It’s Time for Zsa Zsa, Dahling

zsa zsa gabor, milton berle, tv, 1950
Zsa Zsa Gabor getting a kiss from Milton Berle, 1956

This one is easy. Zsazsa debuted in the U.S. data in 1957:

  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 8 baby girls named Zsazsa
  • 1959: 12 baby girls named Zsazsa
  • 1958: 5 baby girls named Zsazsa
  • 1957: 6 baby girls named Zsazsa [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

The source, of course, is glamorous Hungarian-born Zsa Zsa [zhah zhah] Gábor.

It’s hard to know what caused the debut specifically, but it probably wasn’t the movies. More likely it was Zsa Zsa’s many TV appearances in 1956 and 1957. She was on The Milton Berle Show, The Herb Shriner Show, The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, The Rosemary Clooney Show, and other shows.

Her birth name was Sári [SHAH-ree] Gábor. She was named after Hungarian stage actress Sári “Zsazsa” Fedak, whose nickname came from her young daughter’s mispronunciation of her first name.

What do you think of the name Zsa Zsa?

Source: Gábor, Zsa Zsa and Gerold Frank. Zsa Zsa Gábor: My Story. NY: World Publishing Company, 1960.
Image: Screenshot from The Milton Berle Show, 3/13/1956 episode

Baby Girls Named Tina Marie

tina marie, 1955, bob merrill, perry como, music, song
Tina Marie sheet music

In mid-1955, Perry Como released pop song “Tina Marie” [vid]. “Tina Marie” became a big hit, peaking at #6 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart in August.

And, just like “Mona Lisa” inspired parents to name their baby girls Monalisa in 1950, “Tina Marie” inspired parents to name their baby girls Tinamarie in 1955:

  • 1958: 15 baby girls named Tinamarie
  • 1957: 14 baby girls named Tinamarie
  • 1956: 17 baby girls named Tinamarie
  • 1955: 10 baby girls named Tinamarie [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted

The name Tina also saw a spike in usage that year. No doubt many of these Tinas had the middle name Marie.

Source: Macfarlane, Malcolm and Ken Crossland. Perry Como: A Biography and Complete Career Record. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2012.

What Turned Shalimar into a Baby Name?

shalimar, debra paget, princess of the nileThe name Shalimar first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1954:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 6 baby girls named Shalimar
  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 5 baby girls named Shalimar
  • 1953: unlisted

The inspiration here was not the famous perfume created by Guerlain in the 1920s, but a movie called Princess of the Nile released in mid-1954. It starred Debra Paget as an Egyptian Princess named Shalimar (who sometimes went incognito as a dancing girl known as Taura).

This was a few years after the Debra Paget movie Broken Arrow boosted Sonseeahray into the data, and a few years before Debra started outranking Deborah on the popularity charts.

But the word Shalamar is not Egyptian. It comes from the famous Shalimar Gardens located in Pakistan. The gardens were created in the mid-1600s by Shah Jahan (who built the Taj Mahal around the same time). “Shalamar” was derived from the Persian-Arabic phrase shah al-‘imarat, meaning “king of buildings.”

Source: Princess of the Nile (1954) – TCM, The meaning of ‘Shalimar’

The Coming of Cochise

cochise, apache, oak

The name Cochise started appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the 1950s:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 8 baby boys named Cochise
  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 5 baby boys named Cochise [debut]
  • 1953: unlisted

Ultimately we know of this name through Cochise, the leader of the Chokonen Chiricahua Apaches during the 1860s and early 1870s.

His Apache name was Cheis or Chees. White men called him Chees, Kachise, Cachees, Cochil, and Cochise. There were other forms, spellings, and pronunciations but they all described one man — one of the fiercest guerrilla fighters who ever lived.

His name was derived from the Apache word for “oak,” but it “invok[ed] not the tree or the wood itself so much as the strength and quality of oak.”

So why were babies being named Cochise in the 1950s? Because Cochise had been turned into a character for various movies and television shows during that time:

  • 1961 – TV show Bonanza (1 episode)
  • 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 – TV show Broken Arrow (main character)
  • 1956 – TV show TV Reader’s Digest (1 episode)
  • 1955, 1956 – TV show The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (3 episodes)
  • 1954 – movie Taza, Son of Cochise
  • 1953 – movie Conquest of Cochise
  • 1952 – movie The Battle at Apache Pass
  • 1951 – movie The Last Outpost
  • 1950 – movie Broken Arrow
  • 1948 – movie Fort Apache

And the name was used in the title of yet another TV show, Sheriff of Cochise, which aired from 1956 to 1958. (It was set in Cochise County, Arizona.)

Because a fictionalized version of Cochise could be seen in something during every year of the decade, it’s hard to attribute the emergence of Cochise in the ’50s to one specific piece of media.

What are your thoughts on the name Cochise?

Sources:

  • Cochise – Wikipedia
  • Livingston, Stoney. “Cochise (Cheis).” The Settlement of America: An Encyclopedia of Westward Expansion from Jamestown to the Closing of the Frontier, ed. by James A. Crutchfield. New York: Routledge, 2015.
  • Roberts, David. Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, And The Apache Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

“Broken Arrow” Baby Names

Broken Arrow movie poster

Elliott Arnold’s 1947 novel Blood Brother was a fictionalized account of the adventures of Old West historical figures Cochise, a Chiricahua Apache chief, and Tom Jeffords, a U.S. Indian agent.

The book was later adapted into a movie and a TV series, and both of these things ended up influencing U.S. baby names.

Sonseeahray & Debralee

The movie Broken Arrow was released in the summer of 1950. It starred Jeff Chandler as Cochise and James Stewart as Tom Jeffords. But the two baby names that debuted in the data thanks to the movie were associated with a different character: Sonseeahray, played by teenage actress Debra Paget.

Broken Arrow wasn’t Debra Paget’s first movie, but it was her first big hit, and it helped her achieve a new level of fame. And in 1951, her birth name Debralee debuted in the data. In fact, it was that year’s top debut name.

  • 1955: 7 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1954: 6 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1953: 11 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1952: 9 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1951: 19 baby girls named Debralee [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

The public had become aware that Debra Paget was born “Debralee Griffin” in mid-1950, thanks to a newspaper article by AP journalist Hubbard Keavy, who called Debra’s birth name “improbable” (a curious comment, coming from guy named Hubbard Keavy). He quoted Debra’s mother, Margaret Griffin, as saying:

I christened her Debra. Her father’s people were Pagets. I used to call her Debra Lee, thinking that would be a good professional name. But Paget is more unusual and there are no Pagets in the movies.

Debra’s sister, Marcia Eloise Griffin, also acted under a stage name: Teala Loring.

The name of the character Sonseeahray also debuted in 1951:

  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 7 baby girls named Sonseeahray [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

Sonseeahray, defined in the novel as “morning star,” seems to be legitimate Apache name; it was included and defined in the book Life Among the Apaches (1868) by John C. Cremony.

Two real-life Sonseeahrays are Fox News reporter Sonseeahray Tonsall and German actress Sonsee Neu, born Sonsee Ahray Natascha Floethmann-Neu.

Marsheela & Ansara

The TV series Broken Arrow first aired on ABC from 1956 to 1958. (Reruns aired in 1959 and 1960.) The show starred Michael Ansara as Cochise and John Lupton as Tom Jeffords. While it did not include the character Sonseeahray, an early episode did feature a Sonseeahray-like character named Marsheela.

Marsheela, played by actress Donna Martell, appeared in the episode “Apache Girl” in mid-1957. The same year, the name Marsheela was a one-hit wonder in the baby name data:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 11 baby girls named Marsheela [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

I figured out the source of this one only after posting about Marsheila, which was the most-used spelling of Marsheela that year (no doubt because of the familiarity of the Irish name Sheila, which was a top-100 girl name in the U.S. throughout the ’50s and ’60s).

Another one-hit wonder was the surname of Arab-American actor Michael Ansara. Five baby boys were named Ansara in 1960:

  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 5 baby boys named Ansara [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

Though Broken Arrow had made Michael Ansara a household name, this debut lines up more cleanly with a later TV Western that Ansara also starred in: Law of the Plainsman, which lasted from 1959 to 1960.

His surname may be based on the Arabic term al-ansar, meaning “the helpers.”

Sources: