Where did the baby name Normandie come from in 1935?

The character Normandie Drake from the comic strip "Terry and the Pirates" (1934-1973)
Normandie Drake

The name Normandie first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1935. Over the next few years, the name popped in and out of the data rather curiously:

  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 9 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1943: 9 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1942: 14 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1941: unlisted
  • 1940: unlisted
  • 1939: unlisted
  • 1938: unlisted
  • 1937: 11 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1936: unlisted
  • 1935: 7 baby girls named Normandie [debut]
  • 1934: unlisted

Where did it come from? And what accounts for that pattern of usage?

The answer is Normandie Drake, a recurring character in the action-adventure comic strip Terry and the Pirates, which was created by cartoonist Milton Caniff and published in the newspapers from 1934 to 1973.

Normandie was introduced in the strip in January of 1935. She wasn’t featured in every storyline, though — and her comings and goings in the strip correspond with the fluctuating usage of the name.

In 1942, for instance, she reappeared after an absence…and so did the name! Not only that, but she brought along her young daughter Merrily, and the baby name Merrily promptly skyrocketed into the girls’ top 1,000:

  • 1944: 71 baby girls named Merrily
  • 1943: 120 baby girls named Merrily [rank: 914th]
  • 1942: 201 baby girls named Merrily [rank: 698th]
  • 1941: 13 baby girls named Merrily [rank: 513th]
  • 1940: unlisted

(Milton Caniff had named and modeled Merrily after Mary Lee Engli, the daughter of fellow cartoonist Frank Engli.)

The baby names Merrilee and Merrilie were also affected.

A 1945 magazine interview with Caniff included a photo of two little girls named Merrily after the character. It also mentioned young girls named Normandie and April after the Terry characters Normandie Drake and April Kane.

What are your thoughts on the name Normandie?


  • Hayward, Jennifer. Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1997.
  • Milton Caniff Collection Guide – OhioLink
  • “Special Tribute to Milton Caniff.” The Magazine of Sigma Chi February-March 1945: 90.
  • Terry and the Pirates – Wikipedia

Image: Cover of Terry and the Pirates trade paperback #4 (published by Flying Buttress)

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