The unusual name Wanakee popped up in the U.S. baby name data once in the late 1950s, then returned for a stretch in during the 1980s:
1986: 6 baby girls named Wanakee
1984: 8 baby girls named Wanakee
1983: 8 baby girls named Wanakee
1982: 10 baby girls named Wanakee
What brought it back?
African-American fashion model Wanakee (pronounced WAH-nah-kee) Pugh — known mononymously as Wanakee over the course of her modeling career, which spanned the 1980s and ’90s.
Pugh’s career took off in the [early] 1980s as she rose to the status of “top model” […] She graced the fashion runways and faced the flashbulbs of New York City, Paris and Milan, and her face was seen on dozens of magazine covers and advertising campaigns.
Those covers included Vogue, Glamour, Self, Essence, and Ebony.
Here’s how Ebony described the start of Wanakee’s career in the mid-1980s:
Wanakee was employed as a fashion illustrator when, at the urging of her mother, she traveled to Detroit to try her hand at modeling. Her career really took off four years ago, when she moved to New York.
In New York, Wanakee’s big break came when future fashion designer Vera Wang — at that time working as an editor at Vogue — decided to feature Wanakee as a “new face” in the magazine.
How Pugh came to be named Wanakee I don’t know, but I do know that the name has been used for a handful of Native American characters in the movies and on TV.
It’s also a geographical name. There’s a village in Wisconsin called Waunakee, for instance. The village’s name was likely based on the Ojibwa word wanaki, defined by a mid-19th-century missionary as: “I inhabit a place in peace, undisturbed, I live somewhere in peace.”
I’m pretty sure the source of both names is a single person: swimsuit model and actress DePrise Brescia, pronounced deh-PREESS — think “Denise” — BRESH-uh.
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific reason, though.
During the early-to-mid ’90s, she was one of the co-hosts on ESPN’s workout show BodyShaping (1988-98), she was featured in multiple Bikini Open pay-per-view specials (as was Symba Smith of Star Search), and she had small roles on several television shows (like Silk Stalkings and Renegade).
I’ve seen her first name rendered various ways (e.g., Deprise, De Prise) but I don’t know how it was coined.
Her surname, on the other hand, has a straightforward explanation: it refers to the city of Brescia in northern Italy.
What are your thoughts on the names DePrise and Brescia? Which one do you like better as a baby name?
The ancient name Cybele first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in relatively modern times — the 1960s.
1965: 14 baby girls named Cybele
1964: 16 baby girls named Cybele
1963: 15 baby girls named Cybele [debut]
The variant spelling Cybelle debuted the same year.
Where did they come from?
A 1962 French film called Les dimanches de Ville d’Avray (The Sundays of Ville d’Avray), which was later re-titled for English audiences: Sundays and Cybèle. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in April of 1963.
The movie followed an emotionally damaged war veteran named Pierre (played by Hardy Krüger) as he starts an innocent friendship with a neglected schoolgirl named Cybèle (played by 11-year-old Patricia Gozzi). Their relationship “ultimately ignites the suspicion and anger of his friends and neighbors in suburban Paris,” with tragic results.
Cybele was pronounced sih-BELL by the American media at the time. The name ultimately comes from the name of the Greco-Roman mother goddess, Cybele.
According to the U.S. baby name data, usage of the name Deion started to rise in the late 1980s:
1991: 61 baby boys named Deion
1990: 60 baby boys named Deion
1989: 70 baby boys named Deion
1988: 16 baby boys named Deion
1987: 8 baby boys named Deion
The name entered the top 1,000 in 1992 and reached peak usage in 1995/1996:
1998: 186 baby boys named Deion [rank: 811th]
1997: 303 baby boys named Deion [rank: 590th]
1996: 566 baby boys named Deion [rank: 411th]
1995: 558 baby boys named Deion [rank: 411th]
1994: 318 baby boys named Deion [rank: 580th]
1993: 241 baby boys named Deion [rank: 663rd]
What accounts for this increase?
The influence of Deion Sanders, who is best known as a professional football player, though he was also a professional baseball player. He was in the NFL for 14 seasons and the MLB for 9 seasons. (Notably, “Sanders is the only man to have played in a Super Bowl and a World Series.”)
He was selected by the Atlanta Falcons fifth overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. That year, and throughout the time he played for Atlanta (1989-1993), usage of the baby name Deion was relatively high in the state Georgia:
1993: 25 of 241 babies named Deion born in Georgia (10%)
1992: 39 of 190 babies named Deion born in Georgia (21%)
1991: 10 of 61 babies named Deion born in Georgia (16%)
1990: 7 of 60 babies named Deion born in Georgia (12%)
1989: 13 of 70 babies named Deion born in Georgia (19%)
The name’s peak usage in the mid-1990s corresponds to the two consecutive years that Deion Sanders was a Super Bowl champion — first with the San Francisco 49ers, second with the Dallas Cowboys.
Over the course of his football career, Sanders was also selected for the Pro Bowl eight times — all during the 1990s — and voted Defensive Player of the Year in 1994.
The name Sacario appeared in the U.S. baby name data for three years straight, then dropped back below the 5-baby threshold:
2004: 6 baby boys named Sacario
2003: 14 baby boys named Sacario [peak]
2002: 12 baby boys named Sacario [debut]
What put it there?
A rapper named Sacario, who was featured (along with Lil’ Mo) in one of 2002’s catchiest songs: “If I Could Go!” by Angie Martinez.
“If I Could Go!” was released in May of 2002. In September, it peaked on several different Billboard charts — most notably the Hot 100 chart (at #15), but also the Hot Rap Songs chart (#11) and the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart (#26).
Sacario, whose real name is Jamar Austin, co-wrote the track. His featured part is fairly extensive, and he even name-checked himself in one line:
Sacario, the name awaits the whole issue
Here’s the music video:
What are your thoughts on the name Sacario?
P.S. Angie Martinez had a second career as a rapper in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but she’s better known as a longtime NYC radio personality. She was recently inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, in fact.