Mystery Monday: The Baby Name Tramell

So here’s a multi-name mystery from the mid-1960s. Five very similar baby names — Tremell, Tremelle, Tremel, Trumell, and Tramell — all appeared for the first time in the U.S. data in 1966. The name Trammell, which wasn’t new to the data, re-emerged that year as well.

Name 1965 1966 1967 1968
Tremell . 12 [debut] 5 .
Tremelle . 12 [debut] . .
Tremel . 5 [debut] . .
Trumell . 5 [debut] . .
Tramell . 7 [debut] . 5
Trammell . 5 . .

University of Alabama quarterback Pat Trammell would have been a good answer, but he played from 1958 to 1961 (much too early) and he died of cancer in 1968 (two years too late). Plus, none of the Tremell-babies I’ve found so far were born in Alabama.

I am seeing a number of them in Texas, though, which could be meaningful. And the multiple spellings suggest that the source was at least partially audio (e.g., a movie, a television show, a news report).

Do you have theories about what inspired this name-group?


Ella, Emma…Enna?

enna, ella, emmaThe likeable names Emma and Ella are both very popular choices for babies right now. Nationally, Emma is ranked 1st and Ella is 16th.

Both can be traced back to Germanic words: Emma to ermen, meaning “entire, whole,” and Ella to ali, meaning “other, foreign.”

Both can also be used as short forms other names, particularly those starting with Em- (e.g., Emerson, Emmeline) or El- (e.g., Eleanor, Ellen).

So let’s say you like these names, but…you’d really prefer to use something a little less common. One thing you could try is moving to the next letter of the alphabet: L, M, N.

Enna isn’t what you’d call a traditional name. And it’s never been in the top 1,000 — though it did come close once, way back in 1894.

That said, the letter string “enna” is popular in longer names (like Jenna, Sienna, Mckenna, Kenna, Vienna, Brenna, Glenna, Gwenna, Zenna, etc.), and Enna as a standalone name has seen seen slightly higher usage lately:

  • 2017: 14 baby girls named Enna
  • 2016: 24 baby girls named Enna (peak usage so far)
  • 2015: 22 baby girls named Enna
  • 2014: 19 baby girls named Enna
  • 2013: 15 baby girls named Enna
  • 2012: 7 baby girls named Enna

What are your thoughts on the baby name Enna? Do you like it as an alternative to Ella and Emma?

Baby Names from Obscure Sorrows?

Ever heard of the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows? It’s a blog written by John Koenig, who invents words and gives them melancholic definitions in order “to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.”

I discovered the site via Merriam-Webster’s 10 Perfectly Cromulent Words, which features the Obscure Sorrows word Vellichor (“the strange wistfulness of used bookstores”). It’s a made-up word, but it’s been getting traction online, so…does Vellichor qualify as a “real” word now?

And let’s take it a step further: Vellichor sounds like Petrichor, which has seen usage as a baby name. So could Vellichor also become a baby name?

If so, could other Obscure Sorrows words become baby names too? Here are some of Koenig’s coinages that may have onomastic potential:

  • Opia, “the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye”
  • Tangency, from a “moment of tangency,” which is “a glimpse of what might have been”
  • Fitzcarraldo, “an image that somehow becomes lodged deep in your brain” and “grows into a wild and impractical vision”
  • Sonder, “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”

Could you imagine any of the words above morphing into human names?

Mystery Monday: The Baby Name Zelinda

Today’s mystery name is Zelinda, which first appeared in the data in 1951:

  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 9 baby girls named Zelinda
  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: 6 baby girls named Zelinda
  • 1951: 11 baby girls named Zelinda [debut & peak usage]
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

Dozens of -linda names were in the data in the early ’50s, but “Zelinda” stands out because it both popped up and peaked in the very same year. This suggests that it had a source, but…I can’t find that source.

A handful of Italian films from around that time featured the name, but I don’t think any of these films were screened in the U.S. (Incidentally, there’s an Italian folk tale called “Zelinda and the Monster.”)

Similarly, I see “Zelinda” in the newspapers during 1950 and 1951 thanks to various high schools staging the operetta The Belle of Bagdad, which includes a character named Zelinda. But this doesn’t seem notable, as “Zelinda” was in the newspapers during the ’30s and ’40s as well for the very same reason.

The one clue I can offer is that many of the 1951 Zelindas were born in the south (Kentucky, Texas, Alabama).

Do you have any thoughts about what influenced the baby name Zelinda?

Baby Name Battle: Petrichor vs. Tesseract

Time for a baby name battle!

First off, yes: Petrichor and Tesseract are both legit human names now. I found baby girls named Petrichor and Tesseract in the 2016 Alberta data and 2017 Quebec data, respectively.

Both names are inventive, unusual, and incredibly geeky.

So…if you were having a daughter, and you had to name her either Petrichor or Tesseract, which would it be?

I'd go for...

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If you have a specific reason why, tell us in the comments!