Ready for a mystery from the ’80s? Today’s mystery baby name is Fashionette, which popped up in the SSA data for three consecutive years in the 1980s:
1988: 6 baby girls named Fashionette
1987: 15 baby girls named Fashionette
1986: 7 baby girls named Fashionette [debut]
Why? I don’t know!
Research tells me that “Fashionette” was the name of a hair net introduced in the 1900s, a novelty song [vid] popular in the 1920s, and an air conditioner introduced by General Electric in the 1960s.
It’s also been used as the name of various local businesses (particularly beauty salons, clothing stores, and sewing stores) and at least one online business (a designer handbag store).
But what the heck was it in the 1980s? What turned Fashionette into a baby name?
The SSA’s state-by-state data doesn’t offer any clues, but records suggest that more than a few of those ’80s Fashionettes were born in Texas. (One had the very Texas-sounding first-middle combo “Dallas Fashionette.”)
So, I’m stumped. Do you have any theories about where the name Fashionette came from?
In late December, not long after a short stay in New Orleans, my husband and I took a road trip through several states. Along the way I spotted some interesting place-names, mostly in Utah:
Little America, Wyoming – named after a local hotel whose name was inspired by the “Little America” exploration base in Antarctica.
Jackpot, Nevada – a casino town cleverly named to attract business.
Pahranagat Valley, Nevada – named for the local Native American tribe. Theories about the meaning include: “watermelon,” “squash,” “people of the marshy spring,” “put their feet in the water.”
Hurricane, Utah – named by an early settler whose buggy-top was blown off by a gust of wind. Locals pronounce it hurrakin.
Browse, Utah – possibly named for a 1930s Forest Service research study of local plants used as food by browsing animals.
Kolob Canyons, Utah – named after LDS star/planet Kolob.
Kanarraville, Utah – named after Piute chief Canarrah (or Quanarrah).
Farr West, Utah – named after Mormon pioneers Lorin Farr and Chauncey West. It was also reminiscent of the name of an earlier Mormon town: Far West, Missouri.
Elsinore, Utah – named after Helsingør, Denmark (known as Elsinore in English).
Loa, Utah – named after Mauna Loa, the volcano in Hawaii.
Elsinore caught my eye because it seemed like a mashup of the names Elsie and Eleanor. Even though it’s never appeared in the SSA data, records suggest that several hundred people in the U.S. have been named Elsinore. (Here are the graves of various Elsinores buried in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Washington, Minnesota, and, yes, Utah.) The usage might be attributable to Shakespeare, who set Hamlet in a castle in Elsinore.
Source: Carlson, Helen S. Nevada Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1974.
“Everly” is hot…”Beverly” is not. It’s a one-letter difference between fashionable and fusty.
If you’re sensitive to style, you’ll prefer Everly. It fits with today’s trends far better than Beverly does.
But if you’re someone who isn’t concerned about style, or prefers to go against style, then you may not automatically go for Everly. In fact, you may be more attracted to Beverly because it’s the choice that most modern parents would avoid.
If you’ve ever thought about intentionally giving your baby a dated name (like Debbie, Grover, Marcia, or Vernon) for the sake of uniqueness within his/her peer group — if you have no problem sacrificing style for distinctiveness — then this list is for you.
Years ago, the concept of “contrarian” baby names came up in the comments of a post about Lois. Ever since then, creating a collection of uncool/contrarian baby names has been on my to-do list.
Finally, last month, I experimented with various formulas for pulling unstylish baby names out of the SSA dataset. Keeping the great-grandparent rule in mind, I aimed for names that would have been fashionable among the grandparents of today’s babies. The names below are the best results I got.
The name Winona has been in the U.S. baby name data since the very beginning, but the specific spelling Wynonna didn’t show up until the mid-1980s:
1986: 6 baby girls named Wynonna
1985: 5 baby girls named Wynonna [debut]
What was the influence?
Country singer Wynonna Judd. She and her mother, Naomi Judd, formed The Judds in the early ’80s and the duo won a Grammy Award in 1985 for the song “Mama He’s Crazy.”
The name saw peak usage in 1993, not long after Wynonna began her solo career.
Wynonna’s birth name was Christina Ciminella. She was inspired to change her name after her mother, previously known as Diana Ciminella, became Naomi Judd in the early ’70s following a divorce. (‘Judd’ was her maiden name, but ‘Naomi’ was brand new.)
She chose the name ‘Wynonna’ because she liked the song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” which mentions Winona, Arizona.
(Naomi tried to persuade her younger daughter, Ashley, to change her name as well — to ‘Ramona,’ because of its similarity to ‘Wynonna.’ She wasn’t interested, but she did start to use the surname ‘Judd.’)
The name dropped out of the data in the early 2000s, but has come back recently:
2017: 20 baby girls named Wynonna
2016: 5 baby girls named Wynonna
Why? Because of the supernatural Western TV series Wynonna Earp, which debuted on Syfy in 2016.
What are your thoughts on the baby name Wynonna? Do you like the spelling?
Source: Millard, Bob. The Judds: A Biography. New York: Doubleday, 1988.