Mystery Monday: Nydra

Here’s a mystery baby name for you: Nydra. It was a one-hit wonder in the SSA data in 1981, registering with 14 baby girls. Fourteen wasn’t quite high enough to boost Nydra onto the list of most popular one-hit wonder girl names, but it’s an impressive showing nonetheless.

  • 1983: unlisted
  • 1982: unlisted
  • 1981: 14 baby girls named Nydra [debut]
  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: unlisted

My only guess so far has to do with an infant named Nydra Chi Vonne Pettaway, who was kidnapped* from a hospital in Houston, Texas, a few days after she was born in April of 1981. She was recovered several days later (and her 18-year-old kidnapper was sentenced to 10 years probation). But I’ve only seen baby Nydra mentioned in one Texas newspaper so far, so I’m not sure if the news item was widespread/impactful enough to account for the name’s debut.

Do you have any clues/guesses?

Source: “Baby Thief Sentenced.” Port Arthur News 11 Oct. 1981: 14.

*Speaking of kidnapped babies, here’s the post on Chaneta.

What Do You Think of “Verve”?

I learned recently that actress Shawnee Smith (remember The Blob?) had a daughter in 1999 and named her Verve, in part “after a British band” that she and her then-husband really liked.

That band must have been The Verve; their 1997 song “Bitter Sweet Symphony” [vid] was extremely popular circa 1999.

The name Verve has never been used enough to appear in the SSA’s publicly available dataset (which excludes names bestowed fewer than 5 times per year). But similar-sounding word-names like Brave, Ever, and Valor have been picking up steam lately, so do you think we might see Verve in the dataset one day soon? (Would you use it?)

Source: Sitting Pretty – People

Mystery Monday: Sujey

In 1976 and 1977, several names like Sujey, Sugey and Suhey popped up in the national baby name dataset:

197519761977
Sujey35*36
Sugey13*29
Suehay11**
Sujei10*6
Suhey8*7
Sugei6**
Zujey5*
Sujeiry6*
Sugeiri5**

*Debut; **One-hit wonder

The fact that the letters J, G, and H were used interchangeably — plus the fact that usage was concentrated in states with large Spanish-speaking populations (like California and Texas) — suggested right away to me that these names were being used by Spanish-speaking families.

In fact, I was already thinking “telenovela” when I happened to spot this intriguing Instagram post by sassysugey:

Life always gives you surprises…met another “Sugey” that was named because of the same telenovela! #sugey #telenovela #unamuchachallamadamilagros

That third hashtag pointed me to the 1974 Venezuelan telenovela Una Muchacha Llamada Milagros (A Girl Called Milagros/Miracles), which was indeed airing in the U.S. in 1976.

Everything seemed to be lining up pretty well…until I checked the list of actors and characters in Una Muchacha Llamada Milagros. None of them had a name similar to “Sujey.”

So: either the name was used in the storyline somewhere (and I’m unaware of it), or this is the wrong telenovela, or the answer isn’t a telenovela at all.

Does anyone out there have any information on the name Sujey, or on its possible connection to Una Muchacha Llamada Milagros? If so, please leave a comment!

Sources: Una muchacha llamada Milagros – Wikipedia, Una muchacha llamada Milagros – IMDb

Obscene, but Obscure: Yea or Nay?

While working on the Phaedra post from earlier this week, I came across the fact that Greek playwright Euripides had two wives: Melite and Choerine.

The name Melite I recognized as coming from the Melissa/Melitta/Melita family. All these names can be traced back to the Greek word meli, meaning “honey.”

But the name Choerine didn’t ring a bell, so I went off in search of a definition.

Before tracking it down, I happened to find this enticing little snippet:

“Choerine” is an attested Athenian name, but it could easily be used for obscene puns.

Obscene puns?!

After more digging, I discovered that Choerine (and the male equivalent Choerus) were based on the Greek word choiros, meaning “pig.” And that the equivalent word in Latin, porcus, had given rise to the names Porcius and Porcia/Portia.

But “pig” isn’t he obscene part:

In classical Latin the word porcus was occasionally used as an informal term for the vulva (Greek choiros, ‘young pig,’ was employed similarly).

Here’s more:

Porcus (pig) was apparently a Roman nursery word for the external pudenda of girls […] Perhaps the allusion is to a perceived resemblance between the part in question and the end of a pig’s snout.

In fact, this obscene sense of porcus is precisely how porcelain came to be named. The word porcelain can be traced back to the Italian word for the cowrie shell, porcellana (“young sow”), which was named in reference to its vulva-like shape.

Now for the question of the day: Would information like this (i.e., obscene-but-obscure associations) ever dissuade you from choosing a particular baby name?

Sources:

  • Laqueur, Thomas Walter. Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 270.
  • Porcelain – Online Etymology Dictionary
  • “Pork.” Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories, Merriam-Webster, 1991, p. 371.
  • Scodel, Ruth. “The Euripidean Biography.” A Companion to Euripides, ed. by Laura K. McClure, John Wiley & Sons, 2017, pp. 27-41.