Polly Peabody to Caresse Crosby

Caress & Clytoris

Here’s an interesting name-evolution story.

Mary “Polly” Phelps Jacob was born in 1891 in New York to a blue-blooded family that could be traced back, on both sides, to colonial America.

She was an enterprising person, and in her early 20s — fed up with the corset-like undergarments of the era — she invented and patented a “backless brassiere.” (She constructed the first one out of handkerchiefs and pink ribbon.) Today, she’s credited with the invention the modern bra.

With her first marriage in 1915 to Richard Peabody, her name changed to the almost cartoonish Polly Peabody. (One of their two kids, legally named Polleen, also went by Polly.)

But that marriage didn’t last and, following the divorce in 1922, Polly married bon vivant Harry Crosby, with whom she’d been having an open affair. At first she went by Polly Crosby, but Harry declared that Polly needed a better name:

Clytoris, an early suggestion, was sensibly saved for the family’s second whippet (the first was named Narcisse Noir). They told Caresse’s daughter Polleen that she was named after a Greek goddess.

After deciding upon “Caresse,” the wealthy couple moved to Paris and “lived a theatrically mad, bad and Bohemian existence.” With the help of their small publishing house, Black Sun Press, they became close to many Lost Generation artists and writers, including Ernest Hemingway.

Harry committed suicide two months after the stock market crash of 1929 (which kicked off the Great Depression). Caresse’s life post-Harry was slightly less colorful, and she used name “Mary Caresse Crosby” slightly more often, but was still primarily known as Caresse.

Sources: Polly Peabody, The Bohemian Blueblood Who Invented the Bra, Mary Phelps Jacob (Caresse Crosby), The Crosbys: literature’s most scandalous couple

P.S. Did you know that the name Caresse started appearing in the U.S. baby name data back in 1949?

Unusual Baby Name: Vice President

I put together a long list of unusual name combinations a few years back, and one of my favorite names from that list was “Vice President.” It’s just so curious. (Why add the “Vice”? Why not just “President“?)

Turns out, though, that “Vice President” may not have been the boy’s legal name after all.

According to the 1920 U.S. Census, Vice President Evans was born circa 1918 in South Carolina to parents Joseph and Pearla. But I found a similar family on the 1930 Census, and the equivalent child in that family was named “Thomas.”

So my best guess at this point is that “Vice President” was a fake name the parents gave the enumerator — maybe to imply that the toddler was 2nd-in-command after his father? Who knows. Regardless, the name still makes me smile.

The Baby Name Zia

In 1925, New Mexico officially adopted its distinctive state flag: the red sun symbol of the Zia people on a field of yellow.

The Zia sun symbol has since become symbolic of the state itself. It’s on New Mexico license plates, New Mexico highway markers, and New Mexico quarters. Even the New Mexico State Capitol building, which is round and has four entrance wings, was constructed to resemble it.

New Mexico’s love for the Zia sun symbol is also apparent in the baby name data. The baby name Zia — which has various possible origins, including Arabic and Hebrew — sees higher-than-expected usage in New Mexico:

  • 2018: 140 U.S. baby girls named Zia
    • 14 (10%) born in New Mexico
  • 2017: 119 U.S. baby girls named Zia
    • 5 (4%) born in New Mexico
  • 2016: 142 U.S. baby girls named Zia
    • 10 (7%) born in New Mexico
  • 2015: 130 U.S. baby girls named Zia
    • 5 (4%) born in New Mexico
  • 2014: 122 U.S. baby girls named Zia
    • 7 (6%) born in New Mexico

These may not seem like impressive numbers, but remember that New Mexico, despite being the fifth-largest U.S. state in terms of area, is home to far less than 1% of the total U.S. population.

Do you like the name Zia? Would you consider using it?

Sources: SSA, Zia sun sign, New Mexico State Capitol, Zia people – Wikipedia. U.S. States by Population – Wikipedia

Unusual Real Name: Isambard

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in 1806 in the south of England. The name “Isambard” came from his father, Marc Isambard Brunel (originally from France), and the name “Kingdom” came from his mother, Sophia Kingdom.

Years later, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s unusual name would become almost synonymous with engineering: he was perhaps the most eminent Victorian engineer.

He built the Great Western Railway, the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamer (SS Great Western), and various important bridges and tunnels.

The name Isambard can be traced back to a old Germanic name Isambert, which is made up of elements meaning “iron” and “bright.” Other spellings include Isembart, Isembert, Isambart, and Isembard.

Do you like the name Isambard? Do you like it more or less than Eisenhower (which is also iron-related)?

Sources:

Numerology of Baby Names (Series)

Pythagoras
Pythagoras

If you’re curious about baby names and numerology, I’ve got a fun series of blog posts lined up just for you!

The first weekly post will be up in about an hour. But before that happens, I wanted to write a quick introductory post to explain (1) how to come up with numerological values for names, and (2) where the numerological interpretations I’m using come from.

To find a numerological value for a name (or any other word), assign a number to each letter based on its position in the alphabet (e.g., A=1, T=20, Z=26). Add the numbers up for a total. Then, take the digits in the sum and add those up for a new total. Do this as many times as needed to reduce the number to a single digit.

Let’s use my name, Nancy, as an example. The “N” is the 14th letter, “A” is first, “C” is third, and “Y” is 25th. So the addition looks like this:

14 + 1 + 14 + 3 + 25 = 57

The sum isn’t a single digit, though, so we reduce it:

5 + 7 = 12

Still not a single digit, so we reduce it again:

1 + 2 = 3

We end up with a “3,” the numerological value for Nancy.

(Some people like to find the values for full names as well. I hope to create an online tool for calculating the numerology of full names one day. If you’d like to help me do this, please consider supporting me via Patreon.)

For interpreting the numbers, I chose to draw from two different sources — one ancient, one modern:

  • The Phythagoreans (6th century B.C.), the followers of ancient Greek philosopher Phythagoras (to whom the Pythagorean theorem is attributed). They were as much mystical as they were mathematical.
  • Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), the Kentucky-born “sleeping prophet.” He offered numerological descriptions in several of his thousands of well-documented psychic readings.

I wanted to use two systems to emphasize the fact that there is no single “correct” way to interpret the numbers. Use whatever system you prefer…or, ignore them all and create your own. :)

Hope you enjoy the series!