On the short-lived TV series Delvecchio, Los Angeles police detective Dominick Delvecchio (played by Judd Hirsch) was a cop who aspired to be a lawyer. (He’d graduated from law school, but hadn’t managed to pass the bar exam yet.) This made him more complex than the average TV detective of the era:
“What you have in Delvecchio is basically a schizoid personality. A cop is trained to assume guilt. A lawyer is trained to assume innocence and we have both of those things in the same guy. […] For that reason we have always built situations for Delvecchio where he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. […] So he lies to his bosses, he occasionally bends police procedure. He gets personally involved.”
Though the show was only on the air for a single season (1976-1977), it had a relatively strong impact on baby names.
And the surname of Delvecchio’s partner/sidekick, detective Paul Shonski (played by Charles Haid), was a one-hit wonder in the data the next year:
1977: 5 baby boys named Shonski [debut]
I haven’t been able to figure out the etymology of Shonski, but the Italian surname Delvecchio is easy: del means “of the” or “from the,” and vecchio means “old” or “mature.” So one original usage would have been to denote the son or servant of an older man. The name was also “taken by various Jewish families long established in Italy (allegedly since the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70) to distinguish themselves from later arrivals who migrated there on being expelled from the Iberian Peninsula after 1492.”
What are your thoughts on Delvecchio and Shonski as first names?
The pretty name Amoreena debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1971 and was used most often during the 1970s:
1974: 10 baby girls named Amoreena
1973: 17 baby girls named Amoreena
1972: 15 baby girls named Amoreena
1971: 14 baby girls named Amoreena
Where did it come from?
The Elton John song “Amoreena.” It was never released as a single, but was featured on the album Tumbleweed Connection, “a loose concept record about the Old West written by two people [composer Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin] who had never even been to America.” The record came out in October of 1970.
According to one source, the song was a nod to Joe Cocker’s “Delta Lady” (1969). “Both songs paint lyrical images of a lusty country girl in a pastoral setting.”
So how did Bernie Taupin come up with the name?
No one knows. One theory is that it’s based on amor, which means “love” in several Latin-based languages (including Spanish).
But we do know that the wife of Ray Williams (Elton John’s first manager) was pregnant at the time, and that Taupin suggested “Amoreena” as a potential baby name. Amoreena Joanne Williams was born during the first half of 1970, months before the album was released.
What are your thoughts on the baby name Amoreena?
Bernardin, Claude and Tom Stanton. Rocket Man: Elton John from A-Z. CT, Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1996.
During the ’60s and ’70s, a slew of Africa-inspired baby names debuted in the U.S. baby name data. These included traditional African names (e.g., Abayomi, Ayanna), names taken from African and African-American public figures (e.g., Lumumba, Levar), and — the focus of today’s post — African place names, particularly country names.
Here are all the African country/region/kingdom names I’ve spotted in the SSA data so far. (I didn’t omit Chad, even though it coincides with the English name Chad.)
The rare name Marjoe has appeared in the U.S. baby name just twice, both times in the mid-1970s:
1975: 6 baby boys named Marjoe
1974: 6 baby boys named Marjoe [debut]
This name is similar to Uldine in that both are associated with something rather unusual: child preachers.
In the case of Marjoe, the influence was child preacher-turned-actor Marjoe Gortner.
He was born Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner to parents to Vernon and Marge of California in 1944. According to an early source, the middle name “Marjoe” was based on the name of his mother Marge. (His younger siblings were named Vernoe and Starloe.) Later sources claim “Marjoe” was a combination of Mary and Joseph.
Marjoe Gortner was a precocious child, and his family was full of preachers, so his parents (putting two and two together) decided to turn Marjoe into a child preacher. By the age of four, he was an ordained minister and could deliver about 40 different sermons from memory. His entire childhood was spent evangelizing.
By the early 1970s, Marjoe Gortner was in his late 20s and only in it for the money. In the autobiographical documentary Marjoe (1972), he gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at “the lucrative business of Pentecostal preaching.” It earned critical acclaim and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in early 1973, but wasn’t screened in many theaters.
Following the success of the documentary, Marjoe pursued an acting career. He was most visible in the mid-1970s, appearing mainly on television. He could be seen on episodes of various TV shows (like Nakia, in 1974) and in several made-for-TV movies (like The Gun and the Pulpit, also in 1974).
What are your thoughts on the name Marjoe?
Gaines, Steven S. Marjoe: The Life of Marjoe Gortner. New York: Harper & Row: 1973.
The Arabic word Ayatollah (ayatu-llah), which is a title for a Shiite religious leader in Iran, literally means “sign of god.”
Americans started hearing this word more often in the late ’70s, when Iran’s Ruhollah Khomeini, typically called “Ayatollah Khomeini” by the U.S. press, led the Iranian Revolution that overthrew the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (whose wives included Farah and Soraya).
From that point onward, Khomeini became the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The year the revolution ended and Ayatollah Khomeini took control of the country, we see the baby name Ayatollah appear in the U.S. baby name data for the first and only time:
1979: 6 baby boys named Ayatollah
What are your thoughts on “Ayatollah” as a baby name?