Tex Vertmann was born in Estonia in the mid-1970s. The very American-sounding first name “Tex” is unusual in Estonia — how did he come to have it?
Vertmann said his parents used to spend the best moments of their life together at the cinema, watching all kinds of foreign movies that had either been left behind by the Germans or bought by the Soviet Union from the U.S.
Estonia was part of the USSR from 1940 to 1991, and for several years during WWII it was occupied by Nazi Germany.
Among these were the Italian film “Return to Sorrento” and “Waterloo Bridge” […] But Vertmann’s parents just adored “Sun Valley Serenade,” in which the famous Glenn Miller conducted his orchestra.
These films were released in 1945, 1940, and 1941, respectively.
The name of one of Miller’s band players, the tenor-sax, was Tex Beneke. Vertmann remembered [his] parents also liked the Miller song “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” which begins with the line “Hello Tex!” That’s how Vertmann got his very original name in the times of “deep socialism.”
The movie Sun Valley Serenade, which starred Sonja Henie, includes a sequence in which Texas-born Gordon Lee “Tex” Beneke both sings and whistles “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” The lyrics begin: Hi there Tex, whatchu say?
Americans of the early 1940s (but not the 1970s!) would have agreed with the Vertmanns about the song: a whopping 1.2 million copies of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” were sold by early 1942.
In recognition of this accomplishment, Miller’s record label presented him with a framed, gold-plated copy of the single — the very first gold record. This paved the way for RIAA-issued gold records in the late 1950s.
A year ago today, Juneteenth (a contraction of “June 19th”) became a federal holiday.
The holiday marks the date (in 1865) that U.S. Army officer Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, Texas. The order reinforced the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued two and a half years earlier, by asserting that “all slaves are free.”
This mattered because Texas still had about 250,000 slaves. Why? Because “the state never had the large Union army presence necessary to enforce the proclamation.”
Intriguingly, a baby born in nearby Harris County, Texas, in 1930 — long after the Civil War was over — may have been named “Juneteenth.”
I first discovered her a few years ago, while doing research for a post about unusual names in Harris County. She was born into an African-American family on June 26th — a week after Juneteenth — but “June tenth” is the name that appears to be written on her birth certificate (above).
In later records, on the other hand, she’s consistently listed as “Juneteena” or “June Teena.” I even found her mentioned in a 1980s cookbook:
This is one of my personal favorites, the peach pie-cobbler from June Teena Anderson, one of the Panhandle’s finest cooks.
She died in 1999, and on her gravestone her name is written “June T. Anderson.”
It’s impossible to know the original intentions of her parents (who were named Allen and Margie Anderson, btw). But it does seem plausible — given their cultural heritage, their location, and the baby’s birth date — that they had wanted to name her Juneteenth.
I’ve known for a while that the baby name Passion debuted impressively in 1974. Not as high as Nakia, but higher than Savalas.
1976: 30 baby girls named Passion
1975: 34 baby girls named Passion
1974: 34 baby girls named Passion [debut]
I occasionally looked for a reason, but never spent too much time on it because word-names are notoriously tricky to research.
Then I happened to discover something about the like-sounding name Pashen — which also debuted in ’74, and which I thought was merely a variant of Passion.
1975: 6 baby girls named Pashen
1974: 9 baby girls named Pashen [debut & peak]
As it turns out, the blaxploitation movie Willie Dynamite, which was released nationally in early 1974, featured a female character named Pashen (played by Joyce Walker). Willie was a New York City pimp, and Pashen was one of his call girls. Here’s how Pashen’s name appears in the end credits:
So: “Pashen” was the main form of the name, while “Passion” — despite being correctly spelled — was the variant form. (Other variant forms that also debuted in 1974 were Pashion and the one-hit wonderPashun.)
Since then, though, “Passion” has emerged as the preferred spelling among expectant parents. Well over 2,000 baby girls have been named Passion since the mid-1970s, whereas only about two dozen baby girls have been named Pashen.
What are your thoughts on these names? Which spelling do you prefer?
Speaking of Desira, here’s another baby name that was influenced by a Flash Gordon comic strip character. This one is Darlia, and it was a one-hit wonder in 1946. In fact, it was the top one-hit wonder of 1946. More than a dozen baby girls were named Darlia that year:
1946: 13 baby girls named Darlia [debut]
Darlia appeared in a storyline called “The Atomic Age,” which ran in papers from October of 1945 to March of 1946.
The installment featured identical twin sisters: Queen Evila (the bad twin) and Darlia (the good twin). For much of the story, the wrongdoers had Flash convinced that Evila was Darlia and vice versa. In the end, though, the truth came out just in time for Flash to save the day. But not in time to save the sisters. In fact, Darlia had to save him: she “courageously sacrifice[d] her own life by stepping into the line of fire” that otherwise would have killed Flash. Evila, on the other hand, died by falling off a ledge while trying to escape from an infirmary.
Do you like the name Darlia? Do you like it more or less than Desira?