“Lola was supposed to be Sophia, but on the way to the hospital in the taxi cab, the driver was listening to the radio — the 70s station — and ‘Copacabana’ by Barry Manilow was playing,” the mom of three recalled.
“I heard that [lyric], when he said, ‘Her name was Lola,’ and I said to Mark, ‘Lola Consuelos would be a really cool name.’ And he said, ‘If she’s a girl, let’s name her Lola.’ And that was it,” she shared.
Parrots, those irrepressible mimics of the animal world, are some of the few creatures known to have individual names: each bird has its own signature call that others use when addressing it and that the bird uses itself in avian “conversation.”
Dolphins and humans are, so far, the only other members of this select club of animals who use names for individuals. Scientists think this ability is related to the intensely social lives of all three of these creatures.
From Through It All, the autobiography of Christine King Farris (older sister of Martin Luther King, Jr.):
My full name is Willie Christine King. Hardly anyone knows my first name. I am rarely called by it. “Willie” was chosen as a way to pay homage to the Williams side of my family; it was given in tribute to my maternal grandfather, Reverend A. D. Williams.
Also in the sports realm, Nile was named after Nile Clarke Kinnick Jr., the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Iowa who died in World War II.
From a write-up of a name study conducted by Carnegie Mellon researchers:
As the popularity of one name, say Emily, peaks, parents may decide to forgo that name and pick a similar one, like Emma. By following this strategy, they are instilling in their new daughter a name that is socially acceptable by its similarity to the popular name but will allow her to stand out in the crowd by putting a unique twist on her identity. Many parents may be thinking the same thing and the number of little girls named Emily will decline while those named Emma will increase.
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)
Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr., was not born with the name “Martin”?
Martin Luther King, Sr., was originally named Michael King. When he welcomed his second child (and first son) in early 1929, the baby was named Michael as well.
Several years later, in 1934, Rev. Michael King — a pastor in Atlanta — traveled overseas to attend the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Berlin. While there, he “witnessed the beginnings of Nazi Germany” under Germany’s new chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
King toured much of Germany, the country that is the birthplace of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, which led to a split with the Catholic Church.
When he returned to Atlanta, the senior King decided to change his name and his son’s from Michael to Martin Luther, after the German Protestant leader.
The name on MLK Jr.’s birth certificate wasn’t officially changed from “Michael” to “Martin Luther” until 1957, when he was 28.
Allard still loves video games (his all-time favorite is “Robotron”). And even his name (legally changed from James) is an homage to computers. In the late 1980s, he explains, “it was my log-in on all of the computer systems at school, and it stuck.”
Industrialist Armand Hammer often said he was named after Armand Duval, the hero in Alexandre Dumas’ play “Camille.”
But he conceded later that his father, a socialist, also had in mind the arm-and-hammer symbol of the Socialist Labor Party.
For years, people erroneously thought Hammer was connected to the company that makes Arm & Hammer baking soda.
From an essay about Island Cemetery (on Block Island, in Rhode Island) by Martha Ball:
The cemetery, our own City on a Hill, has always been a place of enchantment, holding stones lacking uniformity even within the same lot, bearing names alien to our time; Philamon Galusha, Icivilli, Darius. It is enhanced by an awareness of the sheer physical accomplishment it embodies, a steep slope terraced long before we had today’s array of earth moving equipment.
[Neither Darius Rucker nor I would agree that the name Darius is “alien to our time.” Looking over the other names at Island Cemetery, I saw all the expected Biblical entries (Peleg, Obed, Barzilla; Zilpah, Huldah, Hepzebah), plenty of fanciful feminines (Lucretia, Cordelia, Sophronia), and a few references to current events: a Martin VanBuren born in 1839, a Cassius Clay born in 1854, an Elsworth (middle name) born in 1861, an Ambrose Everett born in 1862, and a Ulysses born in 1868.]
Vertov’s real name was David Kaufman, which unambiguously points to his Jewish origin. But the desire of the talented youth from Bialystok (at the time part of the Russian Empire, today Poland) to change his surname upon arrival in Moscow was unlikely to have been due to anti-Semitism — in the 1920s it was not as developed as in the 1950s. Vertov, like many avant-garde artists, probably just chose a new name to herald “a new life.”
In Ukrainian dziga means whirligig, spinning top, while vertov comes from the verb vertet (to spin). The two form something like “the spinning whirligig,” a name that was entirely fitting for the man who bore it.
I was not born in a Shell station. I hate to disappoint people that think I was. My mom was getting car work done, and an attendant at the station was helping her and keeping her calm. Obviously she couldn’t drive to the hospital then, so the ambulance came. I made it to the hospital, but she wanted to name me after him. He worked at the Shell station, so she just thought “Chris, shell” — let’s stick them together. And you know, Chrishell was born, quite literally.
Move over, Zeke Zzzypt of Chicago and Vladimir Zzzyd of Miami. Few have proved more zealous in trying to be the last personal name in a local telephone book than Zachary Zzzzzzzzzra, who has brought up the rear of San Francisco’s directory for eight of the past 15 years. Several years ago, when he was just plain Zachary Zzzra, Zzzzzzzzzra discovered to his sorrow that he had been zapped from last place by Zelda Zzzwramp, and so he added another z to his name. Last year, as Zzzzra, he was infuriated when he lost put to Vladimir Zzzzzzabakov. This year, tie outztripped all rivals by becoming Zzzzzzzzzra and once again won the last word.
“Zachary Zzzzzzzzzra” was actually a painting contractor named Bill Holland. He used “his telephone name as an advertising gimmick, telling potential customers to look him up in the back of the book in stead of handing out business cards.”
We can see a similar pattern reflected in the SSDI data:
1901: 48 people with the first name Veva
1900: 51 people with the first name Veva
1899: 91 people with the first name Veva
1898: 41 people with the first name Veva
1897: 30 people with the first name Veva
What caused this sudden interest in the name Veva?
The answer might be a news story.
In the spring of 1899, sisters Evern Case (6) and Veva Case (4), who lived with their mother in Greensboro, North Carolina, went to visit their father in Mississippi for several months.
When their father refused to send them home, their mother’s sister, Elvia Bell (“a brunette of distinguished appearance” in her mid-20s), took it upon herself to travel to Mississippi and retrieve her nieces.
On June 10th, Elvia boarded a train bound for Ocean Springs, MS. Once she got there, she
…took lodging at the hotel to study the situation and mature her plans. She carried a letter of introduction to some lawyers there and soon had the sympathy of the hotel keeper and Mr. Martin Turnbull, a reporter of the Times-Democrat, enlisted in her cause. After fruitless interviews, of not too friendly nature, Mr. Case finally agreed that one child could return Monday, the 26th, but the other must remain with him. This concession did not satisfy Miss Bell. She had gone for both and both she must have.
So, with the help of her new friends, she concocted a plan and was able to gain access to both of her nieces ahead of the 26th. “[A]nd here the excitement begins.”
Here’s the full account of Elvia’s adventure as it appeared in the papers back in 1899:
When the children came Saturday morning it had been planned by the Times-Democrat reporter that Miss Bell and the children should go down the river in a boat toward New Orleans, but this miscarried and, to escape unnoticed, they took a carriage for Fontainbleau, a station several miles distant on the L. & N. Railroad, to take the northbound train from New Orleans. It was a fast drive through Mississippi mud and water, and the little party were much bespattered. A smallpox quarantine was encountered and after considerable difficulty was passed. Fortunately the train was an hour late. As it pulled in Miss Bell discovered a man, whom she recognized as the Times-Democrat reporter, on the rear of the train waving to her frantically. She made for him at once, when the conductor and porter lifted her and the children bodily on the train. She learned that the grandfather of the children had caught on to the racket who, as well as the reporter, had boarded the train lower down the road and was now in quest of her.
The irate old gentleman soon put in an appearance, upbraided Miss Bell, taunted her with “trying to do something smart” and informed her that they would get off at Scranton (the next station) intimating that she would be arrested there. Not having a Pullman car ticket this disturbing factor was soon removed from the scene by the porter, and Miss Bell locked herself and the children inside one of the departments of the Pullman car. At Scranton the grandfather alighted from the train and the officers got on, who failing in their search got off at the next station. In the meanwhile the grandfather at Scranton had a warrant issued for Miss Bell on the charge of kidnapping and telegraphed the Mobile, Ala., authorities to have her arrested. The reporter anticipated this and used all his influence with the railroad men in her behalf. It was decided that she and the children should be locked up and the conductor would immediately leave the train.
When the train arrived at Mobile, 1:30, two of the city’s detectives and a crowd, over which hovered an air of suspicion, were there to greet it. The officers at once began their search and one of the trainsmen treacherously gave the scheme away. They demanded admittance, which being refused, the door was battered open. Miss Bell was clutching both children in her arms and boldly demanded their authority for attempting her arrest. Failing to produce any she resisted them and took refuge behind every seat of the car. Reaching the door she kicked it shut, which locking fast, the same tedious process was necessary to reach the other end of the car. Her arms were bruised and blackened in the struggle.
She and the children were now hastened to the police station but the faithful reporter of the Times-Democrat did not desert her. He at once secured the service of Gregory L. Smith, one of the most prominent attorneys of Mobile, who immediately went to her and hearing her story, told her to leave the station. The chief of police objected promptly, saying he had a warrant for her detention, which charged her with being a fugitive from justice on the evidence of being concealed on the train. Mr. Smith then went before Judge Semmer and secured a writ of habeas corpus returnable instanter, and the case was tried in the city court, Mr. Smith representing Miss Bell and the city attorney the chief of police.
The trial was quick, thanks to the fact that Elvia could produce the contract signed by the girls’ parents regarding the details of the trip to Mississippi. The judge ruled in her favor, and she was released — free to return to Greensboro with her nieces.
But the action doesn’t quite end yet. She planned to leave town via train at midnight, but:
…it was suspected by the reporter, and suspected rightly, that the grandfather and officers would come from Scranton on the very train upon which she was to leave. How to evade them was now the problem. It seemed a difficult one, but nothing is too much for reporters and railroad men. It conjunction they planned that Miss Bell an the children should be on the opposite side of the train from which the passengers get off and that a door be opened on that side for her reception. Accordingly when the train came the grandfather and the officers, who had been wired of the arrest, alighted on the side with the throng, while Miss Bell and the children quietly entered from the other.
And the trio made it safely back to Greensboro.
The papers declared Elvia “a heroine” who, “through the whole trying adventure was as cool, unflinching and incisive as a surgeon’s knife.”
Usage of the baby name Elvia increased in 1899 as well — not as impressively as Veva did, but enough to boost Elvia into the girls’ top 1,000 for the first time.
All this said…I’m not 100% sure about this theory. The rise of Veva didn’t occur primarily in North Carolina, even though that’s where most of the news coverage was. And I think the rise of Elvia should have been more significant, given Elvia Bell’s starring role in the story.
In any case…what are your impressions of the baby names Veva and Elvia? Which one do you like more?