Mary “Polly” Phelps Jacob was born in 1891 in New York to a blue-blooded family that could be traced back, on both sides, to colonial America.
She was an enterprising person, and in her early 20s — fed up with the corset-like undergarments of the era — she invented and patented a “backless brassiere.” (She constructed the first one out of handkerchiefs and pink ribbon.) Today, she’s credited with the invention the modern bra.
With her first marriage in 1915 to Richard Peabody, her name changed to the almost cartoonish Polly Peabody. (One of their two kids, legally named Polleen, also went by Polly.)
But that marriage didn’t last and, following the divorce in 1922, Polly married bon vivant Harry Crosby, with whom she’d been having an open affair. At first she went by Polly Crosby, but Harry declared that Polly needed a better name:
Clytoris, an early suggestion, was sensibly saved for the family’s second whippet (the first was named Narcisse Noir). They told Caresse’s daughter Polleen that she was named after a Greek goddess.
After deciding upon “Caresse,” the wealthy couple moved to Paris and “lived a theatrically mad, bad and Bohemian existence.” With the help of their small publishing house, Black Sun Press, they became close to many Lost Generation artists and writers, including Ernest Hemingway.
Harry committed suicide two months after the stock market crash of 1929 (which kicked off the Great Depression). Caresse’s life post-Harry was slightly less colorful, and she used name “Mary Caresse Crosby” slightly more often, but was still primarily known as Caresse.
The baby name Caricia, which is the Spanish word for “caress,” appeared in the U.S. baby name data for two years in the early 2000s:
2003: 5 baby girls named Caricia
2002: 20 baby girls named Caricia [debut]
6 born in California specifically
Why did it debut? I have two theories so far, but I’m not 100% convinced by either one.
The first has to do with music. In 2000, Spanish singer Rocío Dúrcal released an album called Caricias. The lead track was also called “Caricias.” That August, the album reached #2 on Billboard’s Latin Pop Album chart.
The second theory also has to do with music, but in a different way. The XM Satellite Radio channel Caricia, which played Spanish-language adult contemporary music, was launched in September of 2001. (It was axed in 2004, but relaunched a few years later as a Latin oldies channel.)
The first theory makes sense in terms of source, but not in terms of timing. The second theory is more of a long shot (I’ve never seen a radio station influence baby names, unless it was a contest) but the years line up quite well.
What are your thoughts on this one? What am I missing here?
P.S. The French word for “caress,” Caresse, is also a baby name.
The unusual name Caresse saw its highest usage in the late ’80s and early ’90s (no doubt thanks to commercials for Caress soap, which was launched by Lever in 1985). But it debuted in the U.S. baby name data way back in the 1940s:
1950: 5 baby girls named Caresse
1949: 7 baby girls named Caresse [debut]
Where did it come from?
The 1949 novel Dinner at Antoine’s by Frances Parkinson Keyes, which became one of the bestselling books in the United States that year. The story was also serialized in several newspapers.
It was murder mystery set in New Orleans; the “Antoine’s” of the title refers to the famous Antoine’s Restaurant. One of the characters, Caresse Lalande, was a radio star (her show was called Fashions of Yesteryear). She was also carrying on an affair with her sister’s husband, Léonce. When the sister (named Odile) ended up murdered, both Caresse and Léonce (and many other people in their circle) became suspects.
The name got even more exposure that year thanks to the Literary Guild Book Club, which ran ads that featured not just Dinner at Antoine’s, but Caresse specifically:
The French word Caresse (and also the English word Cherish) can be traced back to the Latin word carus, meaning “dear, costly, beloved.”
What do you think of the baby names Caresse and Caress? Would you use them?
Feminine forms of these names include Carla, Carlota, and Carlotta. Diminutive forms include Carlito and Carlitos.
Variant forms of Caroline include Carolyn, Carolynn, and Carolyne.
The name Carly is also sometimes spelled Carlee, Carley, Carleigh, Carlie, Carli, or Carlei.
Carmelo + Carmen
The name Carmelo was derived from the Marian title “Our Lady of Carmel.” The Biblical place-name Carmel means “garden” in Hebrew.
The name Carmen is a variant form of Carmel that was influenced by the Latin word carmen, meaning “song.”
Other forms of Carmelo include Carmela, Carmello, and Carmella. Carmel itself is also used as a name.
The name Carter comes from the English surname that originally referred to someone who’s occupation was transporting goods by cart or wagon.
The name Cartier — which is closely associated with the French jewelry brand — comes from a French surname that has several possible derivations. In some cases, Cartier is synonymous with Carter (see above). In other cases, it refers to a location.
Carson + Carsyn
The name Carson comes from a Scottish surname of unknown derivation.
Variant spellings of the name include Carsyn, Carsen, Carsin and Carsynn.
The origin of the name Oscar isn’t known for certain. If it comes from Old Irish, it’s made up of elements meaning “deer” and “friend.” (The second element, cara, is the same one the gave rise to the name Cara.) If it comes from Old English, on the other hand, it’s comprised of elements meaning “god” and “spear.”
The name Ricardo is made up of Germanic elements meaning “ruler” and “hardy.”
A variant form of the name is Riccardo. Feminine forms include Ricarda and Riccarda.
Scarlett, Scarlet + Scarlette
The name Scarlett comes from the English surname that originally referred to someone who was employed as the maker or seller of a bright (often red-colored) woolen cloth called scarlet.
It was put on the map by fictional character Scarlett O’Hara in the late 1930s.
The name is also sometimes spelled Scarlet (like the color itself), Scarlette, Scarlotte, or Scarlytt. Modern Hispanic variants include Scarleth, Escarlet, Escarlett, and Escarleth.
(Before we leave this section, I just wanted to note — for all my fellow lefties out there — that both Cara and Carter are typed entirely with the left hand on a standard QWERTY keyboard.)
More names with CAR
So, what other names have CAR in them? Here are some less-common choices. (Most of these come directly from the SSA’s baby name data.)
Some of these names could be considered variants of the more popular CAR names, though it’s hard to tell. For instance, Caralynn — is it a form of Caroline? Is it Cara + Lynn? (Maybe a bit of both?) Others are non-traditional spellings of more common names, such as Karim, Karen, and Cornelia.
Which CAR name do you like most? Let me know in the comments!