Last year, the most popular baby names in the Brazilian city of Toledo (located in the southern state of Paraná) were Alice and Miguel.
According to local newspaper Gazeta de Toledo — which published a single, provisional set of rankings for Toledo in late December — these were the city’s top 50 baby names overall in 2022:
Miguel, 32 babies
Alice, 29 – pronounced ah-lee-see in Brazilian Portuguese.
Maria Alice, 21
Davi, 15 – a form of David.
Maria Julia, 15
Ravi, 10 – a form of Rafael.
Maria Clara, 9
Arthur Miguel, 9
Maria Eduarda, 7
Maria Cecilia, 6
Murilo, 6 – (pronounced moo-ree-loh) based on the Spanish surname Murillo, which is derived from the Spanish word muro, meaning “wall.”
The newspaper mentioned that Maria Alice has been on the rise in Brazil since the mid-2020 birth of celebrity baby Maria Alice, firstborn daughter of Brazilian singer Zé Felipe and Brazilian influencer Virginia Fonseca. (The couple’s second daughter, Maria Flor, was born in late 2022 — making “Maria Flor” a combo to look out for in future Brazilian rankings.)
The name Rebeca also rose in 2022 following the success of Brazilian gymnast Rebeca Andrade at the 2020 Summer Olympics, which were held in mid-2021 due to COVID-19. Andrade won a gold medal in the vault and a silver medal in the individual all-around (placing second to Sunisa Lee of Team USA).
I’ve never posted rankings for Toledo before, but I did post Brazil’s 2021 rankings a few months back, if you’d like to compare this list to that one.
Years ago, I discovered three documents with relatively complete lists of births for the city of Providence, Rhode Island, for the years 1866, 1867, and 1868. I’ve already created Providence’s baby name rankings for 1866 and 1867 using the first two documents, and today (finally!) I’ve got the third set of rankings for you.
Let’s start with some stats:
1,762 babies were born in Providence in 1868, by my count. According to the introduction of the document I’m using a source, however, the total number is 1,866. I don’t know how to account for this discrepancy.
1,617 of these babies (791 girls and 826 boys) had names that were known at the time of publication. The other 145 babies got blank spaces. Either their names hadn’t been registered yet, or they hadn’t been named yet, or perhaps these babies died young and never received a name.
284 unique names (143 girl names and 141 boy names) were shared among these 1,617 babies.
And now, on to the names!
A quick look at the top 5 girl names and boy names in Providence in 1868:
Top baby girl names
Top baby boy names
1. Mary 2. Catherine 3. Sarah 4. Ellen 5. Margaret
1. John 2. William 3. James 4. Charles 5. George
All Girl Names
Mary, 149 baby girls
Clara & Martha, 11 each (tie)
Hannah & Lucy, 10 each (tie)
Bridget, Grace, Jennie, Julia & Maria, 9 each (5-way tie)
Annie, Florence, Jane, Minnie & Susan, 8 each (5-way tie)
Agnes, Caroline, Cora, Ella & Harriet, 7 each (5-way tie)
I’m sure Citrine and Kyanite won’t be the last of the names in this category to emerge in the data, though, because there are just so many other nicely-named minerals and rocks out there. Some examples…
Agate: a banded, colored quartz with a name that happens to look and sound similar to Agatha.
Alexandrite: a color-changing variety of chrysoberyl named after Alexander II of Russia. It’s one of the birthstones for June.
Ametrine: a type of quartz with zones of purple and yellow/orange; a mix of amethyst and citrine.
Carnelian: a red variety of quartz. Its name can be traced back to the Latin word conus, the name of a type of berry.
Peridot: a green gemstone with a name of unknown origin. It’s the birthstone for August.
Selenite: a type of gypsum. Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for “moon,” selene. (If you’ve ever watched metaphysical content on YouTube, you’ve probably seen a selenite wand before…)
Tourmaline: a gem that comes in a wide variety of colors. It’s one of the birthstones for October.
Which gem/mineral/rock name do you think we’ll spot next in the U.S. baby name data?
Women’s History Month is almost over, so let me squeeze in a post about Fifinella, a rare-but-real name with ties not only to the pioneering female aviators of WWII, but also to Walt Disney, Roald Dahl, Tchaikovsky, and a champion British racehorse.
Fifinella began as a children’s Christmas play. It was co-written by Englishmen Barry Jackson and Basil Dean, with music by Norman Hayes. Fifinella was first performed at the Liverpool Repertory Theatre in December of 1912.
The play — sometimes called “Fluffy Nellie” — “included 14 scenes and a harlequinade.” It was also adapted into the book Fifinella, a fairy frolic (1912) by Basil Dean’s then-wife Esther Van Gruisen.
The next year, an English thoroughbred horse was born to dam Silver Fowl and sire Polymelus. The chestnut filly, owned by newspaper proprietor Sir Edward Hulton, was named Fifinella.
Fifinella went on become the last horse to win both the Derby and the Oaks in a single year, 1916.
That’s the same year English author and former Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot Roald Dahl was born — reason enough, apparently, for him to want to use Fifinella in his very first children’s book The Gremlins (1943), “a story drawing on RAF folklore which held that little creatures were responsible for the various mechanical failures on aeroplanes.”
The gremlins are convinced by a pilot named Gus to make peace with the RAF and join forces with the British to combat a more sinister villain; Hitler and the Nazis. The gremlins are then re-trained by the RAF to repair British aircraft instead of destroy them.
In the book, “fifinella” isn’t a name but a noun referring to a female gremlin. (Baby gremlins are called “widgets.”)
The book was put out by Walt Disney Productions and Random House. Walt Disney had wanted to make the book into a movie, but the movie never happened.
The gremlins “did live on in the form of military insignias,” though.
Walt Disney himself granted at least 30 military units permission to use gremlins as mascots/insignias during WWII, and even “assigned several artists to create these one-of-a-kind designs on a full-time basis.”
Units with gremlin mascots included the 17th Weather Squadron of San Francisco, the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School, and the Royal Canadian Air Force ‘Sky Sweepers.’
But the most famous gremlin mascot, Fifinella, belonged to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), a paramilitary unit of 1,000+ women who flew non-combat flights in order to free male pilots for combat service.
(She had been an unofficial mascot of the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD), which in August of 1943 merged with another group of female pilots to become the WASPs, even before permission was granted.)
The WASPs put Fifinella’s image on everything from patches to letterheads to matchbook covers. The Fifinella mascot even made an appearance in a mid-1943 LIFE article about the WASPs.
After the WASPs were disbanded in late 1944, ex-WASPs created the Order of Fifinella, a group that was both social (e.g., organizing reunions) and political (e.g., working to gain recognition as veterans).
Finally, one last Fifinella reference: In late 1945, Austrian tenor Richard Tauber recorded an English version of “Pimpinella – Florentine Song” (1878) by Russian composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. One of the many lyrical changes he made was replacing the name Pimpinella with the name Fifinella. (Here’s Richard Tauber singing Fifinella.)
So the name Fifinella has been around for at least a century. It’s been associated with theater, literature, sport, war, feminism and music. Has it ever been used as the name of a human being?
Yes, but rarely. I’ve only found a handful of Fifinellas, and all of them were born outside the United States:
Fifinella Downes (later Clarke), Australia
Fifinella “Fif” Beatrice Evans, d. 2007, England
Fifinella Flavell, b. 1923, England
Fifinella Hill (later Gratwick), Australia
Fifinella Lewis, b. 1914, Ireland
Fifinella Mallard (later Newson), 1901-1969, England
Fifinella Charlotte Agatha Nelson, d. 1947, Australia
Fifinella Patricia Russell (later Ceret), b. 1927, Ireland
Fifinella Silcox (later Mccluskey), b. 1948, England
So it’s definitely an unusual name. It’s also quite whimsical, and it has a ton of nickname potential (Fifi, Fina, Nell, Nella, Nellie). Do you like it? Would you ever consider using Fifinella as a baby name?