A while back, I stumbled upon a register of people associated with Oxford University in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The most interesting part? The author of the register included a chapter dedicated to first names and surnames, and that chapter featured a table of male forenames ranked by frequency of occurrence from 1560 to 1621.
The author claimed that, for several reasons, these rankings were “probably…more representative of English names than any list yet published” for that span of time. One reason was that the names represented men from “different grades of English society” — including peers, scholars, tradesmen, and servants.
Ready for the list?
John, 3,826 individuals
Ralph (sometimes confused with Raphael/Randall in the records), 182
Matthew (sometimes confused with Matthias), 116
Alexander, 98 (tie)
Arthur, 98 (tie)
Simon (sometimes confused with Simeon), 83
Joseph, 78 (tie)
Lewis, 78 (tie)
Roland (also Rowland), 65
Griffith (also Griffin), 60
Abraham, 54 (tie)
Leonard, 54 (tie)
Morris (sometimes confused with Maurice), 51
Bartholomew, 46 (3-way tie)
Oliver, 46 (3-way tie)
Timothy, 46 (3-way tie)
Martin, 44 (tie)
Rice (sometimes confused with Richard), 44 (tie)
Jeffrey (also Geoffrey; sometimes confused with Godfrey), 38
Toby (also Tobias), 34
Bernard, 28 (3-way tie)
Gregory (sometimes confused with George), 28 (3-way tie)
Isaac, 28 (3-way tie)
Jasper (also Gaspar), 26
Randall (also Randle, Randolph; sometimes confused with Ralph), 26 (tie)
Did the relative popularity of any of these names surprise you?
Entries lower down on the list included Lancelot (23), Jarvis (22) Theophilus (19), Marmaduke (18), Fulke (17), and Cadwalader (9).
The author also included every other Oxford-associated name from that general time period, so here’s a sampling of the rare names that popped up in the register just once:
“145” boy names: Montgomery, Sylvester, Quantavius, Constantinos
1 via 154
The girl name Summerlynn adds up to 154, which reduces to one (1+5+4=10; 1+0=1).
1 via 163
The boy name Constantinos adds up to 163, which reduces to one (1+6+3=10; 1+0=1).
1 via 172
The girl name Trinityrose adds up to 172, which reduces to one (1+7+2=10; 1+0=1).
What Does “1” Mean?
First, we’ll look at the significance assigned to “1” by two different numerological sources. Second, and more importantly, ask yourself if “1” or any of the intermediate numbers above have any special significance to you.
“1” (the monad) according to the Pythagoreans:
“The Pythagoreans called the monad ‘intellect’ because they thought that intellect was akin to the One; for among the virtues, they likened the monad to moral wisdom; for what is correct is one. And they called it ‘being,’ ’cause of truth,’ ‘simple,’ ‘paradigm,’ ‘order,’ ‘concord,’ ‘what is equal among greater and lesser,’ ‘the mean between intensity and slackness,’ ‘moderation in plurality,’ ‘the instant now in time,’ and moreover they called it ‘ship,’ ‘chariot,’ ‘friend,’ ‘life,’ ‘happiness.'”
“They say that the monad is not only God, but also ‘intellect’ and ‘androgyne.’ It is called ‘intellect’ because of that aspect of God which is the most authoritative both in the creation of the universe and in general in all skill and reason”
“They consider it to be the seed of all, and both male and female at once”
“They call it ‘Chaos’ which is Hesiod’s first generator, because Chaos gives rise to everything else, as the monad does. It is also thought to be both ‘mixture’ and ‘blending,’ ‘obscurity’ and ‘darkness,’ thanks to the lack of articulation and distinction of everything which ensues from it.”
“They call it ‘Prometheus,’ the artificer of life, because, uniquely, it in no way outruns or departs from its own principle, nor allows anything else to do so, since it shares out its own properties.”
“All activities emanate from the one” (reading 5751-1).
“As in numbers…all are formations or divisions or multiples of units of one, so the universe and the expressions of all natures within same are the manifestations of that one force, one power, one spirit, one energy known as or called a Universal Force, Creative Energy, or God.” (reading 1462-1).
Does “1” — or do any of the other numbers above (e.g., 19, 55, 64, 109) — have any special significance to you?
Think about your own preferences and personal experiences: lucky numbers, birth dates, music, sports, and so on. Maybe your favorite song is “When I’m Sixty-Four” by the Beatles, for example.
Also think about associations you may have picked up from your culture, your religion, or society in general.
If you have any interesting insights about the number 1, or any of the other numbers above, please leave a comment!
Source: Theologumena Arithmeticae, attributed to Iamblichus (c.250-c.330).
In June of 1982, the Toledo Blade ran a short article about two local brothers who “enjoy the distinction of having initials which spell their names.” One was Thomas Owen Matzinger (T.O.M.), the other was James Irvin Matzinger (J.I.M.). Their dad Mike said it was “just as well” that he didn’t have any more kids, because he couldn’t think of any other sets of names to fit the pattern.
My guess is that Mike was joking, because there are several other sets of initials that could work with an M-surname like Matzinger, one of which, T.I.M., is just a letter away from T.O.M.
In fact, there are at least a couple of combinations that would work with every type of surname.
So today, in honor of the Matzingers of Toledo, I’ve come up with a long list of name-spelling initials. They’re sorted by third initial (that is, the first letter of the last name) so you can scroll straight to the set that matches up with your own surname.
Initials that Spell Names & Nicknames
Surname starts with:
Potential full initials (& example combo):
A.D.A. (Adelaide Diane A.) A.N.A. (Anastasia Nadine A.) A.S.A. (Asa Scott A.) A.V.A. (Ava Virginia A.) B.E.A. (Beatrix Elaine A.) E.V.A. (Eva Veronica A.) G.I.A. (Gia Idonea A.) I.D.A. (Idabelle Daria A.) I.N.A. (Ina Nigella A.) I.R.A. (Ira Ralph A.) I.S.A. (Isabel Simone A.) K.I.A. (Kia Ianthe A.) L.E.A. (Leah Elizabeth A.) M.I.A. (Mia Imelda A.) N.I.A. (Nia Ilona A.) O.D.A. (Odalys Delfina A.) O.R.A. (Ora Ruth A.) U.M.A. (Uma Magnolia A.) U.N.A. (Una Normina A.)
D.E.B. (Deborah Ethel B.) J.E.B. (Jeb Evan B.) L.I.B. (Libbie Ione B.) R.O.B. (Robert Orville B.) S.E.B. (Sebastian Everly B.) S.Y.B. (Sybil Yvette B.) T.A.B. (Tabitha Araminta B.) Z.E.B. (Zebulon Ezekiel B.)
B.E.C. (Becky Eowyn C.) M.A.C. (Mackenzie Anne C.) N.I.C. (Nicole Isabelle C.) V.I.C. (Victor Ivan C.) Z.A.C. (Zackary Arlo C.)
J.E.D. (Jedidiah Easton D.) R.O.D. (Rodney Orrin D.) T.E.D. (Theodora Eugenia D.) Z.E.D. (Zedekiah Ezra D.)
A.B.E. (Abraham Benjamin E.) A.C.E. (Ace Corbin E.) E.V.E. (Eve Violet E.) F.A.E. (Fae Adina E.) I.K.E. (Isaac Keith E.) J.O.E. (Joseph Owen E.) L.E.E. (Lee Ethan E.) M.A.E. (Maebelle Alice E.) M.O.E. (Morris Oscar E.) R.A.E. (Raelene Alicia E.) S.U.E. (Susan Ursula E.) Z.O.E. (Zoe Ocean E.)
C.A.L. (Callum Audley L.) D.E.L. (Delaney Estelle L.) G.I.L. (Gilbert Ishmael L.) H.A.L. (Harry Archibald L.) L.I.L. (Lillian Iva L.) M.A.L. (Malcolm Angus L.) M.E.L. (Melanie Eloisa L.) M.O.L. (Molly Odette L.) S.A.L. (Sally Angelica L.) S.O.L. (Solomon Osborn L.) V.A.L. (Valerie Annette L.) W.I.L. (Willy Ingo L.) Z.E.L. (Zelda Erin L.)
C.A.M. (Cameron Aidan M.) D.O.M. (Dominic Orson M.) J.E.M. (Jemima Eleanor M.) J.I.M. (James Irvin M.) K.I.M. (Kimberly Imogene M.) L.E.M. (Lemuel Emerson M.) P.A.M. (Pamela Alys M.) R.A.M. (Ramsey Archer M.) S.A.M. (Samuel Aaron M.) S.I.M. (Simon Isidore M.) T.A.M. (Tammy Anita M.) T.I.M. (Timothy Isaac M.) T.O.M. (Thomas Owen M.)
B.A.X. (Baxter Andrew X.) D.A.X. (Dax Alec X.) D.E.X. (Dexter Edison X.) J.A.X. (Jaxon Antony X.) L.E.X. (Lexie Eliza X.) M.A.X. (Maximus Alvin X.) P.A.X. (Pax Amelia X.) R.E.X. (Rex Elias X.) R.O.X. (Roxanna Opal X.) T.E.X. (Tex Emmanuel X.)
A.M.Y. (Amy Michelle Y.) G.U.Y. (Guy Urban Y.) I.V.Y. (Ivy Verity Y.) J.A.Y. (Jay Adam Y.) J.O.Y. (Joyce Ondina Y.) K.A.Y. (Katherine Addison Y.) M.A.Y. (May Augusta Y.) R.A.Y. (Raymond Adrian Y.) R.O.Y. (Royce Oberon Y.) S.K.Y. (Skylar Kerry Y.)
We’re all familiar with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, thanks to the catchy Christmas song.
But the character was around for a full decade before the song came out. He originated in a 1939 children’s book by Robert L. May.
May, a copywriter at Montgomery Ward, wrote the book as part of the retailer’s annual holiday promotion. More than two million copies of Rudolph were handed out to shoppers nationwide that year.
One of May’s handwritten notes from that era reveals that, before he’d settled on the name “Rudolph” for the red-nosed reindeer, he’d considered the following alliterative R-names:
The two names he’d circled were Rudolph and Reginald — the top two contenders, no doubt. (Sources say he decided Reginald was “too British,” and Rollo “too happy.”)
Robert L. May’s songwriter brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, later turned Rudolph’s story into a song. Gene Autry recorded “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in mid-1949 and it became a massive hit that Christmas. (Autry followed it up with “Frosty the Snowman” in 1950.)
So now imagine you’ve gone back in time, oh, say, 78 years. Your copywriter friend Rob sends you a telegram asking for your assistance in naming a fictional reindeer character he’s writing about, for work. He includes a list of ten possibilities. Which name do you select?
Or, if you’re not keen on any of these, feel free to comment with a write-in candidate. Just be sure it starts with R!
“A giveaway that sold millions.” The Bookseller 24 Dec. 1960: 2376.
Behind today’s name is a fascinating story involving early television, exotic music, racial identity, and clever deception.
The name is Korla, which, along with variant Corla, first appeared in the SSA’s baby name data in 1951:
6 baby girls (5 in Calif.)
6 baby girls [debut]
8 baby girls [debut]
A bit of research reveals that most of these early ’50s Korlas and Corlas — mainly females, but also a few males — were born in California specifically. This location is already pretty telling, but the smoking gun is this middle name:
Karlo Pandit Lindsay, male, born in November, 1950, in Los Angeles
Korla Ponda Williams, female, born in March, 1951, in Los Angeles
Korla Pandit Lord, male, born in September, 1953, in San Francisco
So what’s the influence here?
Korla Pandit, the mystical musician whose Los Angeles-based TV show Adventures in Music made him famous, particularly on the West Coast, in the early ’50s.
Pandit first appeared on TV in the spring of 1949. In each episode of Adventures in Music, Pandit wore a jeweled turban and gazed hypnotically at the camera, never speaking — just playing otherworldly music on a Hammond organ. His show, which aired on KTLA, was soon picked up by other California stations.
Some early recordings of Korla prominently feature his name, but I’m not sure if the live show Adventures in Music did. (If not, this could account for why “Corla” debuted higher than “Korla” in the data.)
Korla Pandit was an immediate hit, particularly among suburban housewives. He received an impressive amount of fan mail.
He also started putting out albums, eventually releasing well over a dozen on various labels.
In 1951, after shooting hundreds of shows for KTLA, he left to film a series of short musical performances for Snader Telescriptions. These Snader clips introduced Pandit to a national audience.
But Pandit didn’t stay with Snader long, instead leaving to do other things (including start a new live TV show).
According to the 1952 ad below, his songs were “bringing dollars to the cash register and wild acclaim from feminine hearts.”
His music helped set the stage for the late ’50s Exotica craze. In fact, some people have since dubbed Korla the “Godfather of Exotica,” though the title has also been given to other musicians (including Les Baxter).
As the decade wore on, Pandit’s fame began to wane. But he did spend the rest of his life recording and performing — and always wearing that bejeweled turban.
He passed away in 1998, leaving behind his American wife Beryl and their two sons, Shari and Koram.
…But the story doesn’t end there.
Because, a few years after that, a Los Angeles journalist discovered that Korla Pandit was not the half-Indian, half-French man from New Delhi he had claimed to be. Instead, he was an African-American man named John Roland Redd from Columbia, Missouri.
Adopting a non-black identity had allowed Redd to have advantages that he couldn’t have had otherwise in 1950s America. He was one of the first African-Americans with a television show, but, ironically, if the public had known he was black, it’s highly unlikely that audiences (especially those entranced housewives) would have responded as enthusiastically as they did.
Redd took his adopted identity to the grave. Not even his sons were aware of their father’s true origin. (His wife must have known the secret, but she never openly admitted it.)
Notably, “Korla Pandit” was Redd’s second adopted persona. In the ’40s he had assumed the name “Juan Rolando,” which helped him get gigs during the Latin music craze of the time and, more importantly, allowed him to join the white L.A. musicians union as opposed to the black one, which afforded him more career opportunities.
It’s not hard to see how he got Juan from John, but I do wonder how he came up with Korla.
What are your thoughts on the name Korla? And on the story of Korla Pandit?
Desai, Manan. “Korla Pandit Plays America: Exotica, Racial Performance, And Fantasies of Containment In Cold War Culture.” The Journal of Popular Culture Aug. 2015, pp. 714–730.