The Arrival of L’Tanya

L'Tanya Griffin, 1950s, fashion designer, baby name
L’Tanya Griffin w/ daughter L’Tanya.

In the late ’40s, long before the name Tanya (a diminutive of Tatiana) reached peak trendiness in the ’70s, some specific Tanya-based names started debuting:

YearLatanya usageLatonia usageLtanya usage
1955
1954
1953
1952
1951
1950
1949
1948
1947
1946
67 baby girls
31 baby girls
24 baby girls
12 baby girls
9 baby girls
13 baby girls
7 baby girls
6 baby girls
7 baby girls [debut]
.
10 baby girls
9 baby girls
8 baby girls
6 baby girls
8 baby girls
.
.
6 baby girls
5 baby girls [debut]
.
32 baby girls
22 baby girls
11 baby girls
5 baby girls
.
5 baby girls
9 baby girls [debut]
.
.
.

Latanya and Latonia first appeared in ’47. Ltanya followed in ’49. Latonya popped up in 1951, and other variants appeared later, including the intriguing LaTanga.

What influenced the usage of these names?

My guess is Hollywood-based African-American fashion designer L’Tanya Griffin.

She started to become famous during the second half of the ’40s. Her name began appearing newspapers around 1946, and it was often spelled “LaTanya” and “La Tanya.” (Her birth name was Julia Bernice Hilbert, incidentally.)

In mid-1949, a specific event made L’Tanya Griffin front-page news: Her estranged husband Earl tried to assault her with a beer can full of lye at racetrack in Atlantic City. She was uninjured, but her friend Marshall Miles (former manager of boxer Joe Louis) and several other people suffered first degree burns. Worst off was Earl himself, as the lye had splashed back into his face. It got into his eyes and blinded him (not permanently, turns out).

L’Tanya was at the height of her fashion-fame during the 1950s. She was even on the cover of Jet in mid-1954. The magazine sometimes ran pictures of her young daughter L’Tanya as well.

I’m not sure what became of L’Tanya Griffin after her fame waned in the ’60s, but I did discover that one of the babies named “LaTanya” in 1949 was none other than Samuel L. Jackson’s wife LaTanya Richardson.

Do you like the name L’Tanya?

Sources:

  • “Acid Toss by Hubby Backfires.” New York Age 20 Aug. 1949: 1.
  • “Fashions by L’Tanya” Ebony Aug. 1947: 24.
  • Kirkham, Pat and Shauna Stallworth. “”Three Strikes Against Me”: African American Women Designers.” Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000: Diversity and Difference, ed. by Pat Kirkham, The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, 2000, pp. 123-144.
  • LaTanya Martinique, Los Angeles, California, ca. 1945
  • “Lye Hurled at Pretty Designer.” Pittsburgh Courier 20 Aug. 1949: 1.

Image: © 1954 Jet

Our First Taste of Taffy…

taffy, baby name, comic
Taffy Tucker

…in the baby name data!

Taffy isn’t just a type of candy — it’s also a name, and it debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1943:

  • 1947: 12 baby girls named Taffy
  • 1946: 6 baby girls named Taffy
  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 5 baby girls named Taffy
  • 1943: 6 baby girls named Taffy [debut]
  • 1942: unlisted
  • 1941: unlisted

Why?

Because of Taffy Tucker, a new character introduced in the Terry and the Pirates comic strip during 1942.

Titular character Terry Lee joined the military in 1942, and there he met new people, including Taffy Tucker, an Army nurse, and Flip Corkin, an Army flight instructor (who was also Taffy’s boyfriend).

Taffy Tucker was a “spunky, dedicated nurse, hardworking and tireless, cheerful and caring and always feminine.”

At one point in the storyline, Taffy was kidnapped by a Japanese agent. She was beaten up and left for dead deep in the interior of China. Thankfully, she was eventually rescued by Terry and Flip.

It took cartoonist Milton Caniff about three months to create the character:

[He] spent several days just worrying about a name for Taffy. Since he visualized her as a pert, snub-nosed girl from Georgia, he wanted a name with a typically Old South sound. He finally settled on Guinevere Marianne Tucker, nicknamed Taffy because of her candy-colored hair. She had to be short, because she was scheduled to fall in love with Flip Corkin, who is short, and she had to be blond [sic] for contrast with Flip, who is dark.

Caniff had modeled Taffy after a photo of real-life WWII military nurse Bernice Taylor of Kansas.

What do you think of Taffy as a baby name?

Sources:

P.S. The name Taffy got a slight boost around 1949 thanks to the film The Doctor and the Girl, in which the young Dr. Corday has a love interest named Evelyn “Taffy” Heldon who operates a taffy machine in a candy store.

P.P.S. Other Terry and the Pirates-inspired baby names include Normandie, Merrily, and Raven.

The First Appearance of Fabienne

fabienne, mariette, movie, 1940s, baby names

The name French name Fabienne debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1949. The very next year, it saw its highest-ever usage, and the similar names Fabiene and Fabian (typically a male name) both popped up in the girls’ data.

  • 1952: 6 baby girls named Fabienne
  • 1951: 17 baby girls named Fabienne
  • 1950: 36 baby girls named Fabienne [peak]
  • 1949: 5 baby girls named Fabienne [debut]
  • 1948: unlisted

What caused this sudden interest in Fabienne?

The movie The Doctor and the Girl, released in September of 1949. The central characters in the drama were father and son Dr. John Corday and Dr. Michael Corday, but Michael’s sisters Fabienne (played by Gloria De Haven) and Mariette (played by Nancy Davis, later Nancy Reagan) were featured as well.

The baby name Mariette also saw peak usage in 1950.

Which of the two sister names do you like more, Fabienne or Mariette?

Source: The Doctor and the Girl – TCM

The Rare Name Royalene

Royalene Hinkle

The rare name Royalene appeared in the SSA’s public dataset* for the first and only time in 1942:

  • 1944: unlisted
  • 1943: unlisted
  • 1942: 5 baby girls named Royalene
  • 1941: unlisted
  • 1940: unlisted

What boosted Royalene into the data that year?

My guess is 26-year-old murder victim Royalene Hinkle of Watseka, Illinois. (Sorry about the watermarked image — it was the best photo of her that I could find.)

In March of 1941, Royalene and her boyfriend were found shot to death at the home of Royalene’s maternal uncle, Robert Feister (with whom she lived).

Feister went on trial for the two murders that summer. Notably, he had two heart attacks in the middle of the proceedings, but survived both. He was eventually found guilty — he’d been “hoping he would inherit her $11,000 estate” — and given a life sentence.

The crime and ensuing court case kept the name Royalene in the papers for several months, and this ongoing exposure had enough of an influence on expectant parents to make “Royalene” a one-hit wonder the following year.

What are your thoughts on the name Royalene?

Sources:

  • “Farmer Is Guilty Of Killing Niece Punishment Set As Life Term.” Clarion-Ledger 21 Jul. 1941: 1.
  • Fiester Suffers Attack While Testifying.” Daily Illini 17 Jul. 1941: 2.
  • “Inquest in Lovers’ Deaths.” Alton Evening Telegraph 2 Apr. 1941: 12.
  • Mystery Solved

*The dataset only includes names given to five or more babies per year.

The Emergence of Janalene

The fashion-inspired name Janalene was only fashionable enough to appear in the U.S. baby name data for a single year at the very beginning of the 1940s:

  • 1942: unlisted
  • 1941: unlisted
  • 1940: 6 baby girls named Janalene
  • 1939: unlisted
  • 1938: unlisted

The source for this one? An Indianapolis-based women’s clothing company called Janaléne:

It had been around since the 1920s (at least), but seems to have been most successful during the 1930s and 1940s.

Janaléne hired saleswomen in rural areas to sell clothes door-to-door. They did this with the help of the Janaléne clothing catalogue, which featured drawings of garments plus fabric samples.

The representatives were recruited via advertisements in newspapers and magazines — especially farming magazines. Here’s one such ad:

Get your dresses as a bonus and up to $18 a week. Show “Dated” Dresses. Experience unnecessary. No canvassing. Janalene, Dept. 845. Indianapolis, Ind.

Several similar companies of the era also utilized a direct-sales business model, but Janaléne differentiated itself by selling outdated styles specifically.

Though the name popped up in the baby name data in 1940, records suggest that most Janalenes were actually born during the 1930s. Here’s a Janalene born in West Virginia in 1931, for instance.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Janalene?

Sources: