Where did the baby name Taina come from in 1955?

Finnish actress Taina Elg
Taina Elg

Today we have the tale of two Tainas — one pronounced TIE-nah, the other pronounced tah-EE-nah.

The first version of the name Taina debuted in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1950s:

  • 1957: 12 baby girls named Taina
  • 1956: 8 baby girls named Taina
  • 1955: 21 baby girls named Taina [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: unlisted

The inspiration here was Finnish dancer/actress Taina (pronounced TIE-nah) Elg, who was being introduced to American audiences in 1955 in the film The Prodigal, a biblical epic starring Lana Turner.

A bizarre advertising campaign from the same year asked readers to rename Taina:

Taina advertisement
Taina Elg re-naming contest

Hurry and enter! Just suggest your choice of a name for Taina Elg — the star with the most unusual name in Hollywood. She’s an acclaimed ballerina, and an actress with M-G-M! She’s 5’5?, with dark blonde hair and sparkling gray-green eyes. Taina (rhymes with Dinah) loves to cook, delights in outdoor sports. […] With that in mind, what do you think her name should be? Look through your telephone book and make up original name combinations. The first name that pops into your mind right now — might very well be the winner! Just find a name you think fits this lovely young star.

Her name, which is a Finnish diminutive of the name Tatiana, was never changed (of course). Elg went on to win two Golden Globes later that decade — one in 1957, the other in 1958 — and also have success on stage and in television. In fact, usage of the name spiked in 1980, the year Taina Elg could be seen on two different U.S. soap operas: Guiding Light (1980) and One Life to Live (1980-2).

Now fast forward to 2001, when the name Taina was suddenly boosted into the top 1,000 for the first and only time:

  • 2003: 130 baby girls named Taina
  • 2002: 168 baby girls named Taina
  • 2001: 248 baby girls named Taina [ranked 913th]
  • 2000: 73 baby girls named Taina
  • 1999: 61 baby girls named Taina

The inspiration in this case? The short-lived Nickelodeon series Taina that aired from early 2001 to mid-2002. The main character, Taina (pronounce tah-EE-nah) Morales, was “a sassy 15-year-old Latina” in NYC played by actress Christina Vidal.

…So Taina is a name with one spelling, but two distinct pronunciations. Which pronunciation do you prefer?



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