How popular is the baby name Virginia 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 Virginia.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Virginia


Posts that Mention the Name Virginia

Where did the baby name Vulnavia come from in 1976?

The character Vulnavia from the movie "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" (1971).
Vulnavia from “The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Halloween is almost here, so it’s time to take a look at the curious name Vulnavia, which was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1970s:

  • 1978: unlisted
  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: 6 baby girls named Vulnavia [debut]
  • 1975: unlisted
  • 1974: unlisted

Where did it come from?

A pair of campy British horror movies: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972).

In the movies, Vulnavia was the beautiful, mute assistant of Dr. Anton Phibes (played by Vincent Price).

The spectator never learns anything about Vulnavia; she exists to serve her master (as both murderous assistant and dancing-partner), but also to look fabulous, strike poses, and wear a string of outlandish designer gowns that might make Cleopatra Jones green with envy.

At the end of the first film, Vulnavia (played by Virginia North) was burned to death in an acid shower. The second film was going to feature a different assistant, but the production company “wanted to retain the name of Vulnavia,” so Vulnavia (this time played by Valli Kemp) was resurrected, unharmed, for the sequel.

The origin of Vulnavia’s name was never explained, but it was reminiscent of the name of Dr. Phibes’s deceased wife, Victoria.

So…if the movies came out in 1971 and 1972, why did the name show up in 1976?

Television.

By the mid-1970s, both movies were out of the theaters and playing on late-night television. This brought enough attention to the name Vulnavia for usage to creep up over the SSA’s five-baby threshold. (A few babies born earlier in the ’70s did get the name as well, though, according to records.)

What are your thoughts on the name Vulnavia?

Sources:

  • Benshoff, Harry M. Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Film. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997.
  • Hallenbeck, Bruce G. Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History, 1914–2008. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009.

Baby born on Virgin flight, named Virginia

plane

British airline Virgin Atlantic was founded in 1984, but it wasn’t until March of 2004 that a baby was born on a Virgin flight.

She was born a month early to mother Abimbola Eduwa, who was traveling from Lagos to London. Abimbola went into labor an hour after takeoff, and the baby was born a mere ten minutes later — while the plane was soaring 30,000 feet above the Sahara desert.

The baby girl was named Virginia, after the airline. (As Abimbola’s husband Chris explained, “They said I should call her Virginia, I think we will. We usually pray for a name but Virginia is fine.”)

British billionaire Richard Branson, one of the founders of the airline, offered Virginia free flights until the age of 21. He also cheekily noted, “We have waited 20 years for our first Virgin birth.”

Sources:

Baby name story: Konti

Actress Lenore Konti Bushman (sitting beside John Wayne) in the movie "Red River Range" (1938).
Lenore Konti Bushman in “Red River Range

Hungarian sculptor Isidore Konti emigrated to the United States in the early 1890s. He became known for creating large-scale sculptures for international expositions, such as the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition.

Konti had a “fatherly interest in the welfare of the young artists around him,” and,

…in 1908 and 1909, he hired a destitute young actor, Francis X. Bushman, to model and assist around the studio, later encouraging “Bushie” to travel with a performing company. Konti regularly sent Bushman’s young wife and children money to live on, as he did Bushman himself. Early in 1909, the Bushmans named their new baby daughter “Konti.”

Francis X. Bushman — who was named after the Catholic saint Francis Xavier — went on to become one of the biggest silent film stars of the 1910s. He was billed as “the Handsomest Man in the World” and known for his physique. (He was a Bernarr Macfadden follower.)

He and his wife Josephine had five children — Ralph, Josephine, Virginia, Lenore, and Bruce — and Lenore’s middle name was indeed Konti.

Lenore went on to appear in a handful of films during the 1920s and ’30s. (In the image above, she’s sitting beside John Wayne.)

Sources:

P.S. Exposition-related baby names we’ve talked about include Eulalia, Louisiana Purchase, and Louis Francis.

Baby born on Bermuda, named Bermuda

English settler John Rolf (1585-1622) and Pocahontas depicted in a 19th-century painting.
John Rolfe (and Pocahontas)

Englishman John Rolfe (1585-1622) was an early North American settler who helped turn tobacco into a profitable export crop for the Colony of Virginia.

He and his first wife, Sarah, arrived in the New World in the summer of 1609 aboard the Sea Venture, which ended up running aground off the coast of Bermuda thanks to a hurricane.

The colonists stayed in Bermuda, which they found “to be a hospitable place with sufficient food,” for 10 months. While there, they built two smaller ships upon which they could continue their journey to Virginia.

Also while there, Sarah gave birth “to a daughter who was christened Bermuda” after her birthplace (just like Virginia Dare was). Sadly, baby Bermuda Rolfe died before the colonists set sail for the mainland.

John Rolfe went on to have two more wives and two more children. With his second wife, Pocahontas, he had a son named Thomas (who “was presumably named after the Governor, Sir Thomas Dale”). With his third wife, Jane, he had a daughter named Elizabeth.

Sources: John Rolfe – Wikipedia, John Rolfe – Historic Jamestowne – NPS, Thomas Rolfe – Historic Jamestowne – NPS

Name quotes #104: Che, Shanaya, Bluzette

double quotation mark

Time for the latest batch of name quotes!

From an interview with Saturday Night Live comedian Michael Che:

I was named after Che Guevara. My name is Michael Che Campbell. My dad is a huge history buff, and he named me after Che Guevara cause he loved Che Guevera for whatever reason. Which is a very polarizing figure, because when I tell people I was named after Che, they’re either like, “Oh, wow that’s cool,” or they’re like, “You know, Che killed people.” I’m like, I didn’t pick my name.

From Sanjana Ramachandran’s recent essay “The Namesakes“:

Shanaya Patel’s story, in more ways than one, encapsulated an India opening up to the world. In March 2000, Shanaya’s parents were at a café in Vadodara, Gujarat, when some Shania Twain tunes came on: she was also the artist who had been playing when her father saw her mother for the first time, “during their whole arranged-marriage-thing.” Finally, after eight months of “baby” and “munna,” Shanaya’s parents had found a name for her.

But “to make it different,” Shanaya’s parents changed the spelling of her name slightly. “Before me, all my cousins were named from this or that religious book,” she said. “When my parents didn’t want to go down that road, the elders were all ‘How can you do this!’—but my parents fought for it. There was a small controversy in the family.”

(Her essay also inspired me to write this post about the name Sanjana!)

About the “naming” of a Native American man who was discovered in California in 1911, from a 1996 UC Berkeley news release:

Under pressure from reporters who wanted to know the stranger’s name, [anthropologist] Alfred Kroeber called him “Ishi,” which means “man” in Yana. Ishi never uttered his real name.

“A California Indian almost never speaks his own name,” wrote Kroeber’s wife, “using it but rarely with those who already know it, and he would never tell it in reply to a direct question.”

About street names in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, from the book Names of New York (2021) by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro:

Clymer, Ellery, Hart; Harrison, Hooper, Heyward, Hewes; Ross, Rush, Rutledge, Penn — they’re all names belonging to one or another of those fifty-six men who scrawled their letters at the Declaration [of Independence]’s base. So are Taylor and Thornton, Wythe and Whipple.

[…]

[Keap Street’s] name does not match that of one of the Declaration’s signers, but it tries to: “Keap” is apparently a misrendering of the surname of the last man to leave his mark on it: Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania, whose name’s illegibility was perhaps due to his having rather less space to scrawl it by the time the document reached him than John Hancock did.

From a 2008 CNN article about the pros and cons of unusual names:

“At times, for the sake of avoiding an uncomfortable conversation or throwing someone off guard, I answer to the names of ‘Mary’ or ‘Kelly’,” says Bluzette Martin of West Allis, Wisconsin. At restaurants, “the thought of putting an employee through the pain of guessing how to spell and pronounce ‘Bluzette’ just isn’t worth it to me.”

Martin was named after “Bluzette,” an up-tempo jazz waltz written by Jean “Toots” Thielemans. Despite her daily problems with this name, it certainly has its perks, like when she met Thielemans in 1987 at a club in Los Angeles. “When I met [him], he thanked my mother,” she says.

(Here’s “Bluesette” (vid) by Thielemans, who was Belgian.)

From a 1942 item in Time magazine about ‘Roberto’ being used as a fascist greeting:

Last week the authorities ordered 18 Italian-Americans excluded from the San Francisco military area as dangerous to security — the first such action against white citizens. The wonder was that it was not done earlier: everybody heard about the goings on in the North Beach Italian colony. Fascists there used to say RoBerTo as a greeting — Ro for Rome, Ber for Berlin, To for Tokyo. Italy sent teachers, books and medals for the Italian schools. Mussolini won a popularity contest hands down over Franklin Roosevelt.

From a news release about the 2021 baby names at St. Luke’s in Duluth, Minnesota:

Parents also got creative with their children’s names, naming tiny new Apollos, Elfriedas, Tillmans and Winnifreds. Other great names included everything from Atlas to Ziibi and some precious little gems like Amethyst and Ruby.

From a 2014 article in Vogue about 1950s fashion model Dovima:

Dovima, born Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, would have been 87 today. She hailed from Jackson Heights, Queens, and was purportedly discovered in 1949 when she strolled out of an Automat near the Vogue offices. The name Dovima wasn’t thought up by a canny publicist, if was concocted by Dorothy herself, invented for an imaginary playmate during a lonely childhood when she was bedridden with rheumatic fever.

(Dovima was the first single-name fashion model. She did legally change her name from Dorothy to Dovima at some point, according to the records, and a handful of baby girls born in the late ’50s were named after her, e.g., Dovima Marie Ayers, b. 1959, VT.)

P.S. “Louvima” is another three-in-one name I’ve blogged about…