My first thought was that Debraca might be mashup of Tristaca and Debbera, but some digging revealed a far more likely influence: Debraca Denise Foxx, the stepdaughter of comedian Redd Foxx (stage name of John Elroy Sanford).
Debraca appeared with Redd on an episode of his TV show Sanford and Son in January of 1977. Perhaps more importantly, in late 1977 she was presented as a “beauty of the week” in Jet magazine. (Other Jet beauties include Meyosha and Tchanavian.)
I’m pretty sure the source of both names is a single person: swimsuit model and actress DePrise Brescia, pronounced deh-PREESS — think “Denise” — BRESH-uh.
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific reason, though.
During the early-to-mid ’90s, she was one of the co-hosts on ESPN’s workout show BodyShaping (1988-98), she was featured in multiple Bikini Open pay-per-view specials (as was Symba Smith of Star Search), and she had small roles on several television shows (like Silk Stalkings and Renegade).
I’ve seen her first name rendered various ways (e.g., Deprise, De Prise) but I don’t know how it was coined.
Her surname, on the other hand, has a straightforward explanation: it refers to the city of Brescia in northern Italy.
What are your thoughts on the names DePrise and Brescia? Which one do you like better as a baby name?
The name Epiphany debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1987, and saw peak usage the next year:
1990: 37 baby girls named Epiphany
1989: 33 baby girls named Epiphany
1988: 55 baby girls named Epiphany [peak]
1987: 15 baby girls named Epiphany [debut]
Where did the come from?
The 1987 neo-noir/horror movie Angel Heart. The main character was a detective (played by Mickey Rourke), but one of the other key characters was a Louisiana teenager — and voodoo priestess — named Epiphany Proudfoot (played by Lisa Bonet).
The word Sway popped up for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 2001:
2003: 14 baby girls and 5 baby boys named Sway
2002: 12 baby girls named Sway
2001: 8 baby girls named Sway [debut]
For a long time I assumed the main influence was MTV personality Sway Calloway. But, while I still think Sway had an influence on male usage, I’ve since discovered a much better explanation for the 2001 debut as a female name.
One of the main characters in the 2000 car heist film Gone in 60 Seconds was mechanic-slash-bartender Sara “Sway” Wayland (played by Angelina Jolie). She was the love interest of protagonist Randall “Memphis” Raines (played by Nicolas Cage), who was tasked with stealing 50 specific, expensive cars inside of 72 hours.
The film didn’t get great reviews, but I do remember appreciating the fact that each of the 50 cars was assigned a feminine code-name:
The name also saw it’s highest-ever usage that year, as did the variant spelling Corretta. And another spelling, Koretta, appeared for the very first time in the data in 1968.
What was bringing all this attention to the baby name Coretta in 1968?
Coretta Scott King. She was the wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., until his assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. This event put Coretta and her children (Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter, and Bernice*) in the national spotlight.
Not long after the death of her husband, Coretta took Martin’s place as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. She was instrumental in establishing the national holiday Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — which happens to be today.
Coretta Scott King was named in honor of her paternal grandmother, Cora. The name Cora is a Latinized form of the ancient Greek name Kore (“maiden”), one of the epithets of the goddess Persephone.
*Usage of the names Yolanda and Dexter also increased markedly in 1968. The usage of Martin, which had been declining, saw an uptick that year. (Peak usage was in 1963, the year of MLK’s legendary “I have a dream” speech.) The usage of Bernice was seemingly unaffected by the assassination.
I chose the name Yolanda Denise, but my husband had reservations about it. He questioned whether people would call her Yolanda or would mispronounce the name. He was right. Her name is so frequently mispronounced that it bothered her when she was growing up.
There is a tendency among middle-class African Americans to give their children unusual names. Perhaps they are seeking elegance or some special identification. I fell victim to this custom, rather than following the sensible practice of naming the baby after a member of the family. Later Martin said, “If we ever have another baby girl, I’m going to give her a simple name like Mary Jane.”
When we did have another daughter, we called her Bernice Albertine, after her two grandmothers. Her name was not quite Mary Jane, but at least she was named for members of the family.