The unusual name Heder has appeared in the U.S. baby name data just once so far:
2004: 8 baby boys named Heder [debut]
What put it there?
My guess is actor Jon Heder (pronounced HEE-der), who played the title character in the unexpectedly successful independent film Napoleon Dynamite (2004) — a quirky comedy about a socially awkward teenager in rural Idaho.
Jon was asked about his surname during an interview a few years after Napoleon Dynamite came out. Here’s part of his response:
It doesn’t mean anything. My grandparents changed it when they arrived in America. They were Swedish. My last name used to be Olafsen. Close to oaf. I guess, I don’t know. I was the son of Olaf, the town idiot. They just thought Heder sounded cool. And I agree. It’s easy. And it’s cooler.
And it actually does have a definition: the Swedish word heder means “honor, dignity.”
While reading about the 1,500-metre run for yesterday’s post on Kipchoge Keino, I discovered an interesting name-related fact: In the summer of 1957, three Finnish runners named Olavi (pronounced OH-lah-vee) — all running the same 1,500m race in Turku — all broke the 1,500m world record.
The record had been 3 minutes and 40.6 seconds, set by a Hungarian runner (named István) in 1956.
The photo-finish winner of the Finnish race was Olavi Salsola, with a time of 3:40.2. In second was Olavi Salonen, who technically finished with the same time. In third was Olavi Vuorisalo, who (at 3:40.3) was just a tenth of a second behind the first two Olavis.
The new record didn’t last long, though, because the very next day a Czechoslovakian runner (named Stanislav) clocked in at 3:38.1.
The Finnish name Olavi, which popped up in the U.S. data a handful of times in the 1910s and 1920s, is a form of Olaf, which evolved from an Old Norse name comprised of the elements anu, meaning “ancestor,” and leifr, meaning “descendant.”
Do you like the name Olavi? (Do you think it might be a good substitute for the trendy name Oliver?)
A few months ago, I got an email from a reader who’d spotted an obituary for a man named “King David.” Even more intriguing, King David’s father’s name was “King Solomon.” The reader wondered what other famous kings had inspired similar first/middle name combinations.
Historical records reveal that, long before the name King became trendy in the 2000s, hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of people in America were given the first name “King.”
While most that I saw had middle names that didn’t create a special pairing (e.g., King Clyde, King Terry), a good number did have middle names that — whether intentionally or not — turned the pairing into the name of some historical, biblical, or legendary king.
Here are some of the pairings I spotted, plus links to a few examples:
Last week we went on a road trip, mainly to Minnesota and Missouri. Here are some names I spotted while we were out and about:
Ole & Lena
At the Mall of America, I noticed a display of “Ole and Lena” branded items — joke books, mugs, jams, jellies, even fortune cookies. Apparently the characters Ole and Lena are well-known in the Upper Midwest, where there are a number of Scandinavian-Americans.
Ole is a short form of Olaf.
Lena is short form of Helena, Magdalena, and other names that end with -lena.
In Kansas City, we toured the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank.
We saw the huge cash vault, and the three robots that carry large containers of cash into and out of storage.
I noticed that robot #2 was named Dewey. That made me think of George Dewey, so I told my husband, “I bet all three names have some sort of military connection. Maybe they’re all named after naval commanders, or war heroes.”
And then we saw car #1, Huey. Then car #3, Louie.
He laughed at me.
Not war heroes. Just Disney. Figures.
Also at the money museum, we watched a short movie about how Kansas City fought to be chosen as one of the nation’s Federal Reserve cities back in early 1914.
The movie featured a lot of old black-and-white photographs, one of which was a building with “Uneeda Biscuit 5¢” painted on the side.
That reminded me about the baby name Uneeda, which has popped up in the U.S. baby name data a handful of times:
1968: 5 baby girls named Uneeda
1962: 5 baby girls named Uneeda
1961: 7 baby girls named Uneeda
1931: 9 baby girls named Uneeda
1929: 5 baby girls named Uneeda [debut]
In fact, the popular Uneeda Biscuit was probably the very thing that inspired parents of the ’20s and ’30s to try out Uneeda as a first name.
The biscuit was a product of the National Biscuit Company, later shortened to “Nabisco.”
I’m thinking the ’60s usage was more likely inspired by the Uneeda Doll Company.
Of course, since we were in KC, we had to go and test out Google Fiber at the Google Fiber Space.
While we were there, I noticed a big map of the city on the wall. And that’s where I spotted Askew Avenue:
It goes on for blocks and blocks, perfectly straight, never veering east or west. Not askew at all! I found that funny.
Have babies ever been named Askew? Yes, hundreds. A few examples:
Askew Mathew, born in 1611 in Hertfordshire, England
Askew Beards Burbidge, born in 1751 in Warwickshire, England
Askew Peacock, born in 1888 in Alabama
Askew Kenneth Edward Taylor Askew, born in 1996 in Texas
Askew beards! What a visual.
I’m sure that in most (if not all) cases, the first name Aksew was inspired by the surname Askew, which referred originally to the village of Aiskew in North Yorkshire, England.
We’ve taken I-80 a bunch of times, but never I-70, so the town names on this trip were all new to me.
One of the names I noticed was Bovina, which is a town in eastern Colorado. The name was surely inspired by the word “bovine.”
The states of Mississippi, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin also have places called Bovina.
And dozens of U.S. babies have been named Bovina, believe it or not. Some examples:
Bovina Lemming, born in 1846 in Indiana
Bovina Wheeler, born in 1878 in Vermont
Bovina Parmer, born in 1910 in Texas
…And that’s most of the names I spotted. There are a few others (e.g. Cabela) but I’ll give them their own posts.