Walt and Lillian Disney departing from Kastrup Airport CPH, Copenhagen 1959
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 5th column, he looks at the history of the name Walter.
Walt Disney (1901-1966) was born Walter Elias Disney 116 years ago. After creating Mickey in 1928, he made “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), the first successful animated feature. He won 22 Academy Awards, the most by one person, and created the theme parks Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
The name Walter comes from an ancient Germanic name combining “wald” (ruler) with “hari” (army). The form Walter was brought to England by Norman conquerors in 1066. Around 1380, Walter ranked eighth for English men. It was especially common in Devonshire. There, Walter of Cowick, a 12th century monk who had visions of purgatory and wore bearskins, was revered as a saint. Back then, Walter was pronounced “Water,” and its nickname was Wat. Family names Walters, Watt, Watts, Watkins, Waters and Waterson show descent from Walter. After 1600, as literacy increased, people started pronouncing the “l.”
With such a long stretch of popularity, there are scores of famous Walters besides Disney. Poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and basketball star Walt Frazier (1945) are two known by the nickname.
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Walters in history!
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 21st column, he looks at the history of the name Goldie.
Goldie Hawn turned 72 on November 21st. Hawn won a best supporting actress Oscar for “Cactus Flower” and was nominated for best actress for “Private Benjamin.”
In Old English, boys were called Golda and girls Golde. These were names in their own right, and also short forms of compounds like Goldburg (“gold fortress”), Goldrich (“gold ruler”) and Goldwin (“gold friend”).
Golda and Golde were common girls’ names among Yiddish-speaking Jews in Eastern Europe. Between 1880 and 1925, Jewish immigrants brought them to America. The most famous Golda was Golda Meir (1898-1978), prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. Born Golda Mabovitch in Kiev, Ukraine, she came to Milwaukee in 1906 and moved to Palestine in 1921.
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Goldies in history!
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 8th column, he looks at the history of the name Mildred.
Will you see Mildred’s billboards? “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a dark comedy in which Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, who erects billboards blaming a local sheriff for not solving her daughter’s murder, opens Friday.
In the seventh century, King Merewald and Queen Ermenburg of Mercia in England had three daughters: Mildred (“gentle strength”), Mildburg (“gentle fortress”), and Mildith (“gentle battle”). All became abbesses and were proclaimed saints. Mildith was least famous. Her name died out in England by 1350. Mildburg, said to have miraculous healing powers, lived in Shropshire. Her name became Milbrough there. Brought to America in Colonial times, it shifted to Milbrey. Though very rare, Milbreys are still found in North Carolina and Tennessee.
When Social Security’s yearly names lists started in 1880, Mildred ranked 121st. “Mildred Keith” rocketed it upward. Mildred peaked at sixth between 1912 and 1920.
Though Joan Crawford won a best actress Oscar in 1945 for the title character in “Mildred Pierce,” this tale of a wealthy restaurateur who spoils her murderous daughter didn’t help the name’s popularity. Mildred dropped below the top thousand in 1985.
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Mildreds in history!
Phoebe Cates and her husband Kevin Kline
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his October 24th column, he looks at the history of the names Kevin.
The actor Kevin Kline turns 70 today. Kevin is the English form of Cáemgen, ancient Irish Gaelic for “beautiful birth.” In the sixth century, former hermit St. Kevin founded a large monastery in Glendalough, Ireland. Legend says a blackbird laid an egg in one of Kevin’s outstretched hands when they were raised in prayer, and he held it until it hatched.
In the late 19th century, the name Kevin was revived by Irish nationalists. By 1900, it was common in Ireland, though still rare among Irish-Americans. It was used only by recent Irish immigrants and a few highly educated parents with Irish ancestry — such as the wealthy Seattle father of actor Kevin McCarthy (1914-2010).
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Kevins in history!
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his October 10th column, he looks at the history of the names Tanya and Tonya.
Tanya is a pet form of Tatyana, the Russian form of Tatiana. Tatiana comes from the Roman family name Tatius. In Roman legend, Titus Tatius was king of the Sabines. He attacked Rome after its founder, Romulus, abducted Sabine women. The war was a draw, and Tatius and Romulus ruled Rome jointly.
Russians rarely use Tanya as a full name, but it gradually spread west through literature. In 1882, French author Henry Gréville (Alice Durand), who set many novels in Russia, published “Tania’s Peril.” In 1920, Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin,” with its aria “Ah, Tanya, Tanya,” had its U.S. premiere at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
Tanya doesn’t appear in U.S. Census records until 1880. In 1940 there were 644 women named Tanya or Tania in the census, 21 percent of whom were born in Russia. Russian Tanya is pronounced “TAHN-yuh.” Many Americans look at its spelling and want to say the first part like the word “tan.”
That’s how Tanya Tucker herself says it. Tucker’s mother found the name in a Texas newspaper birth announcement for a local banker’s daughter. The Tuckers assumed the “tan” pronunciation.
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Tanyas and Tonyas in history!
Serena Williams in a 2013 doubles match with Venus Williams.
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 26th column, he looks at the history of the name Serena.
Tennis great Serena Williams, who has twice won all four Grand Slam tournaments in a row, turns 36 today. Serena is the feminine form of Latin Serenus, meaning “clear” or “serene.” The first famous Serena was a niece of Theodosius, last emperor to rule both the western and eastern halves of the Roman Empire.
The 1850 U.S. census found 2,051 Serenas. The 1851 census of Great Britain had only 172. Perhaps Americans saw Serena, with its Latin origin, as part of the “Classical Revival” where towns were named Rome and Athens and babies Horace and Minerva.
Serena’s rise was boosted in 1993 when English actress Serena Scott Thomas starred in the miniseries “Diana: Her True Story.” In 1997, teen character Serena Baldwin (Carly Schroeder) began appearing on the soap “General Hospital.” Serena peaked again at 209th in 2000. 2000 was just after Serena Williams began her tennis career. Her first “Serena Slam” — winning the Australian, French and U.S. Opens along with Wimbledon — came in 2002 and 2003.
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Serenas in history!
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 12 column, he looks at the history of the name Mitchell.
The name Mitch is a short form of Mitchell, originally an English and Irish surname. Some Mitchell families had ancestors nicknamed “Muchel,” a Middle English word for “big.” The word “much” has the same origin. More Mitchells had ancestors named Michel, the medieval English form of Michael. Michael, name of the biblical archangel, comes from Hebrew Mikha’el, “Who is like God?” (The question mark is an important part of the meaning. To ancient Israelites, the answer to the rhetorical question was “No one is like God; God is unique.”)
In the 1950s, band and chorale leader Mitch Miller (1911-2010) helped popularize the name. His version of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was a No. 1 hit in 1955 — and Mitch moved into the top 1,000 on the list of given names for the first time. In January 1961, Miller began a four-year run as host of television’s “Sing Along With Mitch.” That year Mitch peaked at 397th and Mitchell at 118th on the baby names chart.
Mitchell got a second boost from “Baywatch.” This TV series about gorgeous lifeguards and their romantic entanglements ran from 1989 to 2001 as one of the most successful syndicated shows ever. Star David Hasselhoff played Mitch Buchannon.
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Mitches in history!
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 29 column, he looks at the history of the name Ingrid.
Ingrid is the modern form of Old Norse “Ingríðr.” It combines the name of the god Ing or Yngvi with fríðr, “beautiful.” Other Norse names honoring Yngvi are male Ingmar, “Ing is famous,” and Ingvar, “Ing’s warrior.” Ingeborg, “Ing’s protection,” and Ingegerd, “Ing’s enclosure,” are feminine.
In the 1910 U.S. Census, there were 6,592 Ingas, 3,584 Ingeborgs and 1,812 Ingers — mostly Scandinavian immigrants and their daughters. There were only 1,222 Ingrids.
That March, Crown Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden and his wife, Margaret (a granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria), named their only daughter Princess Ingrid. She later wed Danish Crown Prince Frederik, becoming queen of Denmark in 1947.
Ingrid Bergman was named after the young princess — as were many other Swedish girls. It was Bergman herself, though, who spread the name far beyond Sweden. Read on to find out more about Ingrids in history!
Debra Messing co-starred as Grace Adler on NBC’s “Will & Grace” from 1998 to 2006. Her name in all its forms — Deborah, Debra, Debbie, Deb — once dominated the baby boomer names lists. / Associated Press
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 15 column, he looks at the history of the name Deborah.
The name Debra is just as amazing. It’s an alternate spelling of Deborah, which is derived from the Hebrew word for “bee.” The name wasn’t used by Christians until after the Reformation. Then parents searching the Old Testament discovered it.
In England, Deborah first joined the top 50 names in 1610, peaking at 24th in the 1660s. The name was even more popular with Puritans and Quakers of colonial New England and Pennsylvania.
When yearly baby names data start in 1880, Deborah ranked 499th. It bottomed out at 892nd in 1912, and barely rose until 1928. What happened to Deborah after that? Read on to find out more about Deborahs in history!
Queen Latifah portrayed August in “The Secret Life of Bees.”
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 1 column, he looks at the history of the name August.
In the year 8 B.C. the Roman Senate renamed the month Sextilis after the first Roman emperor, Augustus, whose great military victories came in that month. Around the year 1500, noble families in Germany and Poland, inspired by the emperor’s fame, began using the name. In German and Polish the name was “August,” but these men were usually called “Augustus” in English.
German immigrants brought the form August to the U.S., where, in 1850, the census found 10,320 Augustuses and 3,049 Augusts. There were also 776 men named Auguste, the French form.
2008 was the first year that more than 100 baby girls were named August. In 2016, 222 arrived. If 265 arrive this year, August will make the top thousand for girls as well as boys. Read on to find out more about Augusts in history!