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?

The Latest on ABCDE

In late November, the baby name Abcde (pronounced AB-sih-dee) made national headlines after a 5-year-old El Paso girl named Abcde Redford was name-shamed by a Southwest Airlines gate agent at John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

My original post on Abcde was written way back in 2010, so now that the name is being highlighted in the news (and on social media), it’s time for an update!

Here’s a graph of what the usage looks like so far:

usage of the baby name Abcde, graph, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, texas, hawaii, usa

And here are the grand totals (1990-2017):

  • Usage in the U.S.: at least 373 baby girls
    • Usage in Texas specifically: at least 225 baby girls
    • Usage in Hawaii specifically: at least 5 baby girls

(The state-specific SSA data, just like the national SSA data, has a five-baby threshold. So if a name is given to four (or fewer) babies in a certain state in a given year, that usage won’t be reported. The total counts, therefore, should be seen as minimums.)

Strangely, several sources (Vocativ, WaPo) keep repeating the claim that the name Abcde is “a primarily Hawaiian phenomenon.” While Hawaii was clearly an early adopter, Texas is where about 60% of all Abcdes have been born.

Oh, and we shouldn’t forget to mention the phonetic variant, Absidy:

usage of the baby name Absidy, graph, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, texas, usa

It’s interesting to note that Abcde is not a purely modern invention. Here’s a 19th-century woman named Abcde, for instance (discovered by It’s an Urban Legend). Abcde is also not the only letter-string personal name we have evidence of. And, going beyond names, there’s the letter-based Latin word abecedarius, “alphabetical,” and derived terms like abecedary and abecedarian (thank you to Frank for reminding me of this).

So now here’s the big question: Abcde’s usage has been petering out over the last few years…but will all this recent exposure, despite the mocking tone, end up giving the name a boost in 2018/2019?

Sources: SSA, OC Southwest gate agent mocks 5-year-old girl’s name, posts boarding pass on social media

Invented Surname: Wojin

Successful entrepreneurs Sergey Brin (Google) and Anne Wojcicki (23andMe) were married from 2007 to 2015. During that time they had two children, a son and a daughter.

They named the kids Benji and Chloe, but that’s not all — they also gave the kids a brand new surname: Wojin, a combination of Wojcicki (which is pronounced wo-JIT-skee) and Brin. According to a Gawker tipster, the surname had been created “for security reasons.”

Do you know of any families with invented/blended surnames?

Source: Meet the kids of the world’s richest tech billionaires, Google Founder Sacrifices Son, Last Shreds of Integrity to Science

The Rise and Fall of Engla (in Sweden)

Last week I posted about the usage of the name Estelle in Sweden, and one of the sources I used for that post mentioned the intriguing case of Engla.

In the early 2000s, the name Engla was on the upswing in Sweden.

Then tragedy struck: a 10-year-old named Engla Juncosa Höglund was abducted in April of 2008. Days later, she was found brutally murdered. Controversially, Engla’s funeral was broadcast live on national TV in Sweden in May. The murderer was apprehended and his trial went on for months.

What happened to the baby name Engla as a result? In the U.S., I would have expected to see a continued rise in usage, thanks solely to the extra exposure. But in Sweden, the opposite occurred:

  • 2017: 20 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2016: 17 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2015: 29 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2014: 16 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2013: 26 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2012: 37 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2011: 51 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2010: 40 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2009: 44 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2008: 169 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2007: 224 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2006: 209 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2005: 147 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2004: 105 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2003: 94 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2002: 75 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2001: 56 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 2000: 30 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 1999: 16 baby girls named Engla in Sweden
  • 1998: 11 baby girls named Engla in Sweden

Even more surprisingly (to me), the name never recovered.

Within a span of 20 years, the name went from being unpopular, to ranking in the top 100 for several years straight, to being unpopular all over again.

The name Engla can be traced back to the Germanic name element engel, which referred to the Angles (as in “Anglo-Saxon”).

Sources: Estelle – Reactions to a royal name-giving in Sweden (PDF), Name Statistics – Statistics Sweden, Live Engla Funeral Broadcast Debated, Engel – Nordic Names Wiki

Name Interview: Kambri

A few years ago, Texas-born storyteller Kambri Crews was interviewed about her unique first name. Here’s some of what she said:

I’ve never met another Kambri and don’t know of any who are older than me. As far as I can tell, I’m the first. A few friends have named their girls Kambri taking liberty with its spelling. It’s like the old Vidal Sassoon television commercial. “They tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on and so on.” So, if you search for Kambri a bunch come up in the south, where I’m from.

She’s right about the South: Most Kambris (and Kambrys, and Kambries) are born in Texas, Utah, and Oklahoma, according to the SSA data.

She also mentioned that no one ever spells “Kambri” correctly on the first try:

Once in maybe 1,000 times people will get the “K” right but always, always, always spell it with an “Y”. The Toyota Camry is responsible for all my name confusion woes.

What are your thoughts on the name Kambri? If you were going to use it for a baby girl, how would you spell it?

Source: Hello. My Name Is…Kambri Crews