How popular is the baby name Olaf in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Olaf.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Olaf


Posts that Mention the Name Olaf

Where did the baby name Heder come from in 2004?

Actor Jon Heder as the title character in the movie "Napoleon Dynamite" (2004).
Jon Heder in “Napoleon Dynamite

The unusual name Heder has appeared in the U.S. baby name data just once so far:

  • 2006: unlisted
  • 2005: unlisted
  • 2004: 8 baby boys named Heder [debut]
  • 2003: unlisted
  • 2002: unlisted

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.”

What do you think of Heder as a baby name?

Sources: Napoleon Dynamite – Wikipedia, Shia LaBeouf and Jon Heder Compete for Waves in Surf’s Up, Heder – Wiktionary

P.S. Usage of the baby name Pedro — as in “Vote for Pedro” — saw an uptick in 2004 as well, but it’s hard to say if this was caused by the movie.

The Three Olavis

olavi, running, finland, name
The three record-breaking Olavis (July 11, 1957)

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?)

Sources: Three Finnish Runners All Break World Record for 1,500 Meters at Turku, 1500 metres world record progression – Wikipedia, Olaf – Behind the Name

Babies Named for Famous Kings

king solomon image

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:

King Alfred
King Arthur
King Asa
King Charles
King Edward
King Frederick
King George
King Henry
King Hezekiah
King James
King Josiah
King Louis
King Olaf
King Oscar
King Richard
King Saul

Several of these (Kingarthur, Kingcharles, Kingdavid, Kingjames, Kingjosiah, and Kingsolomon) also appear as compound names in the SSA data.

Do like the recent King-as-a-first-name trend? Why or why not?

Random Road Trip Names: Uneeda, Askew, Bovina

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.

Dewey

In Kansas City, we toured the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank.

Federal Reserve Bank, Kansas City
Federal Reserve Bank, Kansas City

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.

Uneeda

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.

Askew

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:

Askew Avenue, Kansas City
Askew Avenue, Kansas City

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.

Bovina

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.

Male names in the Domesday Book

I listed all the female names in the Domesday Book a while back, so today I thought I’d complete the project by listing all the male names.

The male names below appeared in the Open Domesday database just once, except where noted. (For the record, I overlooked entries in which one person’s name was used to refer to another person, e.g., “Aelfric’s uncle.”)

The most-mentioned name within each letter group is in bold.

If you make it all the way to the bottom, your reward is a top ten list. :)

A

  • Abba (2)
  • Abbud
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  • Abraham
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  • Acwulf
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B

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C

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D

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  • Dynechaie

E

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  • Evrold
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F

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G

  • Gamal (9)
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H

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Y

  • Ylving (3)

And now it’s time for the…

Top Ten Male Names

Which male were mentioned most often in the Domesday book? The #1 name was William, followed by Robert and Ralph:

1. William (166)
2. Robert (127)
3. Ralph (124)
4. Aelfric (88)
5. Alwin (76)
5. Hugh (76)
7. Roger (73)
8. Godwin (72)
9. Walter (64)
10. Godric (59)

Though the names in the book aren’t necessarily representative of name usage in England overall, it does make sense than William took the top spot. The Domesday Book was created a couple of decades after the Norman Invasion, at a time when the name William was very fashionable, thanks to William the Conqueror.