Monday, October 22, 2012

Names England Borrowed from the USA

I just finished ranking the girls' names in England and Wales by spelling for 2011.

The USA has borrowed many things from England-- most notably, a language. Among other things: the judicial system, John Lennon, that movie "Fever Pitch" and a disdain for French things.

However, the time has come for England to borrow from us (not just Madonna, we don't want her back)-- in the naming pool! Here are some names that are in the top 500 for England and Wales in 2011 that probably originated in the USA (or at least North America somewhere)

Shaniqua - ok, there were only 3 born in England & Wales last year, but still. This name is about as American as apple pie. OK, I'm not sure why apple pie is considered American, since apples were brought to North America from Europe, but whatever. Actually, it kind of works metaphorically in this sense, since Shaniqua is an African-American created name, and the ancestors of African- Americans were brought over by Europeans from Africa. So there! Anyway, the three Shaniquas in England are playing alongside Pippas and Poppies and other little English kids. Score! USA! USA!

T'Keyah- There were 3 T'keyah's born in England and Wales last year. How many in the USA? None! How about that-- especially since its most famous bearer is American actress/comedienne and writer T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh. 

Nevaeh - there were 495 of these born in England and Wales last year! Holy cow! There were also 23 Neveahs, 6 Nevayas, 4 Navayahs, 3 Navayas, 3 Nevaehas, and 3 Neviahs. Wait, there's more! Double-names are pretty popular in England and Wales right now, so add to that Nevaeh-Grace (4), Nevaeh-Mai (5), Nevaeh-Mae (3), Nevaeh-Marie (3), Nevaeh-Rae (3), & Nevaeh-Rose (6). That's a whole lot for a name that was probably invented in the USA in the 1990s (its charm is that it spells HEAVEN backwards, and nobody can agree how to pronounce it).

Savannah - a city in Georgia, though sporadically used as a name from the 1880s on through the 20th century, it was not widely used as a name in the USA before the 1980s. It was the 1982 movie Savannah Smiles that made this name take off. In England last year, there were 390 born (along with 51 Savannas)

Dakota - another US place name, there were 66 female Dakotas and 10 boys born in England & Wales last year. Interesting, since it has been more common for boys than girls in the USA (though now the popularity is evening out for both genders, probably at least in part due to the rise to fame of actress Dakota Fanning).

Indiana- the 19th state admitted to the Union, Indiana as a name is best known for the rogue archaeologist Indiana Jones of cinema fame. In the USA, it's been used sporadically as a girls' name since the 19th century. In England and Wales last year, there were 50 girl Indianas (and 22 Indianna/Indyanas) and 24 boy Indianas. In contrast, the USA had 42 boy Indianas and 54 girl ones.

Texas- There were seven girls in England and Wales named after the Lone Star State last year. The USA had none (or 4 or fewer). There were, however, 7 boys named Texas in the USA (and 7 named just Tex). I find it interesting how when America's 28th state crossed the Atlantic it switched genders!

Sookie - There were 7 of these born in England & Wales last year, as opposed to 6 in the USA. Pretty impressive for a name that comes from the American tv show True Blood. The name is pretty American,  Charlaine Harris, the author of the Southern Vampire Mysteries books that True Blood was based on, picked a "fine old southern nickname" to use for her protagonist. However, as a first name, Sookie (rhymes with "cookie") wasn't given to any babies (or at least fewer than 5 a year as that's the lowest number the SSA records) before 2010. Anna Paquin, the actress who portrays Sookie Stackhouse in the television series was born in Canada and raised in New Zealand.

Demi - Demi Moore (born Demetria) was once the highest paid actress in Hollywood. Strangely, the name Demi never really caught on in the USA. It peaked at #763 in the top 1000 in the 1990s, then fell off the charts, crawling back on in the 800s a few years ago. Moore did spawn one famous namesake - tween star Demi Lovato, which may have helped boost the popularity of the name in recent years. Beyond that the name never took off. Not so in England and Wales, though, where there were 235 born last year (plus 23 in other spellings and 143 hyphenated with other names like Leigh and Rose).

Scarlett - Most notably the heroine from Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone With the Wind, it was probably Vivien Leigh's portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in the 1939 film adaptation that sparked the use of the name Scarlett. In the USA, the name was first used in 1939, and though it was quietly used throughout the remainder of the 20th century, it wasn't until the 21st century that it became really popular.

Nayeli -  In the USA, it is used exclusively by Spanish-speaking Americans. It means "I love you" in Zapotec, a native American language spoken in the southwestern-central highlands of Mexico, mainly in the Oaxaca region. It was the 1080th most common name in the USA in 2011, and there were 5 of them born in England and Wales.

Renesmee - We've been absorbing literary names from England for centuries now. I mean, without Shakespeare alone, we'd have no Olivia, Jessica, Miranda, Imogen or Nerissa. How many literary names go from the USA back to England? Well, this one did. Renesmee was the name of the daughter of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen the vampire in the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. There were 5 of them born in England and Wales in 2011. The name is a combination of Renee and Esme, the name of zzzzzzz I didn't actually read the book. OK, reportedly, they were the names of Bella's grandmothers. The USA bore 38 Renesemees last year.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Updated Recommendations!

Hey Name Nerds! It's time for a mini-pledge drive (kind of like on PBS only probably way less entertaining). The only way this money-sucking hobby website ever breaks even is through the

Name Recommendation Page

I just updated it-- added a few new books I've picked up. 

So, if you're thinking of buying a name book, if you do it through, we'll get a cut! Even if you don't buy any of the books on the list, just by starting your search by clicking through the links on there will cause Name Nerds to get a tiny cut. Seriously. Even if you buy a book about raising alpacas or a screwdriver set. I have no idea why it works this way, but I'm not complaining!


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Today's Name Musing: Willodean

Every so often I come across a name and wonder about it. As I was going through the SSA name data from the year 1930, I came across the name Willodean (also spelled Willadean, Willodene, Wylodean, Willidean, Willadene, Willodeen, Wilodean, and Willowdean). This seems like an awful lot of spellings for a name I'd never heard of before. Upon looking at more years, I found that the name first popped up in 1914, peaked in popularity in 1924 though it stayed popular until 1934, then fizzled out and completely disappeared in the 1960s. It was only used in seven states, with the majority of the names being used in Alabama--the others were in Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and a couple in Texas and Oklahoma, though there were 5 Willavenes in 1926 Pennsylvania.

Where did this name come from? I thought maybe it would be from a book or a movie (ok, maybe a little early for a movie) as most names popping up out of the blue these days are from those sources. When I searched Google Books for "Willodean" published between 1800 and 1914, all I got was a listing in the Percheron Stud Book of America, 1912 edition. Apparently someone named a horse Willodean (foaled April 21, 1909-- sire was named Pigalin and the dam was Magie G. Aren't you glad you know that?). 199 babies in 1924 were probably not named after a horse. Oh yeah, it said "Willadean" was mentioned in the book Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates, but when I did a search through the text, it didn't come up with anything. I actually started reading the book (which I remember reading as a kid, but don't recall any Willadeans in it), but thought it was kind of psycho to read an entire book just to see if there was one name reference that the computer had missed. Ditto for the reference to "willowdene" that led nowhere in Sir Walter Scott's The Betrothed. There is a book, published in 1909, called The Secret of Willow Dene, by Willow Dene. There's another book with the same title by Adeline Sergeant (1851-1904). Unfortunately, I can't find out anything else about either one!

I found a reference to a Willowdean Chatterson Handy who published anthropology books in the 1920s. She must have been born in the 1800s, though I'm not sure in what country (she wrote about natives of the Marquesas Islands).

The Willadean nurseries are in Kentucky, which were founded around 1909 (now are the Willadean-Donaldson Nurseries I think). Not sure if this would inspire parents to name their baby girls after it. 

There's a Willowdean Ave. in West Roxbury, MA. All the houses on it seem to have been built in the 1930s. Not much info there. There appears to be a Willowdean or Willow Dean district in Armagh, Northern Ireland and a Willowdene neighborhood or district (?) in Norfolk, England. It also seems to be a popular name for Pubs, B&Bs, shops and other businesses in England and Australia. I found a story in Pearson's magazine from 1900 called "How Willowdene Will Escaped The Parson's" by Halliwell Sutcliffe. There was also a British steamship in the 1890s called Willowdene. We may be onto something? 

There were lots of popular names starting with Wil- in use during this era (Wilma, Willene, Wilhelmina, Willetta, Willamae, Williemae, Willie) as well as names ending with -dean, -dine, and -deen (Aldean, Bernardine, Earldine, Donaldine etc.), but it seems a stretch to think a name made up of two elements seemingly picked at random (neither element was *that* popular) would suddenly become so popular. Besides, at least Bernardine and Donaldine are technically -ine names added to names ending with D, not -dine names! Also, most -dean names started out as -dine names and then got the -dean spelling later. With Willodean, this trend is reversed. 

I did find this blurb from a site that's not generally known for its accurate name meanings
Willodean is a name of uncertain origin. It may have originated as a combination of the names Willow and Dean, but it is perhaps more likely to be a corruption of Willardine, a feminized form of the name Willard. Willodean was mostly used in the American South in the early twentieth century. It is a rare name today.

This doesn't really hold much water, though, as I can't find a single instance of the name Willardine in the SSA name database. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, just that if it was given to any babies at all since 1880, it was given to fewer than five a year.

So, what's up with this name? Anyone have any ideas?