While researching various baby names influenced by the people/events of the 1950s, I happened to come across Nellybelle, the name of a non-human character on the The Roy Rogers Show (1951-1957).
Nellybelle was a jeep with a mind of her own. When she wasn’t driving herself around, she was being driven by Roy’s sidekick, Pat Brady. According to the New York Times, Pat made the name Nellybelle a “household word” with his catchphrase, “Whoa, Nellybelle!”
All that exposure inspired more than a few people to call their cars Nellybelle, but it didn’t have the same influence on baby names: the name-combo has never been bestowed often enough to register in the U.S. baby name data (which excludes names used fewer than 5 times per year).
That said, it has certainly seen usage as a first-middle set. Many dozens of females born in the U.S. in the 1800s and early 1900s were named “Nellie Belle” and “Nellie Bell,” according to records.
What are your thoughts on the name Nellybelle? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?
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).
The registrar of Providence, Rhode Island, published a series of documents listing all “of the names of persons deceased, born and married in the city of Providence” during years 1866, 1867 and 1868. The series may have been longer, but these are the only documents I could find online.
I’ve finally finished creating a set of rankings using one of the documents — 1867. But before we get to the rankings, here are some stats:
1,547 babies were born in Providence in 1867, going by the number of babies listed in the document itself. According to the document’s introduction, though, the number is 1,625. Not sure what to make of this discrepancy.
1,431 of these babies (713 girls and 718 boys) had names that were registered with the government at the time of publication. The other 116 babies got blank spaces. Either their names hadn’t been registered yet, or they hadn’t been named yet, or perhaps they died young and never received a name.
254 unique names (141 girl names and 113 boy names) were shared among these 1,431 babies.
And now, on to the names…
A quick look at the top 5 girl names and boy names in Providence in 1867:
Top baby girl names
Top baby boy names
1. Mary 2. Catherine 3. Ellen 4. Margaret 5. Sarah
1. John 2. William 3. James 4. Charles 5. George
All Girl Names
Notice how the #1 name, Mary, was bestowed three times as often as the #2 name, Catherine.
Twenty-one sets of twins and two sets of triplets were born in Providence in 1867. (All of these names were accounted for above — I just thought it’d be fun to check out the sibsets.)
Annie & Fannie Annie & Mary Ann & Ellen Jennie & Minnie Margaret & Martha (blank) & (blank)
Ann & Maurice Grace & George Harriet & Albert Ida & Ashel Mary & James
Abraham & George Charles & George Charles & John Daniel & David Dunlap & Frank Eugene & Timothy George & John George & William James & John John & Martin
Carl, (blank) & (blank) James, Alexander & Sarah
I’ll post Providence’s 1866 and 1868 rankings as soon I get them done. Until then, here are two older posts featuring uniquely named Rhode Islanders: Aldaberontophoscophornia (b. 1812) and Idawalley (b. 1842).
Pharrell Williams had been a successful producer (as part of The Neptunes) since the mid-1990s, working with Jay Z, Britney Spears, Nelly, Justin Timberlake, Kelis, and others.
But he didn’t start getting attention as a solo artist until 2003. That’s when when he released the single “Frontin’,” which peaked at #5 on the Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in September. (Crazily enough, 2003 was also the year that 43% of songs played on U.S. radio were produced by The Neptunes.)
The same year, the baby name Pharrell debuted impressively in the SSA’s baby name data:
And Pharrell Williams — who has a dad named Pharaoh and a son named Rocket, incidentally — has been on the scene ever since. But 2013 and 2014 were particularly big years for him, with the success of the songs “Blurred Lines” and “Happy,” and his new gig as a judge on The Voice.
Usage of the name cooled off after 2003, but there was a slight increase in 2013. Do you think Williams’ ongoing exposure will boost the name even higher in 2014?