Category: 1920s baby names
Last week we took a look at the ladies in limbo, the girls’ names not old enough to fall under the Hundred Year Rule, but were most popular from the 1920s to the 1960s, to question whether any of them were eligible for resuscitation.
And now, as promised we perform the same operation on the boys’ list.
We find several differences between the genders. For one thing, the popularity of the boys’ names tend to stretch over longer periods of time (122 years for Howard, for instance), and clearer syllabic and sound patterns tend to emerge. In the 1920s and 1930s, for example, we see a preponderance of two-syllable names ending in the letters n and d. By the fifties and sixties, there are lots of four and five-letter single syllable favorites—the Todds and Troys, Deans and Dales—those surfer dudes we’ve labeled ‘Beach Boys’ in our books.
Not many of these names, except for a few in the pre-1920 list, have shown significant signs of revival—once again, because they’re the names of our grandpas and great-uncles and fathers-in law—the older men in our lives, the men still smoking pipes on Father’s Day cards.
We’ve all pretty much on board with the Hundred Year Rule that says it usually takes a full century for a name to shake off its musty image and start to sound fresh again. Which is why so many turn-of-the-last-century names have returned, names we don’t associate with any older person we have actually known–those belonging to the great-great or great-great-great grand generation–all those lacy girls’ names like Amelia and Matilda and Clementine that now sound so appealing.
But what about the girls’ names of the generations that followed those in the first half of the twentieth century? Most of them are much more simple and matter of fact, often two syllables rather than three or four, feminine rather than feminissima. These would be the names of our grandmothers and great-aunts and mothers-in-law—the older women in our lives.
Though there are some exceptions, such as the relatively recently revived Sylvias, Audreys, Lillians and Evelyns, and starbabies like Julia Roberts’ Hazel and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Marion—most of these examples that were mega-popular from the twenties to the sixties have been consigned to onomastic limbo.
Our question today is: Are any of them ready to be sprung?
Maybe they didn’t have voices then, but lots of the silent screen stars did have intriguingly exotic looks and equally exotic names–even if many of them were invented by studio publicists. Theda Bara, for example, the quintessential vamp, was not the Egyptian-born daughter of a French actress and an Italian sculptor whose name was an anagram of Arab Death, as the PR people proclaimed to the public, but was actually Cincinnati-born Theodosia Goodman, daughter of a Jewish tailor. Likewise, Nita Naldi’s real last name was Dooley, Olga Petrova was born Muriel Hardy and Alla Nazimova’s birth name was Miriam Leventon.
But real or concocted, these names–primarily short, with two-syllables and heavy on the vowels–still retain vestiges of that sultry 1900’s-1920’s glamour, and could have some vintage appeal today: