The Hawaiian Name Haunani

from here to eternity, soundtrack, haunani, 1953

In 1953, the Hawaiian name Haunani saw high enough national usage* that it appeared for the first time in the SSA’s baby name data:

  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: 6 baby girls named Haunani [debut]
    • 5 born in Hawaii specifically
  • 1952: unlisted

The soundtrack to From Here to Eternity — one of the top-grossing movies of not just 1953, but the entire decade — featured a song called “Haunani.” The song was composed by Hawaiian hapa-haole musician Randall Kimeona “Randy” Oness and performed by Danny Stewart and His Islanders.

Randy Oness had a daughter named Haunani (b. 1944) and, according to Honolulu Star-Bulletin entertainment columnist John Berger, the song “Haunani” was written specifically for her. The lyrics were originally in Hawaiian, but here’s an English version of “Haunani” sung by Alfred Apaka:

The Hawaiian name Haunani is composed of two elements: hau, meaning “ruler,” and nani, meaning “beauty” or “glory.” (“Hau” also happens to be a Hawaiian word for snow.)

Do you like the name Haunani? Do you like it more or less than Leimomi?

Sources:

*The minimum threshold for inclusion in the publicly available dataset is five U.S. babies per gender, per year.


The Baby Name Lastarza

boxer, roland lastarza
Roland LaStarza
The baby name Lastarza debuted in the U.S. data in 1953:

  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: 6 baby boys named Lastarza
  • 1952: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Roland LaStarza, the Bronx-born, Italian-American boxer whose pro career lasted from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. He won 57 out of his 66 professional fights. Two of the fights he did not win were against the legendary Rocky Marciano.

Marciano barely won the 1950 bout, and in the much-hyped 1953 rematch — with the World Heavyweight title up for grabs — LaStarza won four of the first six rounds. Marciano had started off “overeager and awkward,” at one point swinging “so wildly that he missed and slipped clumsily to the canvas.” But “[i]n the seventh, Marciano changed his tactics, started aiming at LaStarza’s body as well as his head in an attempt to wear the challenger down. He succeeded.” Marciano won by technical knockout in the 11th round. The match was declared Fight of the Year by boxing magazine The Ring.

(Usage of the baby name Marciano also saw an uptick in 1953.)

After retirement, Roland LaStarza made guest appearances on several TV shows including 77 Sunset Strip, Perry Mason, and Batman. His surname never reappeared in the baby name data, though, making it a true one-hit wonder.

Source: “A Champ Too Tough For Anyone Around.” Life 5 Oct. 1953: 32-33.

Baby Names Inspired by The Chantels

chantels, music, 1950s, doowop

Though The Chantels were technically the second African-American girl-group (after the Bobbettes) to achieve chart success, they missed being first by just a matter of weeks.

The quintet of Catholic choir girls — Arlene, Lois, Renee, Jackie, and Sonia — hit the scene in the latter half of 1957 with two singles: “He’s Gone,” released in August, and “Maybe,” released in December.

“Maybe” ended up becoming a hit in early 1958, reaching #2 on the R&B charts and #15 on the Hot 100. Here are the Chantels singing (well, lip-syncing) “Maybe” on The Dick Clark Show in March:

The word “Chantels” never ended up in the U.S. baby name data, but non-plural forms like Chantel and Chantell started appearing in 1957:

  • 1964: 45 Chantel, 30 Chantelle, 20 Chantell, 19 Shantel, 12 Shantell, 9 Shantelle, 7 Chantele
  • 1963: 56 Chantel, 31 Chantelle, 11 Shantel, 9 Chantele, 7 Chantell, 6 Shantell
  • 1962: 12 Chantel
  • 1961: 5 Chantel
  • 1960: 5 Chantell
  • 1959: 5 Chantel
  • 1958: 6 Chantell
  • 1957: 5 Chantel
  • 1956: unlisted

I’m not sure what caused that explosion of variants in 1963. The Chantels’ next-biggest hit, “Look In My Eyes” (1961), is too early to account for it. The answer might be the 1962 movie If a Man Answers, which featured a character named Chantal played by Sandra Dee.

So where did the Chantels get their name? From a Catholic parish in Bronx — but not their own, St. Anthony of Padua. Here’s the story:

The girls were performing at a dance at St. Francis [sic] de Chantal parish in Throgs Neck, got a terrific hand from the audience, and had a brainstorm for the name of their group.

They simply altered Chantal — a French place name meaning “stony” — to create Chantel.

Do you like the name Chantel? Do you like it more or less than Chantal?

Sources:

Mystery Monday: The Baby Name “Goddess”

This one might sound like a very modern name — and it is. It’s been given to dozens of baby girls yearly for about a decade now. But Goddess also popped up in the data once in the 1950s, and I’m not sure why.

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 6 baby girls named Goddess [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

A quick search pulls up a a bunch of mid-’50s movies with the word “Goddess” in the title, but none of these movies seem to line up with a 1957 debut.

  • The American film Devil Goddess (1955) came out too early.
  • The American film The Goddess (1958) came out too late.
  • The German film Liane, Jungle Goddess (1956) wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1959. (We can see a corresponding spike in the number of babies named Liane.)
  • The Italian film The Goddess of Love (1957) wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1960.

The word was also in the title of the 1955 Aldous Huxley novel The Genius and the Goddess, which became a Broadway play of the same name in December of 1957…but the play didn’t even last a week before closing, so I doubt that’s the answer.

Any thoughts on this one?

Rapunzel, the Long-Haired One-Hit Wonder

rapunzel, 1958, shirley temple, television, carol lynley
Carol Lynley as Rapunzel, 1958
Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled failed to influence the U.S. baby name charts in 2010, but a televised depiction of Rapunzel from decades earlier boosted the baby name Rapunzel onto the the charts for the first and only time in 1959:

  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: 9 baby girls named Rapunzel
  • 1958: unlisted

Rapunzel was one of the top one-hit wonder names of 1959, in fact.

So what exactly caused this sudden interest in Rapunzel?

The “Rapunzel” episode of Shirley Temple’s Storybook (1958-1961). The German folktale first aired in October of 1958 on NBC. It aired again in 1959 when ABC reran the entire first season of the series.

The role of Rapunzel was played by 16-year-old Carol Lynley. The witch was played by Agnes Moorehead, best remembered today as an entirely different witch: red-headed Endora from Bewitched. And Shirley Temple, who was in her early 30’s by this time, served as narrator.

…And how did the long-haired folktale character come to have the name “Rapunzel” in the first place?

It was a pregnancy craving, believe it or not.

The original story began with a pregnant woman who had a craving for rapunzel, which is a leafy green vegetable. Her husband started stealing rapunzel from a nearby garden that belonged to either a fairy (in the Grimm brothers’ original 1812 version of the story) or a sorceress (in their revised 1857 version). The husband got caught and was forced to make a deal: he could take all the rapunzel he wanted, but in exchange he had to give the baby to the fairy/sorceress. And he did. The baby girl was named “Rapunzel” and taken away.

Have you ever met a person named Rapunzel?

Source: Rapunzel – a comparison of the versions of 1812 and 1857 – D. L. Ashliman