While researching -ity names (like Felicity and Serenity) at one point, I happened upon the odd name Sossity, which was in the U.S. baby name data a total of twice, both times in the 1970s:
1976: 7 baby girls named Sossity
1972: 5 baby girls named Sossity [debut]
Where did it come from?
The Jethro Tull song “Sossity: You’re a Woman,” which was the last track on their third album, Benefit (1970).
As made clear by the lyrics, the fictitious female Sossity is meant to be symbolic of society at large:
Sossity: You’re a woman. Society: You’re a woman.
According to Jethro Tull singer Ian Anderson, the song “obviously [was] written as a double-meaning where I’m notionally talking about an imaginary girl in frankly a rather thin and embarrassing pun.” He also said the song was “kind of okay musically…but lyrically I was never really comfortable with it. And it’s mainly that one word, Sossity, an invented word that seemed like a rather prissy girl’s name.”
So how did the British band come to be named after a 18th-century British agriculturist/inventor?
In the late ’60s, when the group was playing small clubs, they changed their name frequently. “Jethro Tull” was a name they tried in February of 1968 at the suggestion of a booking agent, and that’s the one that stuck.
Ian has said that he since regrets choosing that name, specifically disliking the fact that it came from a real historical person: “I can’t help but feel more and more as I get older that I’m guilty of identity theft and I ought to go to prison for it, really.”
(Jethro Tull’s next and more successful album, Aqualung, featured a song about a character named Aqualung. I’m happy to report that “Aqualung” has never popped up in the SSA data.)
The main character of the memorably violent TV series Mannix was Los Angeles private investigator Joseph “Joe” Mannix (played by Mike Connors). The show premiered in 1967 and, the same year, the baby name Mannix debuted in the U.S. baby name data:
1969: 9 baby boys named Mannix
1968: 13 baby boys named Mannix
1967: 7 baby boys named Mannix [debut]
The name remained in the data while the show was on the air, but disappeared after the series was canceled in 1975.
It didn’t stay away long, though. In fact, it’s been a regular in the data since actress Angelina Jolie made the like-sounding name Maddox trendy.
So what does Mannix mean? It’s an Anglicized Irish surname meaning “descendant of Manachán” — Manachán being a personal named derived from the Gaelic word manach, meaning “monk.”
Do you like the name Mannix? Do you like it more or less than Maddox?
Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
P.S. Mike Connors’ legal name was Krekor Ohanian. (He was of Armenian descent.) His agent, Henry Willson — famous for re-naming actors like Tab Hunter and Rock Hudson — gave him the stage name “Touch Connors” at the start of his career. (“Touch” was a nickname the actor had acquired on the basketball court.) Connors disliked the name, but it wasn’t until later in his career that he was permitted to change “Touch” to “Mike.”
The unusual name Bocephus first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1986:
1986: 7 baby boys named Bocephus [debut]
Where did it come from?
The 1986 song “My Name Is Bocephus” (pronounced boh-SEE-fuss) by Hank Williams, Jr.
Billboard described the song as “Muddy Waters-style blues” in its review of Hank’s album Montana Cafe, which reached #1 on the Top Country Albums chart in September. The song was also released as the B-side to the single “Mind Your Own Business,” which hit #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart later the same year.
“My Name Is Bocephus” apparently became popular enough on its own, though, to warrant the making of a music video. That video, which came out in early 1987, ended up winning the CMA’s Music Video of the Year award.
So…why would a guy named Hank write a song declaring that his name is “Bocephus”?
Because Bocephus was his childhood nickname. And a rather public one at that.
Hank, Jr., was born Randall Hank Williams in 1949 to country music legend Hiram “Hank” Williams and his first wife Audrey. Hank, Sr., nicknamed his son Bocephus after Grand Ole Opry comedian Rod Brasfield’s ventriloquist dummy.
Hank, Sr., died on the first day of 1953, when his son was three-and-a-half. During the short time they had together, though, he would end his radio performances with a message to his son — something like “Don’t worry, Bocephus, I’m coming home.” In this Feb. 1951 “Mother’s Best” radio show, for instance, you can hear Hank say “Bocephus, see you directly son” at 27:09.
It was an advertisement for a product called “Scott’s Emulsion of Cod-Liver Oil,” which had been on the market since the 1870s. Here’s the text from the first half of the ad, which was the part that featured Vergean:
A real, little girl — a real story — and real proof that children like cod-liver oil this emulsified way.
You mothers who know what marvels cod-liver oil can do for youngsters, but can’t get yours to take it without a lot of coaxing and trouble, listen to this! Vergean Allen, the merry-faced child above, has a wonderful hint for you. Vergean, you see, has never liked plain cod-liver oil. So when we called at her home recently, at 16 Livingston Ave., Yonkers, N. Y., Mrs. Allen gladly agreed to let Vergean try some Scott’s Emulsion of Cod-Liver Oil. Vergean took a spoonful. Then her worried eyes started to twinkle. “It tastes good!” she smiled. “I wouldn’t mind taking more.”
The ad ran in newspapers across America in January of 1931. (And I did find a single instance of it appearing in February, in the San Francisco Examiner.)
So…did young Vergean Allen really exist?
Yes! She was 6 years old at the time of the 1930 U.S. Census, which noted that she was indeed from Yonkers, New York.
And she was 16 at the time of the 1940 U.S. Census. Her name was misspelled “Verjean” this time around.
What are your thoughts on the name Vergean? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?
Source: Scott’s Emulsion of Cod-Liver Oil [Advertisement]. Hagerstown Daily Mail 7 Jan. 1931: 4.