How popular is the baby name Wetona 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 Wetona.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Wetona


Posts that Mention the Name Wetona

Where did the baby name Tessibel come from in 1917?

The character Tessibel Skinner from the movie "The Secret of the Storm Country" (1917).
Tessibel from “The Secret of the Storm Country

The name Tessibel has appeared only once in the U.S. baby name data, way back in 1917:

  • 1919: unlisted
  • 1918: unlisted
  • 1917: 7 baby girls named Tessibel [debut]
  • 1916: unlisted
  • 1915: unlisted

For a better picture of what usage looked like around this time, though, let’s check out data from the Social Security Death Index:

  • 1919: 2 people named Tessibell, 1 person named Tesibel
  • 1918: 1 person named Tessibel, 1 person named Tessibell
  • 1917: 4 people named Tessibel, 1 person named Tessibell, 1 person named Tessibelle
  • 1916: 3 people named Tessibel
  • 1900-1915: no one with any of these names

So where did the name Tessibel come from in the mid-1910s, and why were there a few extra Tessibels in 1917?

The inspiration was fictional character Tessibel Skinner, invented by author Grace Miller White and first introduced in the 1909 book Tess of the Storm Country. A second book featuring Tess, The Secret of the Storm Country, came out in 1917.

The first book was made into four different films (in 1914, 1922, 1932, and 1960) and the second was made into a single film the same year it was published.

My guess is that the name got a nudge in 1917 thanks to the release of the new story, which was also serialized in the now-defunct magazine Woman’s World. The marketing for the movie — which featured popular actress Norma Talmadge (who went on to star in The Heart of Wetona and Smilin’ Through) — could have been a factor as well.

Do you like the name Tessibel? Do you think it’s a good alternative to names like Isabel and Annabel?

Where did the baby name Wetona come from?

heart of wetona, norma talmadge, silent film, 1919

Here’s a curious one: Wetona. The name started appearing in the baby name data during the second half of the 1910s:

  • 1922: 10 baby girls named Wetona
  • 1921: 6 baby girls named Wetona
  • 1920: 12 baby girls named Wetona [peak]
  • 1919: 9 baby girls named Wetona
  • 1918: unlisted
  • 1917: unlisted
  • 1916: 5 baby girls named Wetona [debut]
  • 1915: unlisted

The SSA data from that far back isn’t terribly reliable, though, so here’s SSDI data for the same time period:

  • 1922: 6 Wetonas
  • 1921: 4 Wetonas
  • 1920: 9 Wetonas and 1 Wetonah
  • 1919: 10 Wetonas, 1 Wetonah, and 1 person with the middle name Wetona
  • 1918: 1 Wetona
  • 1917: 1 Wetona
  • 1916: 1 Wetona and 1 Wetonah
  • 1915: none

What put Wetona (and Wetonah) on the map in 1916? The play The Heart of Wetona, which was written by George Scarborough and performed on Broadway from February to May, 1916. It starred actress Lenore Ulric as the “Indian princess” Wetona.

How did Scarborough come up with the name Wetona? I’m not sure that he did. “The play was originally called Oklahoma and focused on problems of religious leaders in the new state.” It was then rewritten by theatrical producer/playwright David Belasco, who “changed some of the characters to Indians and the locale to a reservation.”

A few years later, in 1919, two things happened. First, the play was turned into a silent film starring Norma Talmadge. Second, the song “Heart of Wetona” — which was “inspired by and dedicated to Norma Talmadge” — was published. These two things together account for the increased usage of the name Wetona that year.

Do you like the name Wetona? Do you think it’s usable nowadays?

Sources:

Name quotes #50: Rocket, Lenore, Heloise

Clueless character Cher on the similarity between her name and that of her best friend Dionne:

We were both named after great singers of the past who now do infomercials.

(Dionne’s name comes from Dionne Warwick.)

From a 2007 interview in People with film director Robert Rodriguez (whose kids are named Rocket, Racer, Rebel, Rogue, and Rhiannon):

Asked about his children’s unusual names, Robert attributes them to side effects he sustained from his college years when he subjected himself to medical tests to make extra money.

“Rocket is the first one. And once you name your first kid Rocket, you can’t name your next kid Marty. Racer, Rebel, Rogue…I’m just gonna blame this on the medical experiments. But they do have regular middle names in case they don’t want to start their own wrestling team.”

(An Australian celebrity named Lara Bingle has two sons named Rocket and Racer…perhaps in homage to Robert Rodriguez?)

From Incomplete birth certificates create a bureaucratic morass by Andrew Ryan in the Boston Globe:

A generation ago — when more families had six or more children — babies without official first names were surprisingly common. Overwhelmed new parents would leave the hospital without completing birth certificate paperwork.

But what once seemed like a quaint oddity becomes a serious inconvenience in a world of identity theft and terrorism. Today, governments demand birth certificates.

As more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, vital statistics offices — including at Boston City Hall — continue to receive a trickle of people whose birth certificates carry no first name. Boston officials estimated that in the 1950s, roughly 1 of every 25 birth certificates lacked a first name.

From the 1970 obituary of actress Lenore Ulric in the New York Times:

Born in the little town of New Ulm, Minn., in 1892, the daughter of Franz Xavier Ulrich, an Army hospital steward, Miss Ulric (she dropped the H from her last name) used to say that she was predestined for the stage. Her father gave her the name of Lenore because of his fondness for Poe’s poem, “The Raven,” and her childhood was devoted to theatrical yearnings.

(She played Wetona on stage in 1916.)

Name expert Kunio Makino, as quoted in What to call baby? by Tomoko Otake in The Japan Times:

“I think people who come up with bizarre names for their children tend to feel that they couldn’t live the life they wanted to, and they feel that they have been hindered by many rules and restrictions. The only freedom they have at their disposal, they think, is the right to name their child.”

From Hi, My Name Is Héloïse by Héloïse Chung (formerly Kathy Bryant):

I leaned toward names made of calm, feminine sounds that never sounded like someone was yelling at you. The harsh K in Kathy conjured up my mother’s words for me: kigibe, keoji, shikkeuro. Korean for girl, beggar, and shut up. But I still wasn’t ready. I switched from Kathy to “Kate,” which felt like a small step, but not one nearly big enough.

[…]

Once the universe gave me the OK, a little space seemed to open up for the name to find me. And so it was that Héloïse fluttered into my head one day, devastatingly perfect. I’m not sure exactly where it came from. Perhaps some derivation of Luisita (a friend) or Elio (a boy I used to babysit). I guess I have a thing for L names. I honed it, trying it with and without the H and with and without the diacritics. I didn’t want them to be an affectation. Is it gauche to use French spelling if you don’t even speak French? Eff it, I went with the French.

From Why and how Ontarians change their names in the 21st century by Eric Andrew-Gee in The Globe and Mail:

Some change their names by truncation, some by hyphenation, others by amalgamation, others by invention. Some changes are banal, done for everyday reasons – a divorce, a marriage, a mistransliteration (an imprecise conversion from one alphabet to another) – while others are poignant, playful, even poetic.

When I asked people about their choice while reporting this story, virtually no one was glib. Many would go on and on, grateful to talk about a decision that cuts to the marrow of who they are. Others became tearful and, in some cases, shuddered audibly at the sound of their birth names. Some even declined to discuss the subject.