Here’s a curious one: Wetona. The name started appearing in the baby name data during the second half of the 1910s:
1922: 10 baby girls named Wetona
1921: 6 baby girls named Wetona
1920: 12 baby girls named Wetona [peak]
1919: 9 baby girls named Wetona
1916: 5 baby girls named Wetona [debut]
The SSA data from that far back isn’t terribly reliable, though, so here’s SSDI data for the same time period:
1922: 6 Wetonas
1921: 4 Wetonas
1920: 9 Wetonas and 1 Wetonah
1919: 10 Wetonas, 1 Wetonah, and 1 person with the middle name Wetona
1918: 1 Wetona
1917: 1 Wetona
1916: 1 Wetona and 1 Wetonah
What put Wetona (and Wetonah) on the map in 1916? The play The Heart of Wetona, which was written by George Scarborough and performed on Broadway from February to May, 1916. It starred actress Lenore Ulric as the “Indian princess” Wetona.
How did Scarborough come up with the name Wetona? I’m not sure that he did. “The play was originally called Oklahoma and focused on problems of religious leaders in the new state.” It was then rewritten by theatrical producer/playwright David Belasco, who “changed some of the characters to Indians and the locale to a reservation.”
A few years later, in 1919, two things happened. First, the play was turned into a silent film starring Norma Talmadge. Second, the song “Heart of Wetona” — which was “inspired by and dedicated to Norma Talmadge” — was published. These two things together account for the increased usage of the name Wetona that year.
Do you like the name Wetona? Do you think it’s usable nowadays?
Pisani, Michael V. Imagining Native America in Music. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.
As usual, the disclaimer: Some of the names below were already on the rise. Others may have been influenced by more than just the single pop culture person/event listed. I leave it up to you to judge the degree/nature of pop culture influence in each case.
I was surprised that Adonis and Wade jumped in usage as much as they did.
I was also surprised that Wrigley barely jumped at all in usage. Maybe “Wrigley” reminds too many people of gum?
Where the heck is Usain? Why is Usain not in the data yet? Sure, track and field is relatively unpopular in the United States. Still, I thought Rio might do it — with the help of that viral photo of Usain Bolt cheekily grinning at the competition in the middle of that 100 meter sprint.
Finally, as a former ’80s kid, I did have my fingers crossed for Voltron. Oh well…
How about you? Did any of these rises/falls surprise you?
Though I’m talking about the baby name and not the UFC fighter, the two are inextricably linked.
In 2015, California-born mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey was at the peak of her fame. How do I know this? Just look at Google’s 2015 search rankings. She was the most searched-for athlete, the 3rd most searched-for person, and the 5th most searched-for term overall in the U.S.
The same year, the name Rousey debuted in the SSA’s baby name data:
2015: 6 baby girls named Rousey [debut]
While 2016 started out pretty well for Rousey (she hosted Saturday Night Live in January, for instance) the year ended with her second UFC defeat, along with talk of her retiring from MMA altogether. Even more telling, Ronda Rousey was nowhere to be found among the top search terms of 2016.
So will her surname be back on the baby name charts in 2016? How about 2017? What do you think?