What gave the baby name Elfego a boost in 1959?

The title character from the TV mini-series "The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca" (1958-1960).
Elfego from “The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca

According to the U.S. baby name data, the rare Spanish name Elfego saw peak usage in 1959:

  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 7 baby boys named Elfego
  • 1959: 10 baby boys named Elfego
  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: unlisted

The variant spelling Elfago was a one-hit wonder in the data that year as well.

What gave these names a slight boost?

New Mexican gunfighter and folk hero Elfego Baca (1865-1945).

But not the real Elfego Baca, who wasn’t well-known outside of New Mexico. Instead, Walt Disney’s fictionalized version of him.

From late 1958 to early 1960, Elfego Baca was featured in 10 irregularly-airing episodes of the TV anthology series Walt Disney Presents. (The series had been renamed since the days of Davy Crockett.)

The Baca miniseries, entitled The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca, starred actor Robert Loggia as the title character — a New Mexico lawman during the final years of the Old West. Though the episodes didn’t popularize Baca to the same degree that earlier episodes had popularized Crockett, they did turn Baca into “America’s first Hispanic popular culture hero,” according to one historian.

In his introductions to the episodes, Walt Disney pronounced Baca’s first name the traditional way: EL-fay-go (stress on the first syllable). Characters within the episodes, however, tended to mispronounce it el-FAY-go (stress on the second syllable).

The name is a Spanish form of the Middle English name Alphege, ultimately based on the Old English words ælf, meaning “elf,” and heah, meaning “high, tall.”

What are your thoughts on the name Elfego?


Image: Screenshot of the Elfego Baca miniseries

2 thoughts on “What gave the baby name Elfego a boost in 1959?

  1. I had forgotten The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca. I was a little girl in ’59 and a big fan of the Disney tv series. I certainly did not recognize E-l-f-e-g-o, or how to pronounce it! But like most of the viewers in ’59, turns out I was mispronouncing it.

  2. I was mispronouncing it too, at first. It reminds me of names like Alfredo and Alfonso, so I was a little surprised to learn that the stress isn’t on the second syllable.

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