Here’s an eye-catching baby name: Quovadis. It’s appeared in U.S. baby name data a total of three times so far:
1982: 5 baby girls named Quovadis
1975: 6 baby girls named Quovadis (all 6 born in Georgia)
1973: 5 baby girls named Quovadis [debut]
This one is a semi-mystery. I know the ultimate origin, but not what (if anything) caused the name to surface in the ’70s specifically.
The Polish novel Quo Vadis (1896) by Henryk Sienkiewicz told the story of a romance between a Roman patrician and a Christian woman during ancient times. The title means “where are you going?” in Latin and alludes to the New Testament verse John 13:36.
The English translation of the book became the bestselling novel in the U.S. in 1897. Since then, the book has been adapted for the big screen multiple times (1901, 1912, 1924, 1951*, etc.) and also adapted for television.
But nothing new happened in the ’70s to draw attention to the phrase, beyond the 1973 Broadway play Status Quo Vadis and a 1975 M*A*S*H episode called “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?”
Do you have any thoughts on this one?
P.S. Though the name only appears in the SSA data in the ’70s and ’80s, records reveal that dozens of people (male and female) have been named Quovadis since the late 1890s. Here’s one on the 1930 U.S. Census:
The baby name Caricia, which is the Spanish word for “caress,” appeared in the U.S. baby name data for two years in the early 2000s:
2003: 5 baby girls named Caricia
2002: 20 baby girls named Caricia [debut]
6 born in California specifically
Why did it debut? I have two theories so far, but I’m not 100% convinced by either one.
The first has to do with music. In 2000, Spanish singer Rocío Dúrcal released an album called Caricias. The lead track was also called “Caricias.” That August, the album reached #2 on Billboard’s Latin Pop Album chart.
The second theory also has to do with music, but in a different way. The XM Satellite Radio channel Caricia, which played Spanish-language adult contemporary music, was launched in September of 2001. (It was axed in 2004, but relaunched a few years later as a Latin oldies channel.)
The first theory makes sense in terms of source, but not in terms of timing. The second theory is more of a long shot (I’ve never seen a radio station influence baby names, unless it was a contest) but the years line up quite well.
What are your thoughts on this one? What am I missing here?
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.)
Where did it come from? I haven’t been able to figure that out yet.
The name Shirley, which had been extremely popular in the 1930s, was trending downward by the 1960s. The sound-alike names Sherla or Shirla did not see a uptick in usage in 1961. And the somewhat similar name Shirelle, though it debuted the same year (thanks to girl-group The Shirelles), is probably not the cause.
Vital records indicate that the 1961 Shurlas were born in various places in the U.S., so they weren’t clustered in a specific region. (Here are two of them: one from Missouri, the other from Maryland originally but buried in Kansas.)
Do you have any idea where this one might have come from? (News? Television?)