The first B.E.F. baby born at the new Johnstown location arrived on July 31. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Herendeen of Jackson, Michigan, and was named Edwarda in honor of Edward McCloskey.
(The bonus army didn’t stay long in Johnstown, though. After a few days of negotiation, Eddie McCloskey was able to convince the group to disband. The last of the army left on August 7.)
On August 7, 1939, a 7-pound baby girl was born in a maternity hospital in the Tondo slum district of Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
Everything about the baby was normal except for one thing: she was born with her heart outside of her body.
As doctors debated what to do, they protected her tiny heart with a stemless cocktail glass.
She slept and ate normally, though her crib was lined with hot water bottles and she was fed with an eye-dropper. Whenever she cried, her exposed heart would beat faster.
Her mother, Esperanza Rafael, was told about her daughter’s condition several days after the birth. By then, a Catholic priest had already baptized her with the name María Corazón, Spanish for “Mary Heart.” (Typically the name María Corazón refers to the Virgin Mary, but in this case, of course, it also referred to the baby’s dire medical condition.)
Esperanza attributed her daughter’s malformation to her worship of a picture of the Sacred Heart, which features the exposed heart of Jesus Christ.
Visitors flocked to see María Corazón. One of these visitors was Aurora Quezón, wife of Philippine president Manuel Quezón. Another was Manila Mayor Juan Posadas, who “told doctors to spare no efforts to save the child … he would pay all expenses.”
María Corazón’s father, a 31-year-old mining company clerk and law student, turned down various commercial offers, including “a $10,000 offer by a Manila sportsman to take the baby to the New York World’s Fair by clipper plane.”
The doctors refused to risk María’s life by performing an operation, but they did bring in a movie camera to record the baby and her exposed heart.
The resultant film was to be donated to medical science, said Dr. Guillermo del Castillo, who delivered Maria, for study in the hope that some technique could be devised to correct such future abnormalities should it fail to aid its donor.
After living a total of 162 hours and 25 minutes, baby María Corazón died of bronchial pneumonia on August 14.
“Baby Born in Philippines With Heart Outside Body.” Milwaukee Journal 8 Aug. 1939: 6.
“Credits Worship for Baby With Heart Outside Body.” New London Evening Day 9 Aug. 1939: 9.