The Baby Name “Raven”

comic, terry and the pirates, 1941, raven sherman, baby name
The death of Raven Sherman (1941)

The name Raven has been given to babies of both genders for decades, but I find its female usage particularly interesting because girl-name Raven has gotten three distinct boosts from popular culture so far.

The first boost happened in 1941, when Raven debuted as a girl name in the data. (It had already popped up a few times as a boy name.)

Year Female usage Male usage
1943 5 babies 7 babies
1942 5 babies 5 babies
1941 6 babies [debut] .
1940 . .

In October of that year, in the comic strip Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff, a female character named Raven Sherman died in a dramatic and memorable sequence.

Raven, “a WASP clearly modeled on Katharine Hepburn” according to one source, was an American heiress who was working at a camp for war refugees in China. She was pushed off a moving truck, died of her injuries, and was buried on an isolated Chinese hillside. “Caniff was flooded with flower deliveries, mock memorial services, petitions of condolence signed by disparate groups as factory workers and entire colleges, as well as a lot of irate letters.”

(Terry and the Pirates also influenced the names Normandie and Merrily.)

The second pop culture boost happened in the 1970s:

Year Female usage Male usage
1978 342 babies
[rank: 533rd]
25 babies
1977 299 babies
[rank: 579th]
20 babies
1976 100 babies 10 babies
1975 17 babies 9 babies
1974 15 babies 12 babies

In 1976, the soap opera The Edge of Night introduced a female character named Raven Swift (first played by Juanin Clay, then played by Sharon Gabet). She was described as “the show’s delightful young vixen-heroine” in The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. The character remained on the show until it was canceled in 1984.

(The soap also influenced the names Teal and Laurieann.)

And the most recent (and biggest) pop culture boost happened in the early 1990s:

Year Female usage Male usage
1992 2,016 babies
[rank: 152nd]
89 babies
1991 2,026 babies
[rank: 150th]
53 babies
1990 1,758 babies
[rank: 166th]
62 babies
1989 476 babies
[rank: 495th]
27 babies
1988 327 babies
[rank: 612th]
19 babies

It went on to peak at 139th in 1993.

The reason? Actress Raven-SymonĂ©, who first found fame as a four year old when she started playing Olivia (Denise’s step-daughter) on the The Cosby Show in 1989. The compound name Ravensymone debuted in the data in 1990, and the spelling variant Ravensimone followed in 1991. (Her Disney Channel show That’s So Raven didn’t come along until much later.)

What are your thoughts on the name Raven? Would you use it?

Sources:

Baby Names from Elder Scrolls: Serana, Tamriel, Jagar…

Jagar Tharn, from the video came Arena (1994)
Jagar Tharn from the game Arena (1994)

Elder Scrolls video games have been coming out since the mid-1990s — initially on MS-DOS, then on Windows and Xbox/Playstation, and now online as an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game). The games are set in open worlds and involve free-form gameplay.

The complete Elder Scrolls series is made up of more than two dozen games, but so far there have been only five primary releases:

  1. The Elder Scrolls: Arena (1994)
  2. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (1996)
  3. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)
  4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)
  5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) – featuring Dovahkiin

These elaborate games involve a multitude of characters. I’ve done my best to figure out which ones were the most memorable/important, and then to cross-check their names with baby names in the SSA data. Here’s what I’ve come across so far. I’ll start with the debuts…

The baby name Serana debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 2014.
  • The name Jagar debuted in the data in 1994. The game Arena featured the character Jagar Tharn (pictured above), who was the main antagonist.
  • The name Kanen also debuted in 1994. The game Arena featured the character Kanen the Wise.
  • The name Karliah debuted in 2012. The game Skyrim featured the character Karliah.
  • The name Serana debuted in 2014. The Skyrim add-on Dawnguard (2012) featured the character Serana (pictured at right), who was a vampire.
  • The name Tamriel debuted in 2015. (And it’s a one-hit wonder so far.) Though it sounds Biblical with that -iel ending, Tamriel is actually the continent upon which all Elder Scroll games are set.
  • The name Alduin debuted in 2016. (It’s also a one-hit wonder so far.) The game Skyrim featured the dragon character Alduin, who was the main antagonist.
  • The name Lynly also debuted in 2016. The game Skyrim featured the character Lynly Star-Sung, who was a barmaid.
  • The name Alisanne debuted in 2017. The character Alisanne Dupre (a “Listener”) was mentioned in Skyrim, but was featured in the online game The Elder Scrolls: Legends (2017).

And now a couple of rises…

  • The name Aela saw increased usage after the release of Skyrim, which featured the character Aela the Huntress, who was a werewolf.
  • The name Jordis also saw increased usage after Skyrim came out. This could have been inspired by the character Jordis the Sword-Maiden…or, more likely, by the appearance of singer Jordis Unga on the second season of The Voice.

For all the Elder Scrolls players out there: What other characters might have had an influence on names? Which character names should I check?

Sources: The Elder Scrolls – Wikipedia, Elder Scrolls – Characters by Game

The Arrival of Aeris (and Aerith)

The baby name Aeris debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1998.

The curious name Aeris first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1998:

  • 2001: 26 baby girls named Aeris
  • 2000: 26 baby girls named Aeris
  • 1999: 22 baby girls named Aeris
  • 1998: 23 baby girls named Aeris [debut]
  • 1997: unlisted

Where did it come from?

The role-playing video game Final Fantasy VII, which was released in early 1997 for PlayStation and later for other platforms.

The game was set on a nameless planet whose future was up for grabs. The antagonist, Sephiroth, was out to destroy the planet, whereas the protagonist, Cloud Strife, sought to save the planet from destruction.

Aeris was one of Cloud’s friends. (In fact, he had a bit of a crush on her.) She was the last surviving member of one of the planet’s oldest races, the Cetra, and thereby had access to planet-protecting magical powers.

final fantasy, aeris death scene
Cloud holding Aeris’s body (Sephiroth in background)

In a now-infamous plot twist, Aeris was unexpectedly killed by Sephiroth. (Aeris was kneeling and praying, eyes closed, when Sephiroth descended from the sky and ran her through from behind with a sword — all right in front of Cloud.)

And here’s another twist: the character’s English name was never supposed to be “Aeris” — even if it does sound like the word “heiress,” which is fitting, given her racial status.

FFVII was created in Japan, and the character’s Japanese name is Earisu. The official English transliteration of her name is Aerith, based on the English words “air” and “earth.” But, somehow, Aeris is what ended up in the game.

The transliteration was corrected in later Final Fantasy games and in the Kingdom Hearts series (which combined FF characters with Disney characters). In fact, the first Kingdom Hearts game was released in 2002, and official spelling Aerith debuted in the U.S. baby name data the very next year:

  • 2007: 11 baby girls named Aerith
  • 2006: 10 baby girls named Aerith
  • 2005: unlisted
  • 2004: unlisted
  • 2003: 5 baby girls named Aerith [debut]
  • 2002: unlisted

What are your thoughts on the baby names Aeris and Aerith? I’d especially love to hear the opinions of any gamers out there!

Sources: Final Fantasy VII – Wikipedia, The Real Reason Aeris’s Death Made You Cry

The Beginning of Bode

bode miller, baby name, 1990s, sports
Bode Miller in 2008

A few weeks ago we looked at names that start with Snow-, so today let’s check out another name that many of us associate with snow: Bode.

Bode Miller is one of the greatest Alpine skiers in American history. He’s won six Olympic medals and competed in five Winter Olympics: 1998 (Nagano), 2002 (Salt Lake City), 2006 (Turin), 2010 (Vancouver), and 2014 (Sochi).

Notice how the baby name Bode debuted in the SSA data in 1998 and spiked in usage every four years thereafter:

  • 2017: 170 baby boys named Bode
  • 2016: 203 baby boys named Bode
  • 2015: 264 baby boys named Bode
  • 2014: 294 baby boys named Bode
  • 2013: 115 baby boys named Bode
  • 2012: 166 baby boys named Bode
  • 2011: 190 baby boys named Bode
  • 2010: 287 baby boys named Bode
  • 2009: 94 baby boys named Bode
  • 2008: 105 baby boys named Bode
  • 2007: 143 baby boys named Bode
  • 2006: 235 baby boys named Bode
  • 2005: 82 baby boys named Bode
  • 2004: 55 baby boys named Bode
  • 2003: 60 baby boys named Bode
  • 2002: 131 baby boys named Bode
  • 2001: unlisted
  • 2000: 8 baby boys named Bode
  • 1999: 7 baby boys named Bode
  • 1998: 8 baby boys named Bode [debut]
  • 1997: unlisted

So how did Samuel Bode Miller — who was born and raised in rural Easton, New Hampshire — get that interesting middle name?

According to his 2005 autobiography, Bode’s name simply came from the English word bode. It “means to indicate by signs, but it was the sound of it that my mother liked.” He pronounces it BOH-dee instead of BOHD because, as he says, the “diminutive form stuck.”

And he’s not the only person in his family with an interesting name. His older sister is Kyla (no middle name, notably), his younger sister is Gennie Wren (in full: Genesis Wren Bungo Windrushing Turtleheart Miller), and his late younger brother was Chelone, nicknamed “Chilly” (in full: Nathaniel Kinsman Ever Chelone Skan).

Wren’s naming “was a family effort” said Bode:

Jo gave her the “Genesis Wren”; I called her “Bungo” after the Bungay Jar, the local wind, because it was so breezy the day she was born. Kyla gave her Windrushing for the same reason, and “Turtleheart” was the ever-present and recurring Woody-inspired turtle meme in our lives up on Turtle Ridge. The turtle may be Woody’s totem. It wouldn’t surprise me.”

(The kids called their parents, Jo and Woody, by their first names.)

And here’s how they chose a name for Chelone (chel-OWN):

My folks hiked Mount Moosilauke when my mother was good and pregnant with him and found a flower on top they liked so much that they brought it home. When they looked it up and found that it was an herbaceous perennial called chelone, also known as turtlehead, they considered it a nice omen and planted it outside the door.

Three days after he was born, my mother was headed into town with the new baby, named Thane at the time. She was going to the laundromat when she came across a turtle in the road. It was big and blocked their way, so she had to stop. As she watched the shell waddle across Easton Road, it occurred to Jo how little she like the name Thane, and how much she liked the name Chelone.

If you’re wondering about the name Skan, it’s “a Lakota term for the great spirit of the universe.” Kinsman is no doubt a reference to location: their childhood home was on the side of Kinsman Mountain. In fact, the mountain was named for early settler Nathaniel Kinsman — Chelone’s first two names.

But getting back to Bode…he has welcomed five children so far: Neesyn Dacey (daughter), Samuel Bode (son), Nash Skan (son, named in honor of Chelone), Emeline Grier (daughter, passed away in mid-2018) and Easton Vaughn Rek (son, named for Easton, NH).

So what are your thoughts on the baby name Bode? If you were going to use it, how would you pronounce it?

Sources:

Image: Adapted from Miller Bode 2008 by Hans Bezard under CC BY-SA 4.0.