Where did the baby name Zorita come from in 1950?

Zorita dancing with a snake in the movie "I Married a Savage" (1949).
Zorita (and snake) in “I Married a Savage

The rare name Zorita has only ever popped up in the U.S. baby name data twice. The first time it appeared was 1950:

  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: unlisted
  • 1950: 5 baby girls named Zorita [debut]
  • 1949: unlisted
  • 1948: unlisted


My guess is an American burlesque dancer named Zorita, who was famous for dancing with a snake during her routines.

She performed from the 1930s to the 1950s, but did two things circa 1950 that would have garnered more attention than usual.

  • Starting in late 1949, she could be seen in the sexploitation film I Married a Savage. The trailer tempted viewers to watch “the beautiful Zorita do the secret sacred snake dance!”
  • In mid-1950, Zorita became the featured performer in the “girl show” section of a traveling carnival called World of Mirth. “The show consisted of Zorita dancing with a snake and clips from her movie. It grossed $82,000.”

I don’t think expectant parents were necessarily lining up to see the movie or the carnival act. But I do think that marketing for the film (and perhaps for the carnival) gave the name “Zorita” extra exposure, and that this exposure increased the usage of name just enough for it to debut in the baby name data.

The Miami Herald asked Zorita’s daughter Tawny about her mother’s stage name in 2001. Tawny said, “She told me a lot of stories, but she never told me that one. She liked to sound exotic. All I know is it had a ‘Z’ in it, and you could make it into a snake.” Sure enough, when Zorita signed her name, to the “Z” she added a loop (like the head of a snake) and an extra line (as a tongue).

There’s disagreement over Zorita’s birth name, but many sources from the late ’30s and early ’40s mention that her legal name (at that time) was Ada Brockett.

Do you like the name Zorita? (Do you like it more or less than the similar name Zorina?)


Image: adapted from the I Married a Savage trailer – Internet Archive

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