In early 1986, a couple in Windsor, Ontario, named their baby boy “Knowlton” after Knowlton Nash, anchor of the Canadian news show The National (not to mention “the mother’s favorite television personality”).
When Nash learned about the baby, he gave the couple a phone call and sent them an autographed copy of one of his books.
Knowlton Nash’s full name at birth was Cyril Knowlton Nash — “Cyril” after his father. But he disliked being called “Cyril Jr.,” so at the age of five he asked to be known as “Knowlton” instead.
“Baby Named for Nash.” Ottawa Citizen 29 Jan. 1986: F2.
The unusual Irish name Oona first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the 1940s:
1944: 5 baby girls named Oona
1943: 7 baby girls named Oona
1942: 5 baby girls named Oona [debut]
It was thanks to Oona O’Neill, daughter of Eugene and Agnes O’Neill, both writers. Oona was born in Bermuda in 1925, five years after her father won his first Pulitzer Prize.
In the early 1940s, Oona was a teenage socialite with famous friends. And in April of 1942, when the 16-year-old debutante was selected as the top “glamour girl” of New York society at the Stork Club, she became famous.
Oona got offers from film studios, and if she had gone in that direction, her name might have become more popular during the 1940s. Instead, she became the wife of Charlie Chaplin in June of 1943, when she was 18 and he was 54. Not long after that, her name dropped back off the charts.
(Oona and Charlie went on to have eight children, named: Geraldine, Michael, Josephine, Victoria, Eugene, Jane, Annette, and Christopher. Geraldine’s daughter Oona Chaplin played the part of Talisa Maegyr on Game of Thrones a few years ago.)
These days, the name Oona (which is actually a spelling variant of Úna) is relatively close to the U.S. top 1,000:
2017: 93 baby girls named Oona [rank: 2,085th]
2016: 111 baby girls named Oona [rank: 1,856th]
2015: 131 baby girls named Oona [rank: 1,634th]
2014: 63 baby girls named Oona [rank: 2,761st]
2013: 38 baby girls named Oona [rank: 3,977th]
Do you think it will ever get there?
What are your thoughts on the baby name Oona?
P.S. “Oona” was back in the baby name data in 1954, the year a character named Oona could be seen on the big screen in the movie Taza, Son of Cochise.
Here’s an eye-catching baby name: Quovadis. It’s appeared in U.S. baby name data a total of three times so far:
1982: 5 baby girls named Quovadis
1975: 6 baby girls named Quovadis (all 6 born in Georgia)
1973: 5 baby girls named Quovadis [debut]
This one is a semi-mystery. I know the ultimate origin, but not what (if anything) caused the name to surface in the ’70s specifically.
The Polish novel Quo Vadis (1896) by Henryk Sienkiewicz told the story of a romance between a Roman patrician and a Christian woman during ancient times. The title means “where are you going?” in Latin and alludes to the New Testament verse John 13:36.
The English translation of the book became the bestselling novel in the U.S. in 1897. Since then, the book has been adapted for the big screen multiple times (1901, 1912, 1924, 1951*, etc.) and also adapted for television.
But nothing new happened in the ’70s to draw attention to the phrase, beyond the 1973 Broadway play Status Quo Vadis and a 1975 M*A*S*H episode called “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?”
Do you have any thoughts on this one?
P.S. Though the name only appears in the SSA data in the ’70s and ’80s, records reveal that dozens of people (male and female) have been named Quovadis since the late 1890s. Here’s one on the 1930 U.S. Census:
Did you know that there’s a building in Chicago called the Denifer — “refined” spelled backwards? When it first opened in 1921, the name was mocked by several publications. The Chicago Tribune said:
“[T]he owners of the hotel to be built at the northwest corner of Kenmore and Balmoral avenues…arrived at the conclusion that the new hostelry certainly would be refined. […] The rest of the christening was easy. The ‘d’ is made a capital; the other letters are run in backwards and–behold! We have the Hotel Denifer!”
Hotel Monthly, jumping on the bandwagon a month later, asked:
Is the word Denifer, as a reverse in the spelling of refined, a consistent name? Does it not suggest the opposite of refined?