The Start of Sherida

The baby name Sherida debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1945.

The baby name Sherida first appeared in the data in the middle of the 1940s. In fact, Sherida was the top debut name of the year in 1945.

  • 1950: 34 baby girls named Sherida
  • 1949: 71 baby girls named Sherida [peak]
  • 1948: 67 baby girls named Sherida
  • 1947: 21 baby girls named Sherida
  • 1946: 20 baby girls named Sherida
  • 1945: 26 baby girls named Sherida [debut]
  • 1944: unlisted

What put it there?

A mystery/suspense novel called The Sign of the Ram by Margaret Ferguson. It was published in 1944 became a best-seller.

It was set in pre-World War II Cornwall and the central character was Leah St. Aubyn, a wheelchair-bound poet who was the (young) matriarch of the well-off St. Aubyn family. Leah became increasingly vengeful and manipulative over the course of the story, and one of her targets was her secretary Sherida Binyon, who Leah thought was having an affair with her husband Mallory.

In 1948, the novel was made into a movie — mainly as a vehicle for actress Susan Peters, who had been a rising star in Hollywood before becoming a paraplegic due to a hunting accident. Actress Phyllis Thaxter played the part of Sherida. The movie didn’t do well in theaters, but it pushed the usage of Sherida up to peak levels.

Also interesting: This usage of Sherida seemed to negatively affect the (female) usage of Sheridan, which slipped in both 1945 and 1948. Americans were probably using Sheridan as a girl name in the ’40s thanks to actress Ann Sheridan.

Do you like the name Sherida? Do you like it more or less than Sheridan?

Source: The Sign of the Ram – TCM

The Baby Name Ortrude

Ortrude is one of the many girl names tied for top one-hit wonder of 1916.

  • 1918: unlisted
  • 1917: unlisted
  • 1916: 6 baby girls named Ortrude [debut]
  • 1915: unlisted
  • 1914: unlisted

Where did it come from?

A serialized story called Marrying for Money by Mrs. Eva Leonard. It ran in various U.S. newspapers during the first half of 1916.

In the story, Ortrude was a self-centered woman who married a wealthy older man with two adolescent children (Marian and Dudley). Ortrude’s bad behavior did not endear her to anyone in her new family, husband included. By the end of the tale, she’d had an epiphany and changed her ways.

Do you like the name Ortrude? Do you like it more or less than the similar name Gertrude?

The Baby Name Damita

Damita Jo, 1952, singer
© 1952 Jet

The name Damita first appeared in the SSA’s baby name dataset in 1950:

  • 1953: 33 baby girls named Damita
  • 1952: 7 baby girls named Damita
  • 1951: 18 baby girls named Damita
  • 1950: 5 baby girls named Damita [debut]
  • 1949: unlisted

It saw peak usage in the early ’60s:

  • 1963: 74 baby girls named Damita
  • 1962: 102 baby girls named Damita
  • 1961: 117 baby girls named Damita [peak]
  • 1960: 49 baby girls named Damita
  • 1959: 20 baby girls named Damita

(In fact, the name Damita would have entered the top 1,000 in 1961 if the six-way tie between Barrie, Callie, Damita, Freida, Staci, and Tonda — ranked 1,000th through 1,005th — hadn’t included a B-name and a C-name. As it happened, only Barrie made the cut and Damita technically ended up in 1,002nd place.)

So what was the influence?

Singer Damita Jo DeBlanc, born in Texas in 1930 and known simply as “Damita Jo” for most of her decades-long career.

Though she was most successful during the early ’60s — her highest-charting songs were 1960’s “I’ll Save the Last Dance for You” and 1961’s “I’ll Be There” — her first solo singles (like “Believe Me” and “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere”) were released in 1950 and 1951, and she spent the rest of the ’50s performing and recording with the R&B group Steve Gibson & the Red Caps. She also appeared on, and won, an episode of the TV talent show Chance of a Lifetime in 1952.

In 1960, Jet magazine defined Damita Jo DeBlanc’s name as meaning “little lady of white” in “French and Spanish.”

My wild guess is that she was named after French-born movie star Lili Damita, whose Hollywood career began in the late ’20s. The Spanish word damita does indeed mean “little lady,” but Lili Damita’s claim that it was a nickname given to her by King Alfonso XIII of Spain is harder to prove.

damita jo, janet jackson, 2004Speaking of namesakes, several of Damita Jo’s namesakes became famous in their own right. There’s Damita Jo Freeman (b. 1953), the memorable Soul Train dancer. There’s Damita Jo Nicholson (b. 1953), “Miss Miami Beach 1972.” And, most notable of all, there’s singer/actress Janet Damita Jo Jackson (b. 1966) – yes, Michael’s sister. Janet even put out an album called “Damita Jo” in 2004 — the year of her infamous wardrobe malfunction.

Do you like the name Damita?

Sources:

Image: Cover of Jet from July 24, 1952

The Baby Name Trudis

Trudis Calgour, character
Trudis Calgour

Trudis was a one hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in 1916:

  • 1918: unlisted
  • 1917: unlisted
  • 1916: 5 baby girls named Trudis
  • 1915: unlisted
  • 1914: unlisted

What put it in the data?

A character from various stories (e.g., “The Camps of Chaos,” “The Teeth of Famine”) by Canadian author Samuel Alexander White. The tales were initially serialized in Collier’s during the first half of 1915, then reprinted in at least one newspaper (the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) in 1916.

The stories were set in the Yukon, and the two main characters were siblings Thorpe Calgour and Trudis “Tru” Calgour of Dawson City. Thorpe worked as a gold-miner, and his sister Trudis “kept his cabin and encouraged all his efforts.”

What are your thoughts on the name Trudis?

Sources:

  • The FictionMags Index
  • White, Samuel Alexander. “The Fasle Stampede.” Collier’s 16 Jan. 1915: 10-12, 24.

Baby Names from Bleaching Creams?

Ad campaigns don’t just popularize products — they also popularize baby names.

And ads for certain types of products (like perfumes) are much more likely to influence baby names than ads for other types of products. But nothing is off limits, really, if the exposure is wide enough and the product name looks/sounds enough like a human name (e.g., Corelle dishes, Finesse shampoo).

One type of product I never expected to find in my ongoing hunt for pop culture baby names, though, was bleaching creams — used to lighten/whiten/even-out skin tone.

These days, ads for bleaching creams ignite controversy. But decades ago, these ads ran regularly in magazines with African-American audiences, and, as a result, at least two bleaching cream brand names ended up on the baby name charts.

Artra

baby name, product, 1960s
Artra ad in Ebony, 1962

The baby name Artra, inspired by Artra Skin Tone Cream, was a one-hit wonder in the data that appeared in the early 1960s:

  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: 5 baby girls named Artra [debut]
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: unlisted

Ambi

ambi, cosmetic, baby name, 1970s
Ambi ad (detail) in Ebony, 1977

The baby name Ambi, inspired by Ambi Skin Cream, stuck around a little longer — three years in the late ’70s and early ’80s:

  • 1982: unlisted
  • 1981: 12 baby girls named Ambi
  • 1980: 6 baby girls named Ambi
  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: 5 baby girls named Ambi [debut]
  • 1977: unlisted

…Another bleaching cream that was advertised during the ’60s and ’70s (as well as decades earlier) was Nadinola. The name Nadinola never appeared in the U.S. baby name data, but records reveal that it was given to a handful of U.S baby girls during the 20th century.

What are your thoughts on these names?