Pronouncing Famous Names

Madeline L’Engle, Reince Priebus, Ayn Rand, Chloe Sevigny…

Ever wonder how to correctly pronounce the name of a certain public figure? If so, here are two places to check out:

The first has nearly 7,000 names, plus audio clips. The second doesn’t offer audio clips, but is much more comprehensive with over 11,000 names.

Which public figure has the trickiest name, do you think?

Unusual Baby Name: Bluejean

While doing research on old-fashioned double names recently, I spotted the unexpected-but-real name Bluejean on the 1930 U.S. Census:

unusual baby name bluejean
Bluejean Campbell (U.S. Census, 1930)

It belonged to an 8-year-old girl in Colorado, and it made me curious…was this Bluejean the only one? Were there others?

So I did some searching, and I ended up finding about a dozen people, mainly females, named Bluejean or something similar (Blue Jean, Bluejeans, Bluejeana, Bluegene). The most recent was born in the late 1980s.

unusual baby name bluegene
Richard Bluegene Garl (Indiana marriage record, 1952)

What do you think of Bluejean as a baby name? Would you ever consider using it?

The Unusual Name Olympe

olympe bradna, radio and movie guide
Olympe Bradna, 1940

Actress Olympe Bradna started appearing in bit parts in Hollywood movies in the mid-1930s. When she moved up to lead roles a few years later, the marketing campaign around Olympe emphasized her birth story and name. Here’s what Photoplay said in 1938, for instance:

Well then, on August 12th, 1921, not more than eight blocks from where the widely bally-hooed Eiffel Tower in Paris thrusts its snoot to the sky, the vaudeville couple known as Jean and Joseph Bradna clapped hands for a chubby little newcomer — and worried about their act, then running at the Olympic Theater. It was a routine with trained dogs and the young mother fretted about what the puppies might think of her desertion of them. Papa Joe went on himself that night and the act must have gone along smoothly for it wasn’t cancelled.

The little girl was christened Antoinette but because she was born while the act was at the Olympic, Papa and Mama Bradna added the name of Olympia in honor of the theater and a few months later euphonized it to Olympe, pronounced O-Lamp — and it has been that ever since.

Olympe Bradna retired from acting after getting married in 1941.

Source: Sobol, Louis. “Here is Bradna.” Photoplay Aug. 1938: 14.

Mystery Monday: Zeline

Time for another mystery baby name! Today’s stumper is Zeline, a one-hit wonder that charted in 1957 with a dozen baby girls:

  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 12 baby girls named Zeline
  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: unlisted

The name Zelene debuted the same year, with half as many baby girls.

I’ve done all my standard research, which includes looking at newspapers and periodicals of the era, and so far I haven’t found any notable people/characters/products named Zeline (or Zelene) in 1956-1957.

These names don’t appear to be a variant of a more popular name, though I should mention that Celine saw an uptick in usage in ’58, which is interesting.

At least three of the Zelines and two of the Zelenes were born in California, but this probably isn’t much a clue, given the relative population of California.

Anyone have a theory about the origin of this one?

Unusual Baby Name: Jacomyn

The female name Jacomyn caught my eye as I was browsing through Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature by Charles W. Bardsley recently

Jacomyn, part of the massive James/Jacob name-group, fell out of usage in England centuries ago (though an equivalent name, Jacomijn, still sees usage among the Dutch).

I’m not sure how the final syllable would have been pronounced — short like Evelyn? long like Adeline? — but I do know that the name was spelled all sorts of ways back in the 16th and 17th centuries:

  • Jacomyn Prentis, born in 1568 in London
  • Jacomin Tapshall, born in 1638 in Dover
  • Jacomyne Slade, born in 1614 in London
  • Jackomyn Boxsall, born in 1564 in Lodsworth
  • Jackamin Greene, born in 1672 in London
  • Jackamyn Wodestock, born in 1562 in Croydon
  • Jackemyne Trovell, born in 1576 in Ullingswick

I wonder if modern parents would be interested in Jacomyn as an alternative to more common James/Jacob-based feminine names like Jamie and Jacqueline…?

Would you consider using the name Jacomyn?