Earlier this year, the BBC presenter formerly known as Ben Bland changed his surname to Boulos to celebrate his maternal Sudanese-Egyptian heritage.
The Bland name had masked important aspects of his identity that he had downplayed as a child, not wanting to be seen as in any way “different”, including his Coptic faith, Boulos said. “Every name tells a story – and I want mine to give a more complete picture of who I am.”
Boulos’s grandparents, who came to Britain in the 1920s, had chosen the surname Bland because they feared using the Jewish-Germanic family name “Blumenthal”. “They decided on the blandest name possible — literally — to ensure their survival,” he wrote.
Actress Camila Mendes [vid] talking about her name on The Late Late Show With James Corden in 2017:
So my name is Camila Mendes, and there’s a singer called Camila Cabello, and a singer called Shawn Mendes. And people seem to think my Twitter is a fan account for that relationship.
From the book I Speak of the City: Mexico City at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (2015) by Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo:
Babies were baptized with new and strange names, particularly in the 1920s, names taken from the titles of various socialist experiments (for instance, in Tabasco with Garrido Canaval, who established socialist baptisms), and as a result of the emergence of the radio and the indigenist turn of the city’s language. Masiosare became a boy’s name (derived from a stanza of the national anthem: “Mas si osare un extraño enemigo…”), but also Alcazelser (after the popularity of Alka-Seltzer), Xochitl, Tenoch, Cuauhtémoc, Tonatihu (the biblically named Lázaro Cárdenas named his son Cuauhtémoc).
The names of characters came from people [executive producer Peter] Engel knew growing up.
“I knew a guy named Screech Washington. He was a producer. I said I’m not going to hire him, but I’m going to steal your name,” he said. “Slater was a kid who was in my son’s kindergarten class, Zack was named after my dear, dear friend, John DeLorean. […] His son’s name was Zack. Lisa Turtle was a girl I knew and Mr. Belding, Richard Belding, had been my cranky editor when I worked at Universal.”
From the book Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood (2004) by Robert S. Birchard:
DeMille interviewed Gloria Stuart for the part of the high school girl [in This Day and Age], Gay Merrick, and said she was “extremely enthusiastic,” and he also considered Paramount contract player Grace Bradley, but ultimately he selected a former model who called herself Mari Colman. In April 1933 Colman won a Paramount screen test in a New York beauty competition, and DeMille was apparently delighted by the innocent image she projected.
In a comic sequence in David O. Selznick’s 1937 production of A Star Is Born, the studio’s latest discovery, Esther Blodgett, is given a new name more in keeping with her status as a movie starlet. As This Day and Age was getting ready to roll, Mari Colman was subjected to the same treatment as DeMille and Paramount tested long lists of potential screen names. Among the suggestions were Betty Barnes, Doris Bruce, Alice Harper, Grace Gardner, Chloris Deane, and Marie Blaire. Colman herself suggested Pamela Drake or Erin Drake. On May 15, Jack Cooper wrote DeMille that he had tried several names on seventeen people. Eleven voted for the name Doris Manning; the other six held out for Doris Drake. Somehow, the name ultimately bestowed upon her was Judith Allen. DeMille and Paramount had high hopes for Allen, and she was even seen around town in the company of Gary Cooper, one of the studio’s biggest stars.
Nowadays, most names borne by individuals in Madagascar are a particular mix of foreign names (mainly Christian, French, or British but sometimes Muslim) and Malagasy names. This is because the spread of the Christian faith in the nineteenth century resulted in people increasingly giving names from the Bible to their children. These biblical names were often modified to follow the phonological and morphological rules of the Malagasy language (e.g., John becomes Jaonina or Jaona), and often the honorific particle Ra-, the word andriana (lord), or both were added to them (e.g., Rajaonina and Randrianarijaona). While at the beginning of Christian evangelization most people still had, in traditional Malagasy fashion, only one name, progressively the most common structure of names became “binomial,” as Gueunier calls it (Gueunier 2012, 197). In this case, a Christian name (or other foreign name) is often juxtaposed to a Malagasy name, although sometimes both names are of Malagasy origin or, more rarely, both names are foreign.
Names were reduced in length when French colonization began in 1896 — the shortest names today include Rakotoarisoa, Rakotonirina, Andrianjafy or Andrianirina, and tend to have around 12 characters minimum.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
A while ago I found a book called “A Collection of Original Acrostics on Ladies’ Christian Names” that was published in Toronto in 1888.
I won’t post any of the poems, which are all pretty cheesy, but author George J. Howson does include an intriguing selection of names. He notes that he wrote acrostics for “all the most popular feminine christian names of the day, and many more that, while not in common use, are known to exist in actual life.”
Here’s the list:
Abigail Ada Adelaide Adelle Adeline Addie Aggie Agnes Alberta Alecia Aletha Alfretta Alice Allie Alma Almeda Almira Alta Althea Alvira Alzina Amanda Amelia Amy Ann Anna Annabell Annas Annette Angelia Angeline Annie Athaliah Athelia Augusta Aura Avis Barbara Beatrice Bell Bella Berdie Bertha Bertie Bessie Beulah Blanche Bridget Calista Carrie Carlotta Cassie Catherine Cecilia Cela Celia Celicia Celis Charlotte Chloe Christie Christine Clara Clarissa Cleanthe Clementina Constance Cora
Cordelia Corinne Cornelia Cynthia Cyrena Debbie Delia Della Diana Diantha Dinah Dollie Dora Dorcas Dorinda Dorothy Edith Edna Effie Ella Eleanor Eleanora Electa Ellen Elfie Eliza Elma Elsie Emma Emmeline Emily Ena Erma Estelle Esther Ethel Ethelind Ettie Eugenie Eula Eunice Euphemia Euretta Eva Evalina Eveline Evelyn Fannie Felicia Flora Florence Floss Frances Frank Gay Georgie Georgina Geraldine Gertie Gracie Hagar Hannah Harriet Hattie Helen Helena Henrietta Hulda
Ida Irene Isabel Isabella Isadora Jane Janet Janie Jeannette Jemima Jennet Jennie Jessie Jerusha Joanna Josephine Josie Julia Kate Kathleen Katie Keziah Lany Laura Leah Leila Lena Lera Lettie Levina Levinia Libbie Lida Lilian Lillie Lizzie Lola Lora Lorretta Lottie Lou Louisa Louise Lucinda Lucretia Lucy Luella Lula Lulu Lydia Mabel Madelaine Maggie Malvina Mamie Marcella Margaret Maria Marilla Marion Mary Marsena Martha Mattie Maud Maudie May Melinda
Mellissa Mercy Mertie Mildred Millie Mina Minerva Minnie Mintha Miranda Mollie Muriel Myra Myrtle Nancy Naomi Nellie Nettie Nina Nora Ollie Olive Olivia Ormanda Ophelia Pauline Pearl Phoebe Phyllis Priscilla Prudence Rachel Rebecca Rhoda Robena Rosa Rosabel Rosalie Rosalind Rosamond Rose Ruby Ruth Sabina Sadie Sally Samantha Sarah Selina Sophia Sophronia Stella Susanna Susie Sybil Teresa Theodocia Theresa Tillie Una Verna Victoria Vida Viola Violet Wilhelmina Winifred Zuba
Have any favorites?
Hulda/Huldah is one I like. It’s one of those names that I always see on old New England gravestones but never come across in real life. Wonder when that one will become stylish again.
BTW, has anyone ever seen a good name acrostic? Like, one that’s actually well-written and/or thought-provoking? Because I don’t think I ever have.
Did you know that there have been Miss Americas named Venus (1944), BeBe (1948), Jacque (1949), Vonda (1965) and Leanza (1993)?
Miss America 1926, Norma Smallwood, had the middle name Des Cygne (French for “swans”), which she then passed along to her daughter as a first name (paired with the middle name L’Amour, French for “love”).
In 2000, the Miss America pageant included delegates named Brandee (from New Hampshire), Brandi (from New York) and Brandy (from Arkansas).
Other interesting names I spotted skimming over lists of delegates include…
Acacia Courtney (2015)
Adria Elaine Easton (1970)
Alansa Rounds Carr (1960)
Aloha Eugenia Porter (1926)
Ami Vice (2005) – just two letters away from Miami Vice!
Please note that I did include names in the gray area between one syllable and two syllables. The deciding factor on these particular names will be your own interpretation/accent, so be sure to test the names out loud before making any final decisions. (“Hayle,” for instance — would you say it like Hale, or like Hailey? Or “Rise” — is it rize, or ree-sah?)