The Entrance of Oona

oona
Oona in an advertisement, early 1943

The unusual Irish name Oona first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the 1940s:

  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 5 baby girls named Oona
  • 1943: 7 baby girls named Oona
  • 1942: 5 baby girls named Oona [debut]
  • 1941: unlisted

Why?

It was thanks to Oona O’Neill, daughter of Eugene and Agnes O’Neill, both writers. Oona was born in Bermuda in 1925, five years after her father won his first Pulitzer Prize.

In the early 1940s, Oona was a teenage socialite with famous friends. And in April of 1942, when the 16-year-old debutante was selected as the top “glamour girl” of New York society at the Stork Club, she became famous.

Oona got offers from film studios, and if she had gone in that direction, her name might have become more popular during the 1940s. Instead, she became the wife of Charlie Chaplin in June of 1943, when she was 18 and he was 54. Not long after that, her name dropped back off the charts.

(Oona and Charlie went on to have eight children, named: Geraldine, Michael, Josephine, Victoria, Eugene, Jane, Annette, and Christopher. Geraldine’s daughter Oona Chaplin played the part of Talisa Maegyr on Game of Thrones a few years ago.)

These days, the name Oona (which is actually a spelling variant of Úna) is relatively close to the U.S. top 1,000:

  • 2017: 93 baby girls named Oona [rank: 2,085th]
  • 2016: 111 baby girls named Oona [rank: 1,856th]
  • 2015: 131 baby girls named Oona [rank: 1,634th]
  • 2014: 63 baby girls named Oona [rank: 2,761st]
  • 2013: 38 baby girls named Oona [rank: 3,977th]

Do you think it will ever get there?

What are your thoughts on the baby name Oona?

P.S. “Oona” was back in the baby name data in 1954, the year a character named Oona could be seen on the big screen in the movie Taza, Son of Cochise.

P.P.S. I also mentioned Charlie Chaplin in this post about the name Cherrill.

Source: Oona O’Neill – Wikipedia
Image: from a Woodbury soap advertisement in Life magazine (March 8, 1943)

The Arrival of Vallorie

brenda starr, comic strip, baby name, queen vallorie
Brenda Starr meets Queen Vallorie

The name Valerie was rising fast on the baby name charts in the ’40s and ’50s, but the specific spelling Vallorie debuted and spiked in usage right in the middle of that period:

  • 1952: 8 baby girls named Vallorie
  • 1951: 5 baby girls named Vallorie
  • 1950: 49 baby girls named Vallorie [peak]
  • 1949: 6 baby girls named Vallorie [debut]
  • 1948: unlisted
  • 1947: unlisted

Why?

Comics! The Brenda Starr, Reporter comic strip featured a storyline called “Queen Vallorie” during the early months of 1950. Queen Vallorie wasn’t an adult, but a little girl who ran off to America with her dog (Veronica) after the death of her grandfather, the king of Gastovia (a fictional European nation). Vallorie was next in line for the throne.

Generations ago, fewer parents named their newborns right away — that’s how how a comic strip character from 1950 would have influenced the names of babies born 1949.

The main character of the strip, glamorous redhead Brenda Starr, had been modeled after actress Rita Hayworth and named after two things: debutante Brenda Frazier, and the fact that she was the star reporter at her newspaper, The Flash.

Strip creator Dale Messick (1906-2005) ended up naming her own daughter Starr (b. 1942) after the character. And when the character had a baby girl in 1977, the baby was in turn named Starr after Dale’s real-life daughter.

Dale herself was originally a Dalia, but was convinced (by a secretary at the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate) to change her first name to Dale “to get around the blatant sexism of the time.”

Sources: Cartoonist Dale Messick Dies; Creator of ‘Brenda Starr’ Strip, Dale Messick, 98, Creator of ‘Brenda Starr’ Strip, Dies, Another Starr Is Born, Brenda Starr Retires

The Baby Name Jyme

The rare girl name Jyme (probably pronounced “Jimmy”) has only appeared in the national data set a handful of times, starting in 1946:

  • 1948: unlisted
  • 1947: unlisted
  • 1946: 5 baby girls named Jyme [debut]
  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: unlisted

It’s just a slight debut, so there may not be a solid reason for it, but…I did find a little girl named Jyme prominently featured inside the Aug. 11 (Sunday) issue of the Chicago Tribune that year. So she could have been the influence.

Jyme Rae Pierson’s photo appeared in the paper alongside an article about the Joliet Industrial Health Camp — a camp that catered to local underweight children, its main objective being to get campers to gain a few pounds over a period of several weeks. The camp’s 20th anniversary was that summer. Jyme, one of the campers, was mentioned in an article several times.

While the reason for Jyme’s first appearance in the data may be elusive (perhaps nonexistent), the reason for the name’s second appearance, in 1954, was no doubt the influence of Jymme Shore.

Pearl Harbor’s Influence on the Name “Pearl”

more baby girls named pearl in 1942, after pearl harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor happened on December 7, 1941 — 77 years ago today.

The next year, usage of the baby name Pearl, which had been trending downward since the 1920s, increased nearly 31%:

  • 1945: 654 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 265th]
  • 1944: 757 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 238th]
  • 1943: 878 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 223rd]
  • 1942: 1,092 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 191st]
  • 1941: 835 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 212th]
  • 1940: 908 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 197th]
  • 1939: 901 baby girls named Pearl [rank: 198th]

Some of these post-1941 babies got first-middle combos like “Pearl Victory” and “Pearl Harbor.” (Here’s a “Victory Pearl Harbor.”)

After that 1942 uptick, Pearl’s downward trend continued. Usage was lowest during the last three decades of the 20th century. Since then, usage has picked up somewhat.

Do you like the name Pearl?

The Rise of Deborah

deborah kerr, 1947, magazine
Deborah Kerr, cover of Time, early 1947

Right on the heels of Cheryl, the baby name Deborah skyrocketed in usage during the late ’40s and early ’50s:

  • 1952: 49,808 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 4th]
  • 1951: 42,060 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 4th]
  • 1950: 29,067 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 7th]
  • 1949: 19,208 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 15th]
  • 1948: 11,245 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 30th]
  • 1947: 5,838 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 62nd]
  • 1946: 2,470 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 119th]
  • 1945: 1,464 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 161st]
  • 1944: 1,293 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 168th]

It peaked at 2nd place (behind Mary) in 1955.

Deborah, based on the ancient Hebrew word for “bee,” had already been on a slow and steady rise. So what fueled the explosion?

I’d say the one-two punch of actresses Deborah Kerr and Debra Paget.

Scottish-born Deborah Kerr, who had been in films since the early 1940s, didn’t became one of the biggest names in Hollywood until later in the decade. (Her surname rhymes with car; MGM cleverly came up with the line, “Kerr rhymes with star.”)

Kerr ended up in some of the most financially successful movies of the era, such as King Solomon’s Mines (1950), Quo Vadis (1951), From Here to Eternity (1953), and The King and I (1956) with Yul Brynner.

Denver-born* Debra Paget, a starlet of the 1950s, also appeared in some big films such as the top-grossing movie of the decade, The Ten Commandments (1956). The same year she appeared opposite Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender (1956).

Though many variants of Deborah were being used around that time, Debra saw particular success, thanks to Paget. In fact, Debra surpassed Deborah in usage for five years in a row:

Year Debra usage Deborah usage
1961 22,153 [rank: 13th] 24,095 [rank: 10th]
1960 26,737 [rank: 8th] 25,265 [rank: 10th]
1959 31,371 [rank: 7th] 19,553 [rank: 9th]
1958 35,520 [rank: 6th] 32,940 [rank: 7th]
1957 42,734 [rank: 4th] 40,062 [rank: 6th]
1956 48,299 [rank: 2nd] 47,830 [rank: 4th]
1955 50,541 [rank: 4th] 52,314 [rank: 2nd]
1954 45,894 [rank: 6th] 54,685 [rank: 3rd]
1953 36,856 [rank: 7th] 52,188 [rank: 3rd]
1952 26,832 [rank: 9th] 49,808 [rank: 4th]
1951 17,074 [rank: 18th] 42,060 [rank: 4th]

(Interesting fact: One of the babies named for Debra Paget was future actress Debra Winger, born in 1955.)

The occupational surname Paget, a diminutive form of the word page (a “youth employed as a personal attendant to a person of rank”), was also appearing in the SSA’s data as a girl around this time. It debuted in 1948, the year Debra Paget appeared in her first film, Cry of the City.

Which spelling do you prefer, the traditional Deborah or the streamlined Debra?

I prefer...

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Sources: Deborah Kerr – Wikipedia, Debra Paget – Wikipedia, Page – Online Etymology Dictionary

*These Rams were installed in Denver three years after Debra was born.