According to Wikipedia, Stedman Graham is an “educator, author, businessman and speaker.” But without Wikipedia’s help, how would you describe Stedman? That’s right: “Oprah’s boyfriend.”
Oprah began dating Stedman in mid-1986, a few months before The Oprah Winfrey Show premiered. We’ve already seen how the baby name Oprah debuted on the national list that year, but did you know that the talk show gave the baby name Stedman a boost as well?
1991: 28 baby boys named Stedman
1990: 38 baby boys named Stedman
1989: 82 baby boys named Stedman
1988: 29 baby boys named Stedman
1987: 20 baby boys named Stedman
Not only did Stedman reappear on the national baby name list in 1987 after a 48-year absence, but the variant names Steadman, Stedmen, Stedmon and Stedmond all followed suit in 1988.
And what accounts for the Stedman spike of 1989?
In February of that year, Stedman appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time. The episode was about “men who marry or date famous women, and how they cope with it.” The other guests were actress Susan Lucci and her husband Helmut, and singer Barbara Mandrell and her husband Ken. (Here’s the episode, if you want to watch.)
While usage of the name Stedman has tapered off since 1989, the relationship between Oprah and Stedman is still going strong nearly 3 decades later. They attended the Oscars together last month, in fact.
Stedman is one several “significant other” baby names I’ve spotted on the SSA’s baby name list so far. Others include Josanne, Movita and Tarita (all associated with Marlon Brando), Syreeta and Londie (both associated with Stevie Wonder), Loray and Altovise (both associated with Sammy Davis, Jr.), one-hit wonder Kayatana (girlfriend of Flip Wilson), Marva (first wife of Joe Louis) and Sonji (first wife of Muhammad Ali). Stedman is unique, though, in that it’s a male name that was popularized by a famous female — not a common scenario, it seems.
According to the U.S. baby name data, usage of the name Marva increased quite a bit from 1934 to 1936:
1937: 342 baby girls named Marva (ranked 342nd)
1936: 350 baby girls named Marva (ranked 334th)
1935: 187 baby girls named Marva (ranked 466th)
1934: 74 baby girls named Marva (ranked 785th)
1933: 60 baby girls named Marva (ranked 873rd)
Because of Marva Trotter, who married heavyweight boxer Joe Louis on September 24, 1935.
A few hours later, Joe fought fellow heavyweight Max Baer at Yankee Stadium:
Joe Louis entered the ring last night a married man, and his radiant bride, who until ten minutes before Joe left the apartment house at 381 Edgecombe Avenue for the Yankee Stadium was simply Miss Marva Trotter, 19-year-old Chicago secretary, sat in a ringside seat and urged her man on to do his best.
Louis won the fight by knockout in the fourth round.
September 24th was also an eventful day in the lives of Willis and Esther Scott of Beloit, Wisconsin. That evening, they welcomed twins — one boy, one girl. What did they name the babies? Joseph Louis and Josephine Marva, after the boxer and his new bride. (On the 1940 U.S. Census, 4-year-old Joseph is listed as “Joe Louis.”)
Two of these, Hannah and Ava, happen to be very popular for baby girls at the moment.
Need two names? You could consider a pair of names that become a palindrome when written side-by-side (i.e., names that are anagrams of one another):
Aidan & Nadia Aileen & Neelia Alan & Nala Allan & Nalla Allen & Nella Amin & Nima Ariel & Leira Arik & Kira Aron & Nora
Avram & Marva Axel & Lexa Aydan & Nadya Ari & Ira Cam & Mac Eliah & Haile Eliam & Maile Ellen & Nelle Etan & Nate
Flor & Rolf Gem & Meg Iris & Siri Leon & Noel Linus & Sunil Miles & Selim Nazar & Razan Nero & Oren
It’s also possible to come up with your own palindromic pairs by flipping traditional names to create brand new names. For instance, I’ve seem James, Kevin, Manuel and Ramon flipped to become Semaj, Nivek, Leunam and Nomar.