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Freckle-Faced Names: Polly, Peggy & Penny

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There’s a certain species of girls’ names that we’ve referred to in our books as freckle-faced, pigtailed and button-nosed: they’re the kind of character names inhabited by Shirley Temple as a curly-haired moppet, and Judy Garland as a wide-eyed, innocent teen, as well as starring in dozens of old popular songs. Basically nickname names that have long stood on their own, none can be found any longer in the current Top 1000 — though one of them ranked as high as Number 31 in the 1930’s.

They’ve been gone a long time, but they still project a lot of spunk, and so, with the revival of nickname names in general we’re wondering if any of these could get their youthful mojo back. 

We’re talking about:

Betsy

Gone since 1995; Highest rating: Number 228 in 1959

Associations: Betsy Ross, Betsy Wetsy doll, Sweet Betsy from Pike, Betsey Johnson

Betsy originated as a combination of other classic pet forms of ElizabethBetty, Beth and Bessie, and makes appearances in two Dickens novels—Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield.  The ‘B’ Elizabeth nicknames were superseded by the ‘L’ ones– Liz, Lizzie, Liza and Lisa– but maybe now might be the time for a switch back.

Patsy

Gone since 1975; Highest rating:  52 in 1936 and 1941

Associations: Patsy (born Virginia) Cline, Patsy (born Patricia) Kensit, numerous Italian and Irish restaurants and bars

Patsy was replaced as a Patricia nickname first by Pat, then Patty, then Tricia/Tricia, then Trish. Probably the least likely candidate for a comeback.

Peggy

Gone since 1989; Highest rating:  31 in 1937

Associations: Peggy Lee, Peggy Sue Got Married, Peggy (born Margaret) Olson on Mad Men

Peggy, a pet form of Margaret, is the one that’s climbed the highest of all these names. Perky and pure, Peggy was the perfect date for the prom—in 1953.  In later decades it’s been traded in for Maggie.         

Penny 

Gone since 1987; Highest rating:  86 in 1963

Associations: Penny Lane, Penny Marshall, Penny Pingleton in Hairspray, typical Disney girl character, characters on Lost and The Big Bang Theory, devalued coin

Peppy Penny is miles away from its haughty mother-name, Penelope—which today’s namers are more likely to choose.

Polly   

Gone since 1977; Highest rating:  225 in 1881

Associated with: Tom Sawyer’s aunt, parrots (Polly want a cracker?), Polly Peachum, Polly Wolly Doodle All Day, Nirvana and Kinks songs, Along Came Polly

Polly, together with Susie, has been gone the longest, having peaked 130 years ago.  Though livelier than MollyPolly never achieved the comeback that her cousin did, perhaps because she sounds too Pollyanna-ish.

Sally      

Gone since 2005; Highest rating:  52 in 1939

Associations: Sally (born Sarah) Hemings, Sally Field, Sally Ride, Sally (Mad Men) Draper, Sally (Cabaret) Bowles, When Harry Met Sally, Long Tall Sally

Originally a nickname for Sarah, Sally was big in the eighteenth century, and then again from the 1920s to the 1960s, but totally lost her momentum around the Millennium.

Susie  

Gone since 1988; Highest rating:  68 in 1881

Associations: Susie Q, If You Knew Susie, Wake Up, Little Susie, Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones

Also spelled Susy, Suzy and Suzie, Susie faded away in tandem with the once mega-popular Susan, and is seen less as a stand-alone name today than the rest.

Some others that could be included:

  • Becky – off since 1992, peaked at 102 in 1959
  • Billie—off since 1997, peaked at 79 in 1929-30               
  • Ginny—off since 1982, peaked at 632 in 1958
  • Kitty— off since 1966, peaked at  375 in 1887               
  • Lizzie—off since 1959, peaked at  62 in 1882
  • Mamie—off since 1966, peaked at 53 in 1888
  • Margie –off since 1982, peaked at 96 in 1933       
  • Patty—-off since 1978, peaked at  140 in 1959
  • Rosie—off since 1982, peaked at 114 in 1910
  • Trudy—off since 1978, peaked at  238 in 1946      
  • Winnie –off since 1957, peaked at 162 in 1881     

And a few of that have stayed the course:

Do you think any of the long-gone ones could make a comeback?  Would you ever use one?

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