The First Appearance of Pepi

five fathers of pepi, ira avery, book, 1950s

The peppy name Pepi first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1956:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 5 baby boys named Pepi [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

What put it there?

“The Five Fathers of Pepi” — a mid-1956 episode of the live anthology TV show The United States Steel Hour.

The episode told the story of a group of men (Giorgio, Benozzo, Jacopo, Carlo, and Vittore) in an Italian town who were raising a war orphan named Pepi.

Pepi, a young orphan, has been adopted by five men of a town on the Italian riviera. Both the “fathers” and the boy are very happy about this arrangement, until the arrival of a wealthy American couple threatens the pleasant state of affairs. The Americans become interested in Pepi and consider adopting him themselves, legally. When they fail to be discouraged by various ruses, the “fathers” feel there is only one thing left to do and it is up to Giorgio, the “bachelor father,” to act quickly.

Giorgio was played by a young Paul Newman, described by a contemporary source as the “outstanding talent of stage, screen and television, who has skyrocketed to stardom during the past year.”

The story, written by Ira Avery, had been published in book form in mid-1955. Interestingly, though, Avery had originally created it as a television script for a 1952 episode of The Philco Television Playhouse.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Pepi? (It’s a pet form of Giuseppe, the Italian form of Joseph.)

Sources:

Sheena: Jungle Queen & Baby Name

sheena, queen of the jungle, comic, 1940s, baby nameIf you meet someone in the U.S. named Sheena, chances are she was born in the 1980s. That’s when the usage of baby name Sheena spiked impressively thanks to Scottish singer Sheena Easton, whose first big hit was “9 to 5 (Morning Train)” and whose name was no doubt based on Sìne, the Scottish form of Jeanne.

But the name Sheena has been on the onomastic map (here in the U.S.) a lot longer than that. And I think the initial influence was a comic book character.

“Queen of the Jungle” Sheena, who always wore a skimpy, leopard-print outfit, started appearing in the adventure anthology comic book Jumbo Comics in 1938. She’d been created by artist Will Eisner as a female counterpart to Tarzan, and her name was inspired by H. Rider Haggard’s novel She: A History of Adventure.

By the second half of 1940, Sheena was being featured on the cover of Jumbo Comics regularly. And in the spring of 1942, Sheena became the first female character to star in her own comic book in the spin-off series Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. (The first issue of Wonder Woman didn’t appear until later in 1942.)

Around the same time, the baby name Sheena debuted in the SSA’s baby name data:

  • 1945: 14 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1944: 11 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1943: 9 baby girls named Sheena [debut]
  • 1942: unlisted
  • 1941: unlisted

The next decade, Sheena got her own TV series. Sheena, Queen of the Jungle first aired from 1955 to 1956 and the title character was played by Nellie Elizabeth “Irish” McCalla. The show gave the name a boost in the mid-1950s:

  • 1958: 121 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1957: 163 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1956: 136 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1955: 34 baby girls named Sheena
  • 1954: 20 baby girls named Sheena

The name got another (lesser) boost in the late ’70s with the release of the Ramones song “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” (1977), but it was nothing like the rise that was to come a few years later thanks to Sheena Easton.

What are your thoughts on the name Sheena?

Sources: Sìne – Behind the Name, Eisner and Iger – WillEisner.com, First female character to star in her own comic book | Guinness World Records
Image from the Digital Comic Museum.

The Entrance of Tristram

tris, tristram, coffin, actor
Tris Coffin

The baby name Tristram, which has been around for centuries, didn’t debut in the U.S. baby name data until 1958:

  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: 5 baby boys named Tristram
  • 1957: unlisted

This was the year after the name Tris, which had charted as a girl name several times, first appeared on the boys’ list.

The influence behind both names was American actor Tristram “Tris” Coffin, who starred in the TV series 26 Men from late 1957 to mid-1959. In the show he played a fictionalized version of Thomas H. Rynning, captain of the Arizona Rangers during the early 1900s.

His first name is a variant of Tristan, immortalized in the tragic medieval tale of Tristan and Iseult (a.k.a Isolde). We don’t know for sure where the name Tristan comes from, as it’s been “altered from an irrecoverable original as a result of transmission through Old French sources that insisted on associating it with Latin tristis ‘sad,’ a reference to the young knight’s tragic fate.” Tristan may have been based on the Pictish male name Drustan/Drosten, a diminutive form of Drest/Drust/Drost, which was a common name among Pictish rulers.

If the name “Tristram Coffin” sounds weirdly familiar to you, you aren’t nuts — more than a few American men have borne this exact name. All are descendants of Tristram Coffyn, an immigrant from England who was one of the first settlers of Nantucket. In fact, the original Tristram Coffyn (c.1608-1681) was the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of actor Tris Coffin (1909-1990), born in a mining town in Utah three centuries later. (Another bearer was folklorist Tristram P. Coffin.)

Do you like the name Tristram? Do you like it more or less than Tristan?

Sources:

The Debut of Dianalynn

diana lynn, actress, 1952
© 1952 Life

The baby name Dianalynn has been in the SSA data just twice, debuting in 1951, then popping up a second time in 1963.

The influence was surely American actress Diana Lynn (1926-1971), whose birth name was Dolores “Dolly” Loehr. But the reason the name debuted in that particular year — if there even is a reason — is hard to pin down.

In 1951 she co-starred with future president Ronald Reagan in the chimp movie Bedtime for Bonzo, which did well at the box office. But this was nothing new; she’d been appearing in well-received movies throughout the 1940s.

Also around 1951 she started appearing on TV, but, as LIFE mentioned in a mid-1952 article featuring Diana Lynn and five other leading ladies of television, “their faces are probably better known than their names. In the billings their names flash by so quickly that the audience is generally unable to identify them.” (The other five featured actresses were Stella Andrew, Rita Gam, Grace Kelly, Felicia Montealegre, and Neva Patterson.)

What are your thoughts on the name Dianalynn?

Sources:

The Debut of Darvi

bella darvi, 1950s, actress
Bella Darvi

In the mid-1950s, the unusual name Darvi appeared just twice in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 6 baby girls named Darvi
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 5 baby girls named Darvi [debut]
  • 1953: unlisted

What put it there?

Actress Bella Darvi, whose story is somewhat similar to that of Miroslava: both were born in Europe in the 1920s, both were of Jewish descent and had to deal with the Nazis, both tried to become famous Hollywood actresses in the 1950s, and both ended up taking their own lives.

Bella Darvi was born Bajla Wegier in Poland in 1928. She was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II and released in 1943.

In 1951, she happened to meet American film producer Darryl Zanuck and his wife Virginia while they were in Europe. They brought her to the U.S., changed her name to Bella Darvi — “Darvi” being a combination of Darryl and Virginia — and helped her get into the movies.

She was featured in several relatively high-profile films in 1954 and 1955 (The Egyptian, Hell and High Water, and The Racers). She even co-won the “New Star of the Year” Golden Globe Award in January of 1954 for her parts in the first two films.* But ultimately her career didn’t take off.

She returned to Europe, where she continued to appear in films, but in 1971 committed suicide in Monte Carlo.

*Interestingly, according to the official Golden Globes site, Darvi won her award before either of her 1954 films came out (one was released in February, the other in August). And, in fact, that particular awards show (the 11th Golden Globes) was supposed to be focused on movies from 1953. So I have no idea how she managed to win…unless Zanuck had something to do with it?

Sources: Bella Darvi – IMDb, Bella Darvi – Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen