About Names: Wesley has worldly appeal as baby name

Wesley Crusher, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 31st column, he looks at the history of the name Wesley.

Wesley is an English surname from several villages called Westley or Westleigh, meaning “western clearing.” Wesley is a given name because of John Wesley (1703-1791.) An Anglican priest who tried to reform the Church of England by promoting evangelical conversion, he ended up founding Methodism. Wesley was also an abolitionist and accepted women preachers.

In 1880, Wesley ranked 109th as a baby name. It plateaued between 151st and 171st from 1940 through 1975.

On Sept. 25, 1987, fantasy film “The Princess Bride” was released. Cary Elwes played Westley, farmhand turned pirate who’s killed by Prince Humperdinck, revived by Miracle Max and saves beautiful Buttercup from marrying the villain. In 1988, spelling Westley ranked 562nd, its highest ever.

Three days later “Star Trek: The Next Generation” premiered, with Wil Wheaton as teen Wesley Crusher (named after Gene Roddenberry, whose middle name was Wesley). Baby name Wesley ranked 92nd in 1987, highest since 1979.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Wesleys in history!

About Names: Phyllis flourished thanks to poetry, prose and TV

Phyllis Diller

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 17th column, he looks at the history of the name Phyllis.

Phyllis is Greek for “foliage.” In Greek myth, Thracian princess Phyllis marries Demophon, King of Athens. She kills herself when he abandons her. An almond tree on her grave blossoms when Demophon returns. Classical poems retold Phyllis’ tale. When Renaissance Englishmen rediscovered these in the 1500s, Phyllis was confused with Felis (a form of Felicia) and became an English girl’s name. Romantic poets in the 17th century loved the name. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680), wrote “Phillis, be gentler, I advise; make up for time misspent. When beauty on its deathbed lies, ’tis high time to repent.”

Phyllis peaked in 1929 at 24th. It stayed in the top 50 in the United States until 1950. It then fell, leaving the top thousand in 1985. It had one minor uptick in 1975, when “Phyllis,” Cloris Leachman’s “Mary Tyler Moore Show” spinoff in which snobbish Phyllis Lindstrom has to move in with in-laws and get a job, debuted. Only 21 American babies were named Phyllis in 2017.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Phyllises in history!

About Names: There’s no doubting Thomas’ enduring popularity as a baby name

Thomas Jefferson

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 3rd column, he looks at the history of the name Thomas.

Thomas, one of Jesus’s original apostles, is famous for refusing to believe Christ’s resurrection until he’d touched His wounds. It’s believed he was martyred in India on July 3, 72. Thomas is from the Aramaic Ta’oma, “twin.” Its popularity with medieval Catholics was reinforced by renowned theologian St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

In England, a bigger influence was St. Thomas Becket (1119-1170). Becket, Lord Chancellor for his friend King Henry II, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. Conflicts over church rights led four of Henry’s knights to misinterpret the king’s angry rant as an order to kill. Becket’s murder in the cathedral led Pope Alexander III to canonize him in 1173. His Canterbury tomb became a place of pilgrimage, and Thomas became a hugely popular name. By 1380, it ranked third. It was second or third every year between 1538 and 1850, much more common in England than the rest of Europe.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Thomases in history!

About Names: Owen owes its recent popularity to TV, movie stars

Chris Pratt as Owen Grady

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 19th column, he looks at the history of the name Owen.

Owen is a name with two origins. It’s the English form of Welsh Owain. Some experts think Owain is from Welsh “eoghunn” (“youth”), but more say it’s the Welsh form of Eugene (Greek “well-born”). Owain Glyndwr (1359-1415), last native Welsh Prince of Wales, began a decade-long revolt against Wales’ English rulers in 1400. Owen Tudor (1400-1461), probably named after Glyndwr, was grandfather of Henry VII, founder of England’s Tudor dynasty.

Owen became a Welsh and English surname in medieval times. Many early American examples of the given name come from that. The mother of anti-slavery leader Owen Brown (1771-1856), father of famous abolitionist John Brown (1800-1859), was Hanna Owen. Even more American Owens derived from Celtic tradition. There were 8,842 Owens listed in the 1850 census. Meanwhile, 41.5 percent were born in Ireland and 3.1 percent in Wales, compared with 4.1 percent and 0.1 percent of all Americans.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Owens in history!

About Names: From Roman origins, a name that still hits the Mark

Mark Hamill at Star Wars: The Last Jedi Japan Premiere Red Carpet

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 5th column, he looks at the history of the name Mark.

Mark is the English form of Marcus, a common given name for ancient Roman men. It’s derived from Mars, Roman god of war. The most famous Roman Marcus is Marcus Antonius, called Mark Antony in English. A friend of Julius Caesar, he vied for power after Caesar’s death. His love affair and alliance with Cleopatra, leading to defeat and suicide in 33 B.C., have been portrayed in countless books and films.

In the 19th century, many Biblical names went out of style in America. The 1850 United States census included 7,623 Marks. In Britain, 17,193 were found in 1851, when the two countries had similar populations. In 1880, when Social Security’s yearly baby name lists began, Mark ranked 160th. By then, the most famous American Mark was Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), known by his pen name Mark Twain. Creator of beloved characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Twain was one of the best known public figures of his day.

 Famous Marks born during the name’s heyday include investor and “Shark Tank” star Cuban (born 1958), Olympic swimmer Spitz (1950) and Luke Skywalker actor Hamill (1951).

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Marks in history!

About Names: Jackson and Sophia are really on top, not Liam and Emma, in 2017 US baby names

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his May 22nd column, he looks at the latest rankings of US baby names in 2017.

On May 11, the Social Security Administration released the United States’ top baby names of 2017. On SSA’s lists, Liam and Emma rank first. Emma’s been No. 1 since 2014. Liam beat out Noah, which was on top the previous three years. But SSA counts every spelling as a separate name. Each year, I add together spellings probably pronounced the same to create lists I think more accurately reflect name popularity.

When boys named Jaxon, Jaxson, Jakson, etc., are added to Jackson, 23,903 were born in 2017, ranking it first for the fifth year in a row. When Sofia and other spellings are added, 23,144 Sophias arrived in 2017. Sophia’s been No. 1 on my list since 2011. Last year, 11 percent more Sophias were born than Olivias, the No. 2 girls’ name.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about the top 2017 names in the US!

About Names: Fan of Shania Twain? Here’s the story behind her adopted name

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his May 8th column, he looks at the history of the names Shania – and Twain.

Shania Twain has had an amazing rags-to-riches life. Born in Canada in 1965 as Eilleen Regina Edwards, her divorced mother, Sharon, took her three daughters to Timmins, Ontario, in 1968. There Sharon married Jerry Twain, an Ojibwe Native American who adopted her girls. At age 8 Eilleen began singing in bars to support her impoverished family.

 Twain’s budding career was delayed when her parents died in a car wreck in 1987 and she had to raise her siblings. When her career resumed around 1993, she adopted “Shania” as her stage name, saying it meant “on my way” in Ojibwe. Recently she’s said she got it from a woman at Ontario’s Deerhurst Resort.
American girls were named Shania before Twain. Like Shanice and Shaniqua, it was created as an African-American name blending fashionable sounds in the 1970s, usually pronounced “Sha-NEE-uh.” However, there were never more than 86 born in one year, and it never made the top thousand names.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Shanias in history!

About Names: The Barbara boom brought big names

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 24th column, he looks at the history of the name Barbara.

Barbra Streisand, famed for these and many other artistic triumphs, was born Barbara Joan Streisand 76 years ago on April 23rd. First Lady Barbara Bush (1925-2018), who died a week ago at age 92, is the only other Barbara whose renown rivals Streisand’s.

Barbara comes from a Greek word meaning “foreign.” In the seventh century, stories about St. Barbara, a third century martyr who survived many tortures before her father beheaded her, were first told. Though modern historians doubt she ever existed, Barbara was a hugely popular saint all over medieval Europe. By 1400, the name was rare in England. Around the year 1550, it revived, and Barbara ranked among the top 30 names for 17th century English girls. It was about the only saint’s name to rise instead of fall after the Reformation. Most 17th century Barbaras in England and America were Anglican or Catholic.

When Barbara Bush was born in 1925, the name had risen to 22nd most popular. Then, in 1926, Broadway chorus girl Ruby Stevens saw a poster for Fitch’s play and renamed herself Barbara Stanwyck. She became a star the next year, when Barbara first broke into the top 10. Though Barbara would have been popular without Stanwyck, her film career pushed it to its peak when she claimed her first Oscar nomination for the tearjerker “Stella Dallas” in 1937. In 1938, more than 3.4 percent of newborn girls were named Barbara, ranking it second only to Mary. It stayed at No. 2 until 1945, and in the top 10 until 1959.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Barbaras in history!

About Names: Daisy, the popular English name, has French origins

Daisy Ridley

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 11th column, he looks at the history of the name Daisy.

The flower name daisy comes from Old English “dægesege,” “day’s eye,” because a daisy’s white petals surrounding a yellow center open at sunrise. Daisy wasn’t a girl’s name in Old English. The story of how it became a name starts in France. The original Latin word for “pearl” was “margarita,” a Greek derivative that’s the origin “Margaret.” In French, this became “margarite.”

Around 1300, “margarite” (modern “marguerite”) became the French word for “daisy.” No one’s sure why. To some, when the flower folds up at night, it looks like a pearl. Others say medieval French brooches often featured a circle of pearls around a larger central gem, resembling a daisy.

In 1879, Henry James published “Daisy Miller,” about a flirtatious American girl who scandalizes older tourists while visiting Rome. In 1880, when Social Security’s yearly name lists began, Daisy ranked 48th.

Daisy had its biggest success in the Hispanic community. Despite its English origin, Daisy has been well-used in Latin America for decades. One example is Nicaraguan Daisy Zamora (born 1950), one of the greatest living Spanish-language poets.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Daisys in history!

About Names: Gloria is a name that’s ready to relive its glory days

One famous Gloria is singer Gloria Gaynor, who had huge hits with “I Will Survive” and “Never Can Say Goodbye.” THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 27th column, he looks at the history of the name Gloria.

 

“Gloria” is Latin for “fame” or “glory.” It has the same meaning in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. The name began in Iberia. As veneration of the Virgin Mary developed in medieval Europe, she was given many titles, such as “Mary of Mercies” and “Mary of Glory” — in Spanish, “Maria de las Mercedes” and “Maria de Gloria.” By 1700, Iberian parents were naming daughters with the full titles. Soon Mercedes and Gloria became names in their own right. Gloria was often given to girls born around Easter.

Some famous Glorias are fictional — Gloria Bunker Stivic (Sally Struthers) of 1970s hit “All in the Family” and Gloria Pritchett (Sophia Vergara) of today’s “Modern Family” are two of America’s best-known sitcom characters. Jada Pinkett Smith voiced Gloria the Hippo, who falls in love with giraffe Melman, in the “Madagascar” animated film series. In 2016, Gloria ranked 550th — lower than in 1907. Its pleasant sound and positive meaning will surely make it ready for another close-up in a few decades.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Glorias in history!