How popular is the baby name Sunya 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 Sunya.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Sunya


Posts that Mention the Name Sunya

Where did the baby name Seroba come from in 1927?

Newspaper photo and caption, "Radio Baby," (May, 1927)
Seroba Mary Lou in the newspaper, mid-1927

A week or so ago I came across a curious one-hit wonder name from 1927: Seroba.

For context, 1927 was the year Lindbergh became big news, the year both Sunya and Jobyna debuted, and the year Arbutus nearly cracked the top 1,000.

So I started doing some research, and you know what kept coming up in the search results? A bunch of news items about Mary Lou Bartley.

Who’s Mary Lou Bartley? If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember her from that post about radio-crowdsourced baby names.

Mary Lou was born in Kentucky in early 1927. Her parents had asked a radio station to help them name their baby. The station aired the request, and the result was hundreds of baby name suggestions from across the nation. This is the earliest (complete) example of baby name crowdsourcing that I know of.

What did Seroba have to do with Mary Lou Bartley, though?

That’s what I wanted to know. So I read through the news items, all from 1927, and realized that each one was calling her “Seroba Mary Lou.” Which was strange, as all the sources I’d used to reconstruct Mary Lou’s story for that crowdsourcing post — everything from the 1930 census all the way to her 2009 obituary — referred to her simply as “Mary Lou.”

Here’s a caption that ran in one newspaper:

Seroba Mary Lou Bartley of Whitesburg, Ky., who has the distinction of being the first baby to be christened over the radio.

And here’s an excerpt from an article that ran in another:

During the evening [of the radio broadcast] two thousand names were suggested by the listeners, and the suggestions came from almost as many places. There were many who preferred the quiet dignity of “Mary,” and as many who were interested in a name as modern as “Mitzi.” All of the suggestions were forwarded to the Bartleys and after much thought they conferred on the little newcomer, this name suggested by the radio — Seroba Mary Lou. Long love this Virginia Dare of radio!

I have no idea where the name Seroba came from. Was it part of the crowdsourced name? Did a newspaper reporter make it up? I also can’t figure out why some newspapers mentioned it and others did not.

Regardless, the Seroba-version of Mary Lou’s story was circulated widely enough to boost the baby name Seroba onto the charts for a single year:

  • 1929: unlisted
  • 1928: unlisted
  • 1927: 8 baby girls named Seroba [debut]
  • 1926: unlisted
  • 1925: unlisted

So that’s the explanation behind the one-hit wonder baby name Seroba. How crazy that it connects to a name we talked about for an entirely different reason more than three years ago.

What are your thoughts on the name Seroba — do you like it? Dislike it? Have you ever heard of it before?

Sources:

  • Radio Baby.” Sausalito News 28 May 1927: 3.
  • “WLS Listeners Name Kentucky Babe.” Wyoming Reporter [Wyoming, NY] 1 Jun. 1927: 3.

P.S. Usage of the baby name Marylou spiked in 1927 as well…

Where did the baby name Sunya come from in 1927?

Lobby Card for "The Love of Sunya" (1927).
The Love of Sunya” lobby card

The baby name Sunya first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1927:

  • 1929: 7 baby girls named Sunya
  • 1928: 5 baby girls named Sunya
  • 1927: 14 baby girls named Sunya [debut]
  • 1926: unlisted
  • 1925: unlisted

In was one of the top baby name debuts of 1927, in fact.

Where did it come from?

A silent film called The Love of Sunya, which was released in March of that year.

The movie starred Gloria Swanson as Sunya Ashling, a young singing student who — with the help of a guru from India and a crystal ball — is able to see different versions of her future with various suitors.

Sunya, having promised to marry Paul [Judson] and go to South America on his first engineering assignment, is courted also by millionaire Robert Goring; by De Salvo, an opera impresario; and by Louis Anthony, a young bank cashier. She learns that her father is in financial straits, and the yogi reveals […] that disaster and unhappiness will result regardless of whether she goes with De Salvo to become a singer or marries the millionaire to save her father.

In the end, Sunya “decides to follow her heart and marry Paul.”

The film was based on the play The Eyes of Youth (1917), in which the protagonist was called Gina Ashling. The filmmakers may have changed the character’s first name in order to emphasize the mystical nature of the plot. One contemporary writer defined the Sanskrit word sunya as “illusion,” but it actually means “empty” or “void.”

The Love of Sunya — Gloria Swanson’s first independent production — wasn’t a commercial success, but it was still influential enough to impact the baby name charts. (It was also the very first picture shown at the once-famous Roxy Theatre in New York City, incidentally.)

Do you like the name Sunya?

Sources:

Top debut names in the U.S. baby name data, 1881 to today

flower bud

Though vast majority of the baby names on the Social Security Administration’s yearly baby name lists are repeats, every list does contain a handful of brand-new names.

Below are the highest-charting debut names for every single year on record, after the first.

Why bother with an analysis like this? Because debut names often have cool stories behind them, and high-hitting debuts are especially likely to have intriguing explanations tied to historical people/events. So this is more than a list of names — it’s also a list of stories.

Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)

  • 1881: Adell & Celeste, 14; Brown & Newell, 14
  • 1882: Verda, 14; Cleve, 13
  • 1883: Laurel, 12; Brady, Festus, Jewell, Odell & Rosco, 8
  • 1884: Crystal & Rubie, 11; Benjamen, Jens, Oakley & Whitney, 9
  • 1885: Clotilde, 13; Arley & Terence, 9
  • 1886: Manuelita, 10; Terrence, 10
  • 1887: Verlie, 13; Myles, 11
  • 1888: Ebba, 18; Carlisle, Hughie & Orvel, 9
  • 1889: Garnett, 12; Doyle, 9
  • 1890: Verena, 11; Eduardo & Maggie, 10
  • 1891: Gayle, Idabelle & Zenia, 9; Sheridan, 14
  • 1892: Astrid, Dallas & Jennett, 9; Corbett, 23
  • 1893: Elmyra, 12; Estel, Mayo, Shelley & Thorwald, 8
  • 1894: Beatriz, Carola & Marrie, 9; Arvel, Erby & Floy, 8
  • 1895: Trilby, 12; Roosevelt, 12
  • 1896: Lotus, 11; Hazen, 11
  • 1897: Dewey, 13; Bryon, Frankie, Mario & Rhoda, 7
  • 1898: Manilla, 35; Hobson, 38
  • 1899: Ardis & Irva, 19; Haven, 9
  • 1900: Luciel, 14; Rosevelt, 20
  • 1901: Venita, 11; Eino, 9
  • 1902: Mercie, 10; Clarnce, 9
  • 1903: Estela, 11; Lenon & Porfirio, 7
  • 1904: Magdaline, 9; Adrain, Arbie, Betty, Desmond, Domenic, Duard, Raul & Severo, 8
  • 1905: Oliver, 9; Eliot & Tyree, 9
  • 1906: Nedra, 11; Domenico & Ryan, 10
  • 1907: Theta, 20; Taft, 16
  • 1908: Pasqualina, 10; Robley, 12
  • 1909: Wilmoth, 9; Randal & Vidal, 9
  • 1910: Ellouise, 12; Halley, 12
  • 1911: Thurley, 12; Colie, 16
  • 1912: Elynor, Glennis, Mariann, 12; Woodroe, 25
  • 1913: Wilba, 18; Vilas, 24
  • 1914: Floriene, 14; Torao, 17
  • 1915: Wanza, 33; Audra, 18
  • 1916: Tatsuko, 14; Verdun, 14
  • 1917: Nerine, 43; Delwyn, 14
  • 1918: Marne, 24; Foch, 58
  • 1919: Tokie, 12; Juaquin, 11
  • 1920: Dardanella, 23; Steele, 11
  • 1921: Marilynne, 13; Norberto, 14
  • 1922: Evelean, 14; Daren, 35
  • 1923: Nalda, 15; Clinard & Dorland, 9
  • 1924: Charis, 14; Melquiades, 13
  • 1925: Irmalee, 37; Wayburn, 11
  • 1926: Narice, 13; Bibb, 14
  • 1927: Sunya, 14; Bidwell, 14
  • 1928: Joreen, 22; Alfread & Brevard, 9
  • 1929: Jeannene, 25; Donnald, Edsol, Rhys & Wolfgang, 8
  • 1930: Laquita, 68; Shogo, 11
  • 1931: Joanie, 12; Rockne, 17
  • 1932: Carolann, Delano & Jenine, 11; Alvyn, Avelardo, Elena, Mannon & Wenford, 7
  • 1933: Gayleen, 23; Skippy, 10
  • 1934: Carollee & Janean, 12; Franchot, 9
  • 1935: Treasure, 16; Haile, 11
  • 1936: Shelva, 89; Renny & Shelva, 9

This is where the numbers start becoming more accurate. Why? Because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data.” (SSA)

Now back to the list:

I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!

*If you ignore the baby name glitch of 1989, the top debut names of 1989 are actually Audreanna and Khiry.

Image by kazuend from Unsplash

Mystery baby name: LaQuita

When the popularity of a particular baby name spikes, there’s always an explanation.

Most of the time, the explanation isn’t hard to come up with. Hundreds of baby girls were named Rhiannon after Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon was released in 1976, dozens of baby boys were named Rambo after the Rambo movies started coming out in the early 1980s, and so forth.

Sometimes, the explanation isn’t as conspicuous. I didn’t immediately see the connection between the name Aquanette and B-movie actress Burnu Acquanetta, for instance. Only after mulling it over for a while was I able to link the name Kasara to a long-forgotten Lisa Lisa song.

Today’s name belongs in that latter group. In fact, the explanation for today’s name is so inconspicuous that I haven’t been able to piece it together, even after months of trying.

So I’m giving up. I’m just going to post what I know and hope that some wise soul leaves a comment that helps me unravel the mystery. :)

The name is Laquita. (It’s often written LaQuita in obituaries.) It debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1930, coming out of nowhere to be given to an impressive 68 baby girls that year.

laquita popularity graph

Now, the number 68 might seem trivial. Today’s most popular names are given to tens of thousands of babies each, after all. As far as newbie names go, though, 68 is huge. Especially when you’re talking about the early 20th century. Here’s some context:

  • Top debut names of 1926: Narice, 13; Bibb, 15
  • Top debut names of 1927: Sunya, 14; Bidwell, 14
  • Top debut names of 1928: Joreen, 22; Alfread & Brevard, 9
  • Top debut names of 1929: Jeannene, 26; Donnald, Edsol, Rhys & Wolfgang, 8
  • Top debut names of 1930: Laquita, 68; Shogo, 11
  • Top debut names of 1931: Joanie, 12; Rockne, 17
  • Top debut names of 1932: Carolann, Delano & Jenine, 11; Alvyn, Avelardo, Elena, Mannon & Wenford, 7
  • Top debut names of 1933: Gayleen, 23; Skippy, 10
  • Top debut names of 1934: Carollee & Janean, 12; Franchot, 9

Laquita jumped into the top 1,000 right away, ranking 874th. It remained there for the next three years.

Here’s a final fact that could be helpful: None of the 28 1930-Laquitas listed in the SSDI were born during the first four months of the year. The name starts to show up in May, with 3 Laquitas born that month. This may mean that a mid-year event triggered the spike.

Ideas?

Where did the baby name Orchid come from in 1926?

The character Orchid (played by Gloria Swanson) in the movie "Fine Manners" (1926).
Orchid from “Fine Manners

The flower name Orchid first appeared in the U.S. baby name the data in the mid-1920s:

  • 1928: 6 baby girls named Orchid
  • 1927: 7 baby girls named Orchid
  • 1926: 12 baby girls named Orchid [debut]
  • 1925: unlisted
  • 1924: unlisted

One dozen baby girls remained Orchid’s peak usage for nearly a century (until the record was tied in 2017, then topped in 2020).

Here are the SSDI’s numbers for the same span of time:

  • 1928: 1 person with the first name Orchid
  • 1927: 2 people with the first name Orchid (and 1 with Orchid as a middle)
  • 1926: 9 people with the first name Orchid (and 1 with Orchid as a middle)
  • 1925: 2 people with the first name Orchid
  • 1924: 4 people with the first name Orchid

Why were expectant parents suddenly interested in the name Orchid in 1926?

Because of a silent film called Fine Manners, which was released in August of that year.

Dialogue intertitle featuring the name Orchid from the silent film "Fine Manners" (1926).
Dialogue intertitle from “Fine Manners

It starred Gloria Swanson as a vivacious-yet-unrefined New York chorus girl named Orchid Murphy. Orchid falls in love with a millionaire named Brian Alden, but, right after Brian asks Orchid to marry him, he learns that he will be traveling abroad on business. During the months of his absence, his Aunt Agatha teaches Orchid about social etiquette (e.g., “a lady never makes a vulgar display of her emotions”).

The consequence is that Brian is deeply disappointed when he returns to find a blasé little Orchid. He scolds his Aunt for having robbed the girl of her vivacity and spark.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Orchid? Would you use it?

P.S. Gloria Swanson’s The Love of Sunya — released less than a year after Fine Manners — also had an influence on U.S. baby names…

Sources: