Name Change: Elda to Hedda

Hedda Hopper was a gossip columnist who came to fame in the early 1940s (when she was in her 50s). But “Hedda Hopper” wasn’t her original name. It was Elda Furry.

She’d been a performer (both on stage and in the movies) as a young woman — long before she wrote for the newspapers. So it’s logical to assume that the name change happened around the time she embarked upon her showbiz career, right?

As it turns out, that wasn’t the case — she made the switch mid-career. Here’s the story:

Elda was working as a chorus girl for DeWolf Hopper’s theater company in the early 1910s…

[DeWolf Hopper] had had four marriages, and was five years older than Elda’s father, but was still a great charmer and anything but jaded. Hopper’s first four wives were named Ella, Ida, Edna and Nella, in that order, and Elda was a natural for the euphonious sequence. So, about a year after their first meeting, Hopper proposed on a train platform in Grand Central and that afternoon they were married in Wading River, N.J.

[…]

Elda shortly became aware of some rather piquant marital complications. Any man with five wives is likely to become confused and, when the wives have such similar names as the Hopper ladies, the situations becomes positively grotesque. Elda discovered that as often as not Hopper would whisper affectionately, “Dear Nella” (or Ella, Ida and Edna) instead of “Dear Elda.” The sensation of being continuously mistaken for someone else became irksome in time, and Elda forthwith visited a numerologist who recommended the name “Hedda.” From then on Hopper never got his lines crossed.

Her marriage to Hopper only lasted from 1913 until 1922, but she retained the name “Hedda Hopper” for the rest of her life.

It’s no coincidence that the usage of the baby name Hedda was highest during the 1940s. Records even reveal that one of the 1944 babies named Hedda was born into a Texas family with the surname Hopper.

Which name do you prefer, Elda or Hedda?

Which name do you like more: Elda or Hedda?

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Source: Wickware, Francis Sill. “Hedda Hopper.” Life 20 Nov. 1944: 63-70.

Mayan “Ix-” Names

Temple at Chichen Itza
© 2019 Nancy’s anonymous husband

During the colonial period (and probably earlier), Mayan children were given personal names that began with either of two gender prefixes: the masculine prefix “Ah,” or the feminine prefix “Ix” (pronounced eesh).

You can see the “Ix” in the name of the Mayan goddess of midwifery and medicine, Ix Chel. Other examples of feminine Mayan names include Ix Chan, Ix Cahum, Ix Can, Ix Cakuk, Ix Kan, Ix Kauil, Ix Kukul, Ix Nahau, and Ix Titibe.

Out of all of these traditional names, though, only Ixchel and variants (Ixel, Ixcel, and Ixtzel) have been used often enough in the U.S. to appear in the baby name data.

The data also includes two more Ix-names: Ixayana and Ixareli. These might be modern takes on the Mayan Ix-names, and/or they might be variants of Itza-names (like Itzayana, Itzamar and Itzael)…which themselves may have evovled from Ix-names.

What do you think of the name Ixchel (pronounced ee-shel)?

Sources:

Baby Name Prediction – Saybie?

Saybie (Sharp HealthCare)

In late May, San Diego micro-preemie Saybie — believed to be the world’s smallest-ever surviving baby — was in the headlines for several days straight.

When she was born prematurely last December, she weighed just 8.6 ounces and wasn’t expected to live. But Saybie beat the odds, and after spending 5 months in a neonatal intensive care unit, she reached a weight of 5.6 pounds was discharged from the hospital.

We don’t know the baby’s legal name, but she was dubbed “Saybie” by hospital staff, so that’s what the press called her. (And at least one news site spelled the nickname “Saybe.”)

The unusual name Saybie has never appeared in the SSA data before — the closest I’ve spotted is Saybree — but do you think it might debut in 2019, thanks to this uplifting news story about a resilient newborn?

Source: Saybie, Born At 8.6 Ounces, Is Now Believed To Be The World’s Tiniest Surviving Baby

Mystery Monday: Elwanda

Ready for another baby name mystery? I present to you Elwanda, which saw a sharp increase in usage in 1921:

  • 1923: 54 baby girls named Elwanda
    • 61% in 4 states: 14 TX, 7 WV, 6 AR, 6 KY
  • 1922: 85 baby girls named Elwanda [rank: 791st]
    • 66% in 5 states: 17 TX, 15 AR, 8 MO, 8 TN, 6 OK
  • 1921: 98 baby girls named Elwanda [rank: 739th]
    • 72% in 6 states: 25 TX, 18 AR, 9 OK, 7 MO, 6 KY, 6 WV
  • 1920: 5 baby girls named Elwanda [debut]
  • 1919: unlisted

So far, I can’t explain that spike (which was the steepest rise overall that year). But I can tell you that most of that 1921 usage took place in an interesting grouping of Southern states:

On the one hand, higher usage of Wanda-based names in the early 1920s makes sense because that’s when name Wanda itself was very trendy. (Wanda entered the top 100 in 1922.)

On the other hand, when you compare the usage of Elwanda to that of the other Wanda-variants (like Wandalee and Lawanda), it’s clear that something else must have happened in Elwanda’s case for the rise to be that steep — not to mention so regionally specific.

Any ideas about what influenced Elwanda?

P.S. Other names that saw movement during the 1920s were influenced by things like movies, music (but not radio), literature (particularly serialized stories), and news stories.

Prytania – Possible Baby Name?

My husband and I found ourselves in New Orleans again recently, but only for a matter of hours, so we weren’t able to have as many adventures as last time. While taking a Lyft through an uptown area of the city, though, I did spot an intriguing street name: Prytania.

Had any NOLA residents ever been named Prytania? I did some research, but couldn’t find any. In fact, the only Prytania I managed to track down was a 12-year-old Texas girl named Prytania Chambers on the 1880 U.S. Census:

Prytania isn’t even as common as Atchafalaya!

The street itself has an interesting name-story, though.

Not long after the sale of New Orleans to the United States in 1803 — part of the massive Louisiana Purchase* — some residents of the city devised an ambitious plan to construct a Roman-style collesée (colisseum) that would host public games and assemblies. It was never built, but the name lives in “Coliseum Street” and ” Coliseum Square.”

Similarly, these residents also wanted to establish a prytanée — a sort of people’s university — based on like-named schools in France. The French schools had been named after the ancient Greek prytaneum, or town hall. The university was going to be located on what was originally called the Rue des Prytanées. But, like the coliseum, the school was never built, and the street name eventually evoled to become “Prytania.”

The first syllable of prytaneum is based on the ancient Greek word pur, meaning “fire.” Ancient Greek prytaneums were dedicated to Hestia, goddess of the hearth, and within each one a perpetual fire was kept burning.

Coliseum and Prytania Streets run parallel to one another, and, in the area where the collesée and the prytanée were going to be built, the cross streets are named after the nine Greek muses: Urania, Thalia, Euterpe, Calliope, Clio, Erato, Melpomene, Terpsichore, and Polyhymnia. (Here’s a WGNO video about the pronunciations of several of these muse/road names.)

What are your thoughts on “Prytania” as a potential baby name? Usable?

Sources:

*Also a baby name! Here’s more about Louisiana Purchase O’Leary.