The Start of Sherida

The baby name Sherida debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1945.

The baby name Sherida first appeared in the data in the middle of the 1940s. In fact, Sherida was the top debut name of the year in 1945.

  • 1950: 34 baby girls named Sherida
  • 1949: 71 baby girls named Sherida [peak]
  • 1948: 67 baby girls named Sherida
  • 1947: 21 baby girls named Sherida
  • 1946: 20 baby girls named Sherida
  • 1945: 26 baby girls named Sherida [debut]
  • 1944: unlisted

What put it there?

A mystery/suspense novel called The Sign of the Ram by Margaret Ferguson. It was published in 1944 became a best-seller.

It was set in pre-World War II Cornwall and the central character was Leah St. Aubyn, a wheelchair-bound poet who was the (young) matriarch of the well-off St. Aubyn family. Leah became increasingly vengeful and manipulative over the course of the story, and one of her targets was her secretary Sherida Binyon, who Leah thought was having an affair with her husband Mallory.

In 1948, the novel was made into a movie — mainly as a vehicle for actress Susan Peters, who had been a rising star in Hollywood before becoming a paraplegic due to a hunting accident. Actress Phyllis Thaxter played the part of Sherida. The movie didn’t do well in theaters, but it pushed the usage of Sherida up to peak levels.

Also interesting: This usage of Sherida seemed to negatively affect the (female) usage of Sheridan, which slipped in both 1945 and 1948. Americans were probably using Sheridan as a girl name in the ’40s thanks to actress Ann Sheridan.

Do you like the name Sherida? Do you like it more or less than Sheridan?

Source: The Sign of the Ram – TCM

The First Appearance of Fiona

fiona, movie, 1940s, baby name
Fiona in the trailer for The Gay Sisters (1942)

The name Fiona — coined during the 18th century by Scottish poet James Macpherson, who based it on the Irish word fionn (“white, fair”) — is relatively common in the U.S. these days. Rank-wise, it’s been hovering around 200th place for the last few years.

But — like Siobhan, Maeve, Bronwen, and many other Celtic names — it didn’t arrive with the immigrants. Instead, it was introduced to America later on, via pop culture.

Fiona first popped up in the data in 1942, and it stuck around for several years:

  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 7 baby girls named Fiona
  • 1943: 19 baby girls named Fiona
  • 1942: 9 baby girls named Fiona [debut]
  • 1941: unlisted

What boosted it onto the charts that initial time?

The movie The Gay Sisters, which came out in August of 1942. The main characters were the three Gaylord sisters/heiresses: Fiona, Evelyn, and Susanna. Fiona, the eldest sister, was played by popular actress Barbara Stanwyck (birth name Ruby Catherine Stevens). The film didn’t do well at the box office, but it clearly had an impact on expectant parents.

The movie was based on the book of the same name by Stephen Longstreet. Longstreet was also the writer behind Stallion Road, which was similarly made into a movie and introduced audiences to a woman named Rory (traditionally a male name) later in the ’40s.

Do you like the name Fiona? Would you use it?

Sources:

  • The Gay Sisters – TCM
  • Hanks, Patrick, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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.