The Debut of Desnee

Desnee and Billy

The rare name Desnee was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1950s:

  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 7 baby girls named Desnee [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

What was the influence?

A 15-month-old London girl named Desnee Sampson, who was featured in a pair of photos that ran in various U.S. newspapers in late 1950 and early 1951.

In the first photo, she was sitting on the floor, watching her cat Billy drink milk from a saucer. In the second, she was bent over the saucer herself and trying to lap up milk in the same way (with Billy looking on).

I don’t know the origin of the name. In fact, my initial guess was that “Desnee” was a typo for Desiree. (I could imagine the middle letters being transposed and then mistaken for an “n.”)

As it turns out, Desnee Sampson’s birth (1949) and marriage (1970) records both confirm that her real name was indeed “Desnee.” Besides, the name Desiree didn’t become trendy until a few years later, thanks to the 1954 Marlon Brando movie Désirée (which I mentioned in the Deserie post).

What do you think of the name Desnee? Would you pronounce the second syllable like that of Desiree (ay-sound) or Deedee (ee-sound)?

The Launch of Normani

Normani
Normani in the video for “Motivation” (2019)

Former Fifth Harmony member Normani has seen a lot of solo success lately. In 2017, she placed third on Dancing with the Stars. In 2018 and 2019, she popped up on tracks with singers like Khalid, Sam Smith, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj. And, just a few months ago, she released her first solo single, “Motivation” [vid].

All this extra attention has put the name Normani on the onomastic map, so to speak, as it debuted in the SSA data 2017:

  • 2018: 17 baby girls named Normani
  • 2017: 8 baby girls named Normani [debut]
  • 2016: unlisted

Normani’s full name is Normani Kordei Hamilton. She was named “Normani” in honor of her maternal uncle, Norman, who died of lung cancer before she was born.

It was my mom’s brother and she promised, cause I’m my mom’s firstborn and her only child, she promised that her first child would be named after him, and his name is Norman, so she named me Normani. She was also really into fashion. She was watching an Armani fashion show and put the name together.

How high do you think the name Normani will climb in the 2019 data?

Sources: SSA, Normani – Wikipedia, Normani Is Finally Stepping Out On Her Own, Normani Kordei partners with American Cancer Society

The Arrival of Ardoth

Ardoth after winning a race, circa 1930

The rare name Ardoth was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in 1933:

  • 1935: unlisted
  • 1934: unlisted
  • 1933: 6 baby girls named Ardoth [debut]
  • 1932: unlisted
  • 1931: unlisted

What gave the name a boost that year?

My guess is female jockey and trick rider Ardoth Schneider.

She’d been winning races since the late 1920s, so her name — often misspelled “Ardath” — had been mentioned in the newspapers before.

But 1933 was the year she was declared Sweetheart of California Rodeo:

While thousands cheered themselves hoarse at the western arena [in Salinas] this afternoon as the spectacular 22nd annual rodeo got under way, the 1933 Sweetheart crown was placed over the lustrous, black locks of winsome Ardoth Schneider, 23, of Long Beach.

Following the win, various photos of Ardoth — typically astride or beside a horse — began popping up in the newspapers. And I think the photos (as opposed to the mere mentions) are what made the difference.

As the new “Sweetheart,” she went on a tour of Panama, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador with a letter of introduction from President Roosevelt that described her as California’s “finest outdoor girl.”

What are your thoughts on the name Ardoth? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?

Sources:

  • “The Fair Sex in a New Field.” Cincinnati Enquirer 1 Apr. 1928: 110.
  • “Favorite of Rodeos.” Oakland Tribune 24 Sept. 1933: 57.
  • “Girl Student Rise to Tijuana Triumph.” New York Times 12 Mar. 1928: 25.
  • “Long Beach Girl Wins Sweetheart of Rodeo Honors.” Santa Cruz Sentinel 22 Jul. 1933: 3.
  • Davis-Platt, Joy. “She filled a long life with love, adventures.” St. Petersburg Times 1 Mar. 2003.

Image: Screenshot from USA: Female Jockeys Competing In Turf Classic Race (British Pathe)

P.S. For several months in the winter of 1928, Ardoth was in Japan performing for the coronation of Emperor Hirohito. Twice a day, she jumped her Shetland pony Betty off a 40-foot platform into a pool of water “to entertain the enthusiastic Japanese crowds.”

P.P.S. Tuesdee is another female jockey-inspired baby name I discovered in the data.

The Double-Play Baseball Baby Name Ryne

ryne, duren, baseball, 1950sIn the late ’50s, the name Ryne debuted impressively on the charts:

  • 1962: 7 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1961: 13 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1960: 10 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1959: 31 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1958: 21 baby boys named Ryne [debut]
  • 1957: unlisted

Where did it come from?

It was inspired by professional baseball pitcher Rinold “Ryne” Duren, known for “[staring] down batters through thick-lensed eyeglasses and then [delivering] fastballs that might go just about anywhere.”

In fact, Duren was the inspiration for the character Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (played by Charlie Sheen, clearly #winning at the time) in the 1989 movie Major League.

Duren was in the Major Leagues from 1954 to 1965, but in 1958 was a member of the World Series-winning New York Yankees. It was also the first year he was selected for the All-Star Game.

He inherited the name Rinold from his father, whose family came from Germany. Rinold, like Renault, is related to the more familiar name Reynold.

…But that’s not the end of the story!

Because one of the 1959 babies named Ryne was Ryne Dee “Ryno” Sandberg, who also became a professional baseball player (second baseman). He started with Chicago Cubs in 1981 and went on to become a Hall of Famer.

He boosted the name Ryne not just back into the data, but into the top 1000 for the first time:

  • 1986: 178 baby boys named Ryne [rank: 675th]
  • 1985: 286 baby boys named Ryne [rank: 516th]
  • 1984: 199 baby boys named Ryne [rank: 605th]
  • 1983: 38 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1982: 31 baby boys named Ryne
  • 1981: unlisted

Ryne Sandberg had a son in the mid-1980s, but didn’t give him a baseball-inspired name. Instead, Justin Ross got a theater-inspired name. Ryne had seen “A Chorus Line” in New York around that time and been impressed with the name of performer Justin Ross.

Do you like the name Ryne? Would you use it for a baby boy?

Sources:

Sharlie, Take Two

Sharlie debuted rather impressively as a girl name in the SSA data in the year 1933.

Initially, my best guess regarding Sharlie’s sudden appearance was the trendy radio catchphrase, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?”

But a few months ago, I serendipitously discovered a much better explanation: a serialized newspaper story simply called Sharlie. It was written by Beatrice Burton and appeared in the papers in late 1932 and early 1933. The main character was “pretty, vivacious Sharlie Dunn.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned researching thousands of pop culture-inspired baby names over the years, it’s this: personification is key. A name attached to a person (real or fictional) carries far more weight with the baby-naming public than a free-floating name/word.

So, while I don’t doubt that the catchphrase did indeed draw attention to “Sharlie” back in the early 1930s, I think the female character was what helped expectant parents see “Sharlie” as a potential baby name. And that makes all the difference.

What are your thoughts on this?

P.S. I had to update my theory on the name Normandie for the very same reason. It’s much more likely that it was influenced by the comic strip character than by the ocean liner.