Nellybelle – Possible Baby Name?

While researching various pop culture baby names from the 1950s, I happened to come across Nellybelle, the name of a non-human character on the The Roy Rogers Show (1951-1957).

Nellybelle was a jeep with a mind of her own. When she wasn’t driving herself around, she was being driven by Roy’s sidekick, Pat Brady. According to the New York Times, Pat made the name Nellybelle a “household word” with his catchphrase, “Whoa, Nellybelle!”

All that exposure inspired more than a few people to call their cars Nellybelle, but it didn’t have the same influence on baby names: the name-combo has never been bestowed often enough to register in the U.S. baby name data (which excludes names used fewer than 5 times per year).

That said, it has certainly seen usage as a first-middle set. Many dozens of females born in the U.S. in the 1800s and early 1900s were named “Nellie Belle” and “Nellie Bell,” according to records.

What are your thoughts on the name Nellybelle? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?

Source: Pat Brady, Film Cowboy, Dies; Roy Rogers’s Sidekick Was 57

Mystery Monday: Quovadis

Here’s an eye-catching baby name: Quovadis. It’s appeared in U.S. baby name data a total of three times so far:

  • 1983: unlisted
  • 1982: 5 baby girls named Quovadis
  • …unlisted…
  • 1975: 6 baby girls named Quovadis (all 6 born in Georgia)
  • 1974: unlisted
  • 1973: 5 baby girls named Quovadis [debut]
  • 1972: unlisted

This one is a semi-mystery. I know the ultimate origin, but not what (if anything) caused the name to surface in the ’70s specifically.

The Polish novel Quo Vadis (1896) by Henryk Sienkiewicz told the story of a romance between a Roman patrician and a Christian woman during ancient times. The title means “where are you going?” in Latin and alludes to the New Testament verse John 13:36.

The English translation of the book became the bestselling novel in the U.S. in 1897. Since then, the book has been adapted for the big screen multiple times (1901, 1912, 1924, 1951*, etc.) and also adapted for television.

But nothing new happened in the ’70s to draw attention to the phrase, beyond the 1973 Broadway play Status Quo Vadis and a 1975 M*A*S*H episode called “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?”

Do you have any thoughts on this one?

P.S. Though the name only appears in the SSA data in the ’70s and ’80s, records reveal that dozens of people (male and female) have been named Quovadis since the late 1890s. Here’s one on the 1930 U.S. Census:

Quovadis Dukes, female, born in Ohio in 1929

Source: Publishers Weekly list of bestselling novels in the United States in the 1890s – Wikipedia

*The 1951 movie starred Deborah Kerr and was nominated for eight Oscars.

Is “Denifer” Still Refined?

Denifer ad from 1921

Did you know that there’s a building in Chicago called the Denifer — “refined” spelled backwards? When it first opened in 1921, the name was mocked by several publications. The Chicago Tribune said:

“[T]he owners of the hotel to be built at the northwest corner of Kenmore and Balmoral avenues…arrived at the conclusion that the new hostelry certainly would be refined. […] The rest of the christening was easy. The ‘d’ is made a capital; the other letters are run in backwards and–behold! We have the Hotel Denifer!”

Hotel Monthly, jumping on the bandwagon a month later, asked:

Is the word Denifer, as a reverse in the spelling of refined, a consistent name? Does it not suggest the opposite of refined?

Interesting questions in this age of Nevaeh

Do you think that flipping the spelling of a word flips the definition of that word as well?

(And, do you think that the Jennifer-like “Denifer” could potentially catch on as a baby name?)

Sources:

Image: Denifer Condominiums

Mystery Monday: Caricia

The baby name Caricia, which is the Spanish word for “caress,” appeared in the U.S. baby name data for two years in the early 2000s:

  • 2004: unlisted
  • 2003: 5 baby girls named Caricia
  • 2002: 20 baby girls named Caricia [debut]
    • 6 born in California specifically
  • 2001: unlisted

Why did it debut? I have two theories so far, but I’m not 100% convinced by either one.

The first has to do with music. In 2000, Spanish singer Rocío Dúrcal released an album called Caricias. The lead track was also called “Caricias.” That August, the album reached #2 on Billboard’s Latin Pop Album chart.

(radio channel logo)

The second theory also has to do with music, but in a different way. The XM Satellite Radio channel Caricia, which played Spanish-language adult contemporary music, was launched in September of 2001. (It was axed in 2004, but relaunched a few years later as a Latin oldies channel.)

The first theory makes sense in terms of source, but not in terms of timing. The second theory is more of a long shot (I’ve never seen a radio station influence baby names, unless it was a contest) but the years line up quite well.

What are your thoughts on this one? What am I missing here?

Sources: Rocío Dúrcal Chart History | Billboard, Caricia – Wikipedia

P.S. The French word for “caress,” Caresse, is also a baby name.

Mystery Monday: Malia, Melia, Melea, Malea…

This month’s mystery isn’t a name, but a name group.

The group saw its highest-ever usage in circa 2009, thanks to presidential daughter Malia Obama, but it also saw a strong rise in usage back in the mid-1950s. Why? I don’t know!

From 1954 to 1956, not only did the rare names Malia and Melia re-emerge in the data and see peak in usage (up to that point), but eight new variants of Malia/Melia surfaced:

Name 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957
Malia . 48 88 68 59
Melia . 11 42 43 35
Melea . 7* 16 24 10
Malea . 5* 25 20 14
Meleah . . 9* 12 12
Maleia . . . 10* 5
Mylea . . . 9* .
Meleia . . . 7* .
Maleah . . . 6* 9
Milia . . . 5* .

*Debuts in the data.

Usage of these names was relatively high in several states. Of the 88 Malias born in 1955, for instance, 33 were born across six states: Ohio, Wisconsin, California, Alabama, Kansas, and North Carolina.

And the SSA data doesn’t account for the many baby girls who got Malia-related middles during that time period. One semi-famous example is JFK niece Sydney Maleia Kennedy, born in California in 1956.

The variety of spellings makes me think the source was audio, e.g., radio, music, cinema, television. (But it wasn’t the lady who played Vampira — that was a Maila, not a Malia.)

What are your thoughts on this one?