Where did the baby name Thedy come from in 1964?

thedy sue hill, hitchcock

Here’s a baby name with ties to Ray Bradbury, Alfred Hitchcock, and decapitation! What fun.

The name is Thedy, and it appeared for the first and only time in the U.S. baby name data in 1964:

  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: 10 baby girls named Thedy [debut]
  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: unlisted

Where did it come from?

It came from Thedy Sue Hill, a character in an early 1964 episode of the The Alfred Hitchcock Hour called “The Jar.” The episode aired on Valentine’s day, actually, which is ironic given the content…

thedy sue hill, charlie, the jar

The story is set in Louisiana, and the protagonist is Thedy Sue’s husband, Charlie, who goes to a carnival and purchases a large jar containing a weird, fleshy mass submersed in murky fluid.

Thedy Sue — a “cunning, self-involved young wife” who has been unfaithful to Charlie — insists that Charlie get rid of the jar. He refuses, as the jar has “brought him notoriety and respect in the community. People come from miles to gather in his parlor and look at the jar and the obscure contents which represent something different to each of them.”

Fed-up Thedy goes back to the carnival to learn what’s really inside the jar. Turns out, not much — a wire frame, paper, doll parts, etc.

But does this stop a humiliated Charlie from continuing to displaying the jar for his neighbors? Nope. But the next time they gather to start at the fleshy mass inside, guess what they see:

thedy sue, hitchcock,

Lovely, right?

Not only did the name Thedy become a one-hit wonder on the charts the same year the episode aired, but I’ve found four people named “Thedy Sue” specifically, including Thedy Sue Hess (b. 1964 in Kentucky) and Thedy Sue Scott (b. 1967 in Illinois).

“The Jar” was based on a short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury. The story was first published in the November 1944 issue of fantasy/horror pulp magazine Weird Tales. In the original story, the character’s name was simply Thedy, no “Sue.”

I’m not sure how Bradbury came up with the name — perhaps it’s based on Theda (pronounced THEE-da), Theodora, or Theodosia — but I do know that the story was inspired by his childhood memory of seeing preserved embryos in jars at a carnival sideshow.

The actress who played Thedy Sue Hill also had an interesting name: Collin Wilcox. Her parents, confident they were getting a baby boy, picked out the name Collin ahead of time to honor an uncle.

What do you think of the baby name Thedy? (Do you like it more or less than Theda?)

Sources: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: The Jar – TV.com, ‘The Jar’ – The Cosmicomicon, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – Bradbury Media, An Interview with Collin Wilcox – The Classic TV History Blog

4 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Thedy come from in 1964?

  1. I believe Thedy is pronounced THEE-dee.

    I can’t find any clips of the 1964 version of “The Jar” online that prove it, but one of the later televised versions of “The Jar” — the 1992 Ray Bradbury Theater version — is online in full, and in the opening scene the boyfriend character calls her “thee-dee.”

    There’s also this Ray Bradbury message board thread, The Jar 1964 Valentines day, started by a Theedy:

    My mom named me Theedy, after Thedy Sue in the jar! I was wondering if anyone had any insight into where the name may have originated? I am very curious to find out!

    I think the spelling “Theedy” reflects the original pronunciation.

  2. I just watched this particular Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode yesterday on youTube. Collin Wilcox’s character’s name in “The Jar” IS pronounced “THEE-dee.” Miss Wilcox does a FANTASTIC job as the self-absorbed wife… so why in the world would anyone name their precious baby after this unseemly character in a horror story?? Ha!!

  3. Thanks for the confirmation, Wendy!

    Certain parents seem to have an easy time overlooking/justifying/re-framing unsavory associations if they like a name enough. (The parents who were recently in the news after naming their son Lucifer come to mind.)

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