Category: 1950s baby names
A couple of months ago, I attended a Sock Hop with my daughter. It was loads of fun and inspired me to delve into the 1950s and, of course, its most popular names.
As I looked at the Top 100 names of the decade, the thing that stuck out the most to me was the amount of baby names that began with R. Thirteen of the Top 100 boy names of the decade began with an R; nineteen of the Top 100 boy and girl names together began with an R. There were actually more J names in the Top 100 for both genders, but the amount of R boy names outnumbered the amount of J boy names. As a comparison, while J names are just as popular if not moreso nowadays, there were only three boy names that started with R in the Top 100 for the 2000s decade and six boy and girl names combined. What is it about R names that made them less popular? Let’s take a look at the names themselves:
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?
I don’t you know if you’ve noticed a growing trendlet—at least among celebrities—for what we might call generic-boy-nickname-names. In other words, these aren’t specific short forms like Charlie or Archie, but ol- timey macho boy tags like Buddy and Buster.
In the recent past, we’ve seen Noel Gallagher’s Sonny, a choice shared by British singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor—as well as Adam Sandler’s daughter Sunny; Jamie Oliver’s Buddy Bear Maurice; Michele Hicks and Jonny Lee Miller’s Buster Timothy; the three Aces of Natalie Appleton, Tom Dumont, and Jennie Finch and Casey Daigle; the two Dukes of Diane Keaton and Justine Bateman; and the Junior of Peter Andre and Katie Price.
We can’t help wondering if this is yet another offshoot of the midcentury Mad Men phenomenon, bringing us back to the days of Father Knows Best’s Bud (birth name James Anderson, Jr.) and J. D. Salinger’s Buddy Glass (real name Webb Gallagher Glass), and Marlon Brando, who was known to friends and family as Bud. In those days, though, Sonny or Buster were not usually put on the birth certificate, and over time those pet names began to be relegated to pets.
The shadowy world of film noir, those stark black-and-white, often low-budget films with single-word titles—Possessed, Pursued, Trapped, Tension, Decoy, Detour, Breakdown, Blackmail—produced in Hollywood from roughly the early 1940s to the late 1950s, were populated with smoldering femmes fatale, hard-boiled detectives, corrupt cops, cynicism, intrigue and suspense
A lot of the female characters had a distinctive style of forgotten two-syllable names like Veda, Velma, Verna, Meta, Mida and Nita, while the tough guys who weren’t named Nick or Tony or Barney were occasionally given some wildly eccentric monikers.
Here, from both classics of the genre like The Maltese Falcon to barely remembered B-movies, some of the more interesting examples:
- Althea – The Unsuspected
- Angel – Guilty Bystander
- Barby – The Fallen Sparrow, Sleep, My Love
- Brandy – Two of a Kind
- Brigid – The Maltese Falcon
- Candy – Pickup on South Street, Breakdown
- Carmen—The Big Sleep
- Cecily – The Two Mrs Carrolls
- Celia – The Secret Behind the Door
- Cora –The Postman Always Rings Twice, Brute Force
- Dell – Shadow on the Wall
- Della – The Burglar
- Eden – Murder is My Beat
- Edwina/Eddie – Fingers at the Window
- Effie – The Maltese Falcon
- Evangeline – T-Men
- Fay – The Killing
- Frennessey – World for Ransom
- Fritzie – The Big Bluff